Dan Lam’s Exceptional Journey in Lazinc Magazine

Doing The Most

Interview by Kristin Farr // Portrait by Shayna Fontana

Introduction

When it comes to creativity, art knows no boundaries. Dan Lam, an artist residing in Texas, has captured attention with her innovative and mesmerizing sculptures that have taken the internet by storm. Combining a variety of materials, including polyurethane foam, Lam’s work blurs the line between beauty and decay, inviting viewers to contemplate body politics and societal judgments. Her unique approach to aesthetics and the organic forms she creates have captivated audiences worldwide. In this interview, we delve deeper into Lam’s creative process, inspirations, and the cultural implications conveyed through her artwork.

Unveiling Unidentified Forms

A Closer Look at Lam’s Sculptures

Lam’s sculptures have gained widespread acclaim for their otherworldly qualities that elicit a sense of wonderment. Viewers find themselves associating her work with extraterrestrial beings or deep-sea creatures. Lam finds this comparison intriguing since both aliens and sea creatures embody the element of the unknown. The unexpected forms and textures of her sculptures create a profound impact on viewers, leaving a lasting impression that challenges preconceived notions.

A Risky and Spontaneous Process

Lam’s creative process involves a deliberate mixture of risk and spontaneity. Starting with a sturdy structure, such as recycled foam material, she pours polyurethane foam over it, allowing gravity to shape the sculpture. Timing plays a crucial role as the foam reacts and inflates, requiring Lam to work quickly. Once cured, an acrylic-paint base is applied, and intricate details are added using cake piping tools. Additionally, Lam has incorporated thermochromic paint, which changes color when touched or exposed to warmth, further enhancing the viewer’s interaction with the sculptures.

From Experimentation to Mastery

The Journey to Finding the Right Material

Lam’s fascination with texture and the desire to create soft, melty aesthetics led her on a material exploration journey. From hot glue to resin and plaster, Lam searched for the perfect medium to achieve the desired drippy look. However, she faced the challenge of weight with these materials. It was during her research, inspired by artist Lynda Benglis, that polyurethane foam caught her attention. This lightweight yet visually captivating material allowed Lam to create voluminous and curvaceous sculptures.

Nature’s Influence and Psychedelic Connections

While Lam’s work primarily examines nature and physicality, psychedelic connections are sometimes drawn due to its transformative and unfamiliar nature. The unpredictable aspects of her sculptures, combined with viewers’ subjective experiences, contribute to these associations. However, Lam emphasizes that her inspiration primarily stems from the beauty found in nature itself, rather than intentional psychedelic references. The mesmerizing and lifelike qualities of her sculptures are intended to captivate the viewer’s imagination without relying on mind-altering substances.

Exploring Excess and Desire

Lam’s sculptures navigate the fine line between beauty and grotesqueness, playing with the concept of excess. The incorporation of Swarovski crystals onto her artwork further amplifies this theme. The opulence and decadence conveyed by the crystals mirror the allure of pageantry, where attention-grabbing embellishments are used to enhance appearances. By juxtaposing ornamentation with somewhat grotesque forms, Lam encourages viewers to contemplate the overflow of desire and the social constructs surrounding beauty.

Beyond the Surface: Body Politics and Adornment

Upon closer observation, Lam’s sculptures invite deeper reflections on body image and the various ways society adorns and alters the human form. The imperfections inherent in polyurethane foam resonate with the complexities of the human body. Lam covers up these imperfections, drawing parallels to how individuals often adorn or conceal their own perceived flaws. She extends this concept through her use of thermochromic paint, which responds to touch and heat, metaphorically aligning with the human desire for tactile interaction.

Nature’s Inspirations and Color Explorations

Borrowing from Nature’s Palette

Nature serves as a significant wellspring of inspiration for Lam. From vibrant warning colors found in animals and insects to the eroding forces of canyons and rivers, Lam finds a delicate balance between guiding her creative process and embracing the serendipity that nature offers. The way materials interact, change, and shape one another in natural environments informs her artistic approach. The colors and patterns observed in coral, reptiles, and even deep-sea creatures provide further inspiration, contributing to the rich tapestry of her creative vision.

Exploring the Intricacies of Color Theory

Lam’s keen interest in color theory has shaped her artistic practice. Drawing from her experiences teaching color theory in graduate school, she incorporates various color interactions into her work. Gradients and vibrating colors create a sense of movement, captivating the viewer’s gaze. The interplay of different hues on a surface and their visual impact highlight Lam’s fascination with the intricate details color offers. With endless possibilities, color theory continuously influences her exploration of new iterations and combinations.

A Personal Palette: The Comfort of Familiar Colors

Amidst her extensive experimentation with colors, Lam admits a soft spot for neons. Her signature palette often combines light blue as a base with pink and orange accents, evoking the ethereal beauty of the sky at different times of day. These colors resonate with her and provide a comforting sense of familiarity. The emotional connection to these hues further enhances Lam’s ability to communicate her artistic vision and engage with viewers on a personal level.

Categorizing the Creations

Understanding Lam’s Sculptural Types

Lam’s sculptures can be broadly categorized into three distinct types: blobs, squishes, and drips. Blobs represent rounded forms that are affixed to walls, exuding a sense of rotundness. Squishes, on the other hand, are freestanding sculptures, showcasing Lam’s newest artistic exploration. Finally, the drips elegantly hang over shelves or pedestals, enhancing the visual impact of their unique forms. This categorization highlights the versatility of Lam’s artistic expression and showcases the breadth of her creative range.

From Abstraction to Polyurethane Poetry

Early Influences and the Birth of Abstraction

In her undergraduate years, Lam gravitated towards abstract forms, drawing inspiration from renowned Surrealist artists. Exploring the medium of watercolor, she allowed the paint to flow freely, finding hidden forms within the abstraction. A pivotal moment occurred when she delved into the world of Impressionist art, discovering that letting the paint be itself, rather than striving for illusion, could yield captivating results. This revelation led to a fascination with paint as a material and a deeper interest in building textures, laying the foundation for her exploration of abstraction.

The Transformative Power of an MFA Program

Lam’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program played a vital role in shaping her artistic growth. Engaging with professors and peers in introspective discussions about her work challenged her conceptual understanding. Although enrolled in a painting program, Lam’s sculptures prompted a vital question from a skeptical professor: “So, these are really beautiful, but so what?” This question ignited a process of self-reflection and exploration, leading Lam to examine her own experiences as a woman and society’s expectations regarding beauty. Through these transformative moments, she gained a deeper appreciation for the conceptual impact of her work.

Pushing Boundaries with Varied Materials

Lam constantly seeks to expand her artistic repertoire by experimenting with diverse materials. Currently, she is delving into the world of silicone, a substance that evokes a tactile resemblance to human skin. Her exploration of materials aligned with the human body enhances her ability to convey complex and intimate themes within her artwork. The incorporation of rubbery scalp-like textures in her recent creations exemplifies this evolving experimentation and continues to push the boundaries of her artistic practice.

A Journey of Serendipity and Recognition

Mapping the Path to Success

Lam’s path to success, marked by various standout moments, has been nothing short of extraordinary. After completing her studies, she relocated to Midland, Texas, and transformed her surroundings into a personal artistic retreat. Utilizing social media, particularly Instagram, Lam forged connections with fellow artists, establishing her own cultural oasis. In 2015, her artwork received substantial online attention when showcased on the Juxtapoz site. The subsequent exposure on various reblogging platforms exponentially increased her following.

A Star-Studded Journey

Lam’s meteoric rise in popularity brought unexpected encounters and opportunities. Her work caught the attention of renowned artist REVOK, who recommended her to a Dallas-based gallery. This connection ultimately led to showcasing her artwork at Art Basel in Miami, a significant milestone in her artistic career. Alongside the gallery exhibition, Lam secured a solo show, immersing audiences in her mesmerizing world of sculptures. Recognition continued to pour in as she gained national exposure through an interview with a local NPR station. The surreal nature of these experiences has left a lasting impact on Lam, continually inspiring her artistic endeavors.

From Online Acclaim to a Global Phenomenon

The power of social media was evidenced when Lam’s online presence catapulted her artwork to global acclaim. Her sculptures transcended artistic circles, capturing the attention of individuals from various walks of life. The widespread reach of her work became evident when encounters with individuals from different parts of the world highlighted the impact her art had on a global scale. This newfound recognition reinforced Lam’s desire to create art that resonates with people beyond the confines of traditional artistic platforms.

A Final Sweet Note and Unveiled Fantasies

Indulging in an Imaginary Flavor Palette

To add an extra touch of whimsy and sensory delight to her sculptures, Lam envisions them having enticing flavors. Whipped cream or cake come to mind, adorned with textures reminiscent of pop rocks or the transformative sensation of magic berries. Just as these berries alter one’s perceptions, Lam desires to create a feast for the senses where even bitter flavors taste sweet. In this fantasy world, her sculptures would bewitch the viewer’s taste buds and transport them to a realm of delightful surprises.

Conclusion

Dan Lam’s artistic journey showcases the power of unbridled creativity and the ability to captivate audiences with innovative mediums. Her distinctive sculptures, crafted with precision and spontaneity, blur the boundaries between art and the natural world. Expanding beyond aesthetics, Lam prompts viewers to explore the complexities of body politics and societal perceptions of beauty. Her artistic evolution, fueled by a profound connection to nature and a deep understanding of color theory, continues to elevate her work to new heights. As she navigates the intersection of art and popular culture, Lam’s unwavering commitment to her craft will undoubtedly inspire and awe audiences around the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What inspired Dan Lam’s use of polyurethane foam in her sculptures?

Polyurethane foam became the material of choice for Dan Lam due to its ability to achieve the desired aesthetic of drippiness and its lightweight nature. Inspired by artist Lynda Benglis, who also utilized this material, Lam experimented and found that it perfectly embodied the captivating qualities she sought in her sculptures.

2. How does Dan Lam challenge societal beauty standards through her work?

Dan Lam’s sculptures prompt viewers to question societal beauty standards by utilizing forms that combine elements of beauty and grotesqueness. By covering up imperfections and adorning her sculptures with elaborate embellishments, she mirrors the ways in which individuals enhance or conceal their own perceived flaws. Through this juxtaposition, Lam encourages discussions surrounding body image and societal expectations.

3. How does nature influence Dan Lam’s artistic process?

Nature plays a significant role in influencing Dan Lam’s artistic process. She draws inspiration from vibrant warning colors found in animals, the erosive forces of canyons and rivers, and unusual patterns observed in coral and deep sea creatures. Lam allows these natural phenomena to inform her work, embracing the interplay of materials and the serendipitous aspects of creation.

4. What is the significance of thermochromic paint in Dan Lam’s sculptures?

Thermochromic paint adds an interactive element to Dan Lam’s sculptures. The paint changes color when touched or exposed to warmth, inviting viewers to engage with her artwork on a tactile level. By defying traditional expectations of passive observation, Lam creates a dialogue between her sculptures and the viewer, blurring the boundaries between art and the senses.

5. How has social media impacted Dan Lam’s artistic career?

Social media, particularly Instagram, has played a pivotal role in propelling Dan Lam’s artwork to global recognition. It has allowed her to connect with fellow artists, establish her artistic presence, and showcase her sculptures on a broader scale. The power of social media has expanded her reach far beyond traditional artistic platforms, enabling her to captivate diverse audiences around the world.