Interview: Dan Lam
Born in Manila to a Vietnamese family who relocated to Texas when she was a child, Lam spent her formative creative years in Dallas with her mother. She received her B.F.A. in 2010 from the University of North Texas and later completed a Masters of Fine Arts degree at Arizona State University.
Lam currently resides in Dallas, TX, where she works primarily alone in her studio at her home. She finds peace and solace in her creative process during the late night hours. Having the accessibility to work and live in the same space allows her to move back and forth freely and comfortably in her own controlled chaos. Her sculptures also live amongst her. From her bookshelf to the top of a file cabinet, her “what are theys” are everywhere around her and become living, breathing organisms of the unique environment she has created for herself to live within.
Lam enjoys the unpredictable quality of her process. This is seen in the way she manipulates the foam structures and handles the resin. She couples this with the tedious and controlled placement of her acrylic “spikes” and surface designs. This opposition is crucial to her work. Whether seen in the process itself, or the final result, which exudes both an intense beauty and an intense discomfort, Lam plays with these polarities and examines them closely.
The polymorphous, multi-textural and ambiguous qualities of her work both confuse and delight the viewer. Dan Lam is just getting started. The objects she is making are difficult to identify and impossible to forget.
Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you get into making sculptures?
My background is actually painting! I have my bachelors and masters in painting and drawing, but I've flirted with sculpture for a long time. I think it started years ago when I started developing my interest in texture and leaving the 2D surface.
What inspires you? How do you come up with your spiky, colorful forms?
Pure visual inspiration would be nature; there is nothing better. I'm driven by my interest in concepts/ideas like beauty and attraction. I enjoy talking to people. I like motives and reasoning.
What is a typical day in the studio like for you?
I keep late hours. Work time for me is generally 7 pm – 4 am. I have multiple pieces going on at various stages because I tend to jump around a lot. If I'm doing a lot of spikes or rhinestones, something detailed, I'll pause and experiment with new materials or do some foam pours, etc. to keep it loose.
You recently received a lot of publicity and support on social media. We are excited to see you get the recognition. Did the attention provide any new opportunities or open up new perspectives for you?
It has been amazing the amount of support I've received this past year! The attention definitely led to many, many opportunities: offers to participate in group shows, offers for 2 or 3 person exhibits, shows abroad, interviews, etc. Personally, one of the most exciting things for me is other artists reaching out to collaborate. It's incredible and I credit it all to social media.
What are you currently working on?
Lots of new things in the works! I'm working on collaborations with other artists in a number of different mediums. I'm also beginning to develop wearable versions of my pieces. The sculptures are continuing to grow, so I'm listening and helping them.
What advice would you give artists for finding their unique voice and vision?
The most important thing that's been reinforced for me time and time again is that you have to listen to yourself. You could be wrong, you could be right, but you need to do it true to you.
Also, allow yourself to rediscover old ideas/unfinished experiments. There's this taboo to "recycling" ideas or whatever, but I think those are important moments, pieces to a puzzle, that come into play whether direct or indirect. It's basically research and it's extremely valuable.