Daniel Dove’s artistic chemistry

As with Dove’s other work, ‘69 AMX’ grew from a long involved process rather than from a preconceived outcome.
As with Dove’s other work, ‘69 AMX’ grew from a long involved process rather than from a preconceived outcome. courtesy photo

Daniel Dove’s paintings trigger various reactions, often bewilderment, as viewers attempt to grasp what they are seeing. Is it abstract art? Is it realism?

“Many people do not know what they are looking at,” said Dove, as they stand before his “69 AMX,” on exhibit at compact gallery.

“Some people can see the car and nothing else. Some people can see the landscape and nothing else.”

Dove considers his work a hybrid of styles. “I’m a very synthetic painter in that I borrow from a lot of different traditions,” he said, from 19th-century realism to 20th-century abstraction. Early influences were the masters, including Cezanne and Renoir, then Lucian Freud and Gerhard Richter.

In the garage studio at his San Luis Obispo home, Dove set up a stage where he places physical models and mock-ups, using various lights to attain the colors he seeks. His studies for the compositions include photos he has shot or appropriated, then manipulated and rearranged, and finally rendered in oils. Dove’s themes are mainly industrial scenes, which he describes as being melancholy or post-mortem or damaged.

A lot of his material was gathered in Ohio during the five years he taught at the Cleveland School of Art, before moving to the Central Coast, where he is an assistant art professor at Cal Poly.

The noticeable absence of people in the paintings evokes a post-apocalyptic feel. By the omission, Dove said he wants to emulate the experience of a viewer who just happened upon the scenes. Rather than supplying a clear narrative, he wants the viewer to come up with the story.

“There is no one overarching message,” he said of his paintings. “I want them to generate experiences more than I want them to be instructional.”

Dove himself doesn’t feel the same doom and gloom that his paintings might evoke. “I don’t feel ravaged while I’m painting a ravaged scene,” he said. His spirits are high while he sketches the work, but “it is usually not related to the subject matter or image.” While showing his art, Dove said he feels attached and alive.

Dove set out to be a chemist, even though he was neither adept nor interested in lab work. While taking an art history class during his first year in college in Austin, Texas, where he was born and raised, Dove said he was completely taken by how the artists gave meaning to their lives through their art.

He switched majors and later earned a Master of Fine Art degree at Yale University School of Art.

For 10 years, Dove did figurative work until he decided to change directions a decade ago, to his current industrial and suburban landscapes. He has since exhibited in solo shows in New York and Los Angeles.

He’s never regretted switching majors, although “being an artist is very different than I thought it would be,” said Dove, who just turned 40. “I didn’t get what I expected to get, but I got something that made me happy.”