As an artist, I use a variety of mediums to convey my ideas. To date, these have included in part; site-specific sculpture, time-based film, performance, the scanner, audio recorder, still camera, and the written word.
I am a student of history -histories that unfortunately many choose to ignore.
Recently I found one of my earliest research projects in a cardboard box that had been in storage for years. One evening as a 21 year old, while an undergraduate at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I had the good fortune to have dinner at the Director of the George Eastman House’s home. My former wife was at the time the assistant to the Curator of 20th Century of Photography at the Eastman Museum. During the meal I asked the Director, Robert Sobieszek, if the next time I was at the museum, might I be able to view the catalog of George Eastman’s personal book collection that was displayed floor to ceiling in his library within his House -now a renowned museum. I imagined they were placed in their given shelf positions by Eastman himself, but this was in my mind, not informed by fact. Robert told me the Eastman books had never been cataloged.
Before I knew it, when not working on coursework, I was spending countless hours sitting behind velvet ropes in George Eastman’s wingback chair as tour groups meandered past. Guests must have wondered how George could look so young.
That year, with a pencil and a legal pad, I cataloged every Eastman book, including; the titles, publishers, publication dates, and edition numbers. What brought me the most joy was reading Eastman’s personal notes in his book’s margins, and the personal inscriptions others wrote to Eastman, including Booker T. Washington and Theodore Roosevelt. These I cataloged as well.
Looking back, I see that I have been curious about history for my entire adulthood, and my works reflect as much. But I am never interested in history in a vacuum. My interests invariably relate to how our histories can help us understand our todays.
My projects are primarily influenced by my societal concerns. Today we live in a far more polarized society than I ever could have imagined. So I explore with these artistic mediums to better understand our world. The renowned French photography critic Roland Barthes coined the term “Punctum” -which means to prick. I wish to prick the viewer with my works. By doing so, I wish for the viewer to respond in a myriad of possible ways.
As an artist, author, and professor, I have dedicated my life to others to share the exciting possibilities that art can make our communities a kinder place to live.
Daniel Levin, MFA
portrait location: The Netherlands