A Worker’s Progress

June 6th, 2014

Recently, David Sandlin earned a 2014 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship.  The mega-prestigious award is a career milestone for any artist, but especially for an artist who has worked so ably between printmaking, painting, artist book projects, and teaching.  In addition to his studio practice and SVACE courses, David Sandlin guides MFA Illustration students through their thesis projects, from selecting an advisor to making a proposal into a finished body of work.  In other words, he puts many young artists on their first steps toward making mature work.  I wanted to look deeper into the history that led Sandlin to this moment and beyond.

David Sandlin, "Ooooh My Son, All This Is Yours (Walpurgis Nachtmart)", 2004

David Sandlin, “Ooooh My Son, All This Is Yours (Walpurgis Nachtmart)”, 2004

MB: First, do you have any particular plans for the Fellowship award?  That is, do you have a specific project in mind to complete?

DS: I’ve started work on a new series of silkscreened books about U.S. history and the ghosts that haunt the American Dream. It’s called 76 Manifestations of American Destiny. The plan is for six volumes, each consisting of 12 to 13 prints. Each volume will be bound as an accordion book that folds out to be about 27 feet long. I’ve got volume one finished so far.

David Sandlin, "Ooooh My Son, All This Is Yours (Walpurgis Nachtmart)", 2004 (detail)

David Sandlin, “Ooooh My Son, All This Is Yours (Walpurgis Nachtmart)”, 2004 (detail)

MB: You have been making and exhibiting art in New York for over 30 years.  For the Guggenheim application, how did you select images from your numerous books, prints, drawings, paintings, and objects?

DS: Even though I’ve been making work for over 30 years, for the proposal I could only show work from the past 5 years. I felt it was crucial that I be able to show excerpts from Slumburbia, the final volume in my series A Sinner’s Progress, which I finished in 2009. I thought it was important to demonstrate that I had already completed an ambitious series and was therefore capable of doing this one. I also sent images of Mort-Gage, a more recent project, plus images from the first volume of 76 Manifestations, to show that I was working on this new series and would continue to do so with or without funding.

David Sandlin, "Slumburbia," 2009 (detail)

David Sandlin, “Slumburbia,” 2009 (detail)

MB: The art world is larger than ever, and increasingly global, with new audiences in Latin America, the Middle East, and China.  What causes do you see behind these changes

DS: I think it’s an more exciting, decentralized art environment now because of globalization: fast communication via the internet, social media, more international art fairs, and globalized finance—and even tools like PayPal—make seeing and accessing art easier than ever.

MB: Do these changes actually create more opportunities for emerging to midcareer artists?

DS: I think so. Over the past few years, I’ve been invited to be in shows all over the place—Turkey, China, Switzerland, Scotland—and I’m going to have a solo show in Luxembourg next year… One way or another, my work is getting seen by people in far-flung places.

MB: The Guggenheim Fellowship is known as a “midcareer” award.  To what resources, skills, or talents do you attribute your longevity as an artist with an enduring career and substantial exhibition record?

DS: Persistence. I enjoy making art, and even when I get frustrated or burned out, I keep at it. I work as much as I can. I also think being versatile is helpful…as well as painting, I make prints, books, drawings, and comics. I am never lacking in projects, and all those deadlines keep me busy.

David Sandlin, SVA subway poster, 2011

David Sandlin, SVA subway poster, 2011

Share This!