Whose day doesn't instantly become much better when you spot a DAIN piece of art on the street? Mine improves greatly and I become very happy! It's that simple. If you've lived in the city for any length of time you've seen his iconic, beautiful, Hollywood-esque style images, especially around NYC areas of Soho, Tribeca and Williamsburg. The art-beauty-fashion-like mix filled with collage and bright colors can be spotted a block away. Today’s his art has been featured in galleries worldwide, including New York, Chicago, Miami, Portland, Montreal, Paris and London.
Imagine my happiness when asked if I wanted to interview DAIN: I was honored to meet and speak with him about his art, process and whatever else I could learn about the elusive artist.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, DAIN combines glamour and grit brilliantly. He features iconic black and white headshots of actresses from the past to present such as favorites Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn to Angelina Jolie, Victoria Beckham and Adele with collage from a variety of media (advertisements, fashion magazines and found images.) Next comes vibrant spray paint and most recently, painted backgrounds. Throughout his practice, DAIN manages to balance fine art, contemporary and street art.
First, for the many people trying to find you on Instagram or Facebook, they won't. Do you think you'll ever partake in social media?
Probably not, I like it the way it is.
You realize you have a huge following and most people use the Dain hastag (#dain) to share your work with other fans via Instagram. What do you think about your loyal fans who constantly seek out your work on the streets?
I'm always amazed and a little shocked by it. I really enjoy their photographs.
You were born and raised in Brooklyn. How did growing up in New York influence your art?
Growing up in New York City is like no other place in the world and I love everything from the sights to the smells and of course the culture and diversity. Graffiti used to be huge when I was young and now, still is, it has always been a big influence.
As a child you were inspired by graffiti and starting writing yourself. Now, you are known for your "street art" images. When did you start doing work in the street?
Yes, I started tagging at a young grade-school age and began wheatpasting around 2007. I owned a T-shirt, silkscreen type business about ten years ago and had a few friends working on the streets. I became very intrigued and started exploring wheatpasting then began to join them. I definitely like to evolve and try new processes and mediums.
I for one, run out to see and photograph your work the minute I see something new has gone up. I want to get a great shot before it's tagged on. Does the tagging annoy you?
No! Not at all. On the contrary I only expect it to stay up a short time. If it lasts a month, that's huge. I actually like when it's written on… doesn't bother me at all! I don't like it to stay up to long.
What is it like wheatpasting your art on the street to then showing your work in galleries like Station 16, Folioleaf and Avant Gallery?
I love showing work in galleries and hope to do more exhibits in the upcoming future. The show at Avant Gallery in Miami a couple years back was wonderful. Whether it be Madison Avenue, Brooklyn or Montreal, I would like to explore a variety of gallery atmospheres who feature not just street art but contemporary as well. I would like to show again in Europe.
New DAIN silkscreen print by Station16 printshop.
Can you tell us about your process from beginning to end: from the found pieces to collage to painting? How does it all come together?
I generally use black and white photographs of pieces that speak to me, that I just find and like. Many are Hollywood icons and many I don't even know who the model is. I particularly like Adele and Twiggy, and also just finding that one anonymous piece that jumps out at me. It's in the eyes; which is what first grabs me. I don't have a rhyme or reason to the collaged pieces, they just speak to me and putting those together takes most time. Once I have my foundation image down I begin choosing colors, painting and layering spray paint. Collage is the foundation; from there it gets easier. I'm also concentrating much more on painting now, evolving my pieces. I really just love that old Hollywood glam look from the 40's and 50's, especially the fashion, when women dressed iconic and beautifully. They didn't show much skin and didn't have to. You'll notice my pieces are tasteful and the women are not revealing. I like mixing the fashion of men's suiting with a beautiful face for example. Women were beautiful with their clothes on and classic films and images made you think. You had to use your imagination.
What inspires your work?
A great found image of inner beauty and class. Plus to me, it's all in the eyes and lips and it doesn't matter as much what she is wearing. And, I enjoy a normal figure with chic clothing. The eyes say it all and inspire me! The rest comes together around that.
Since the fist time I saw your work years ago, I felt fashion influence...
Kind of, and I like exploring classic, iconic fashion in my work.
The circle and drips around one eye are almost like a trademark on many of your pieces, can you tell us about that?
No, it's just something I like.
The work you've done in 2014 seems to be even more evolved, can you tell us about the new pieces?
The new work, I feel is, yes, more evolved and I'm using much more color and backgrounds. Before it may have been more collage, black and white and some color on a white surface. Now I'm really focusing more on painting. I feel I'm just now scratching the surface. I'm just now getting started. I look forward to see how this direction will evolve and what’s going to come next. It's exciting.
How do you know when a piece is done?
It must have perfect balance. And now, since I'm focused on color and painting, I continue to add… It's not done until the last minute and I like the last minute deadline.
Are there any artists, street or contemporary that you particularly admire?
I couldn't name just one, all of them. I enjoy seeing work on the street, in the galleries and museums when I can.
How do you spend your spare time?
With my family, we love to travel as well.
Where do you see yourself in 1, 5, or 10 years?
I want to do more shows, create fun and enjoyable pieces and possibly do something with fashion. You never know. I will continue to do work that doesn't burn me out, but that's enjoyable.
DAIn (above) DeeDee (below)
By Leanna Valente – www.artandfashionsalon.blogspot.com