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Five questions with AHA! featured artist Danny Goodwin

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Danny Goodwin
Photo submitted

Meet Danny Goodwin. Originally from Dallas, Texas, this self-proclaimed coffee addict has lived in Slingerlands, New York since 1999. He studied Photography and English at the University of North Texas and received his MFA from Hunter College. He is the Head of Studio Art in the Department of Art and Art History at the University at Albany.

Who has been an inspiration in your work? As far as inspiration in my work, I have so many sources of fuel I can burn at any given moment. It is hard to pin down a single one. Certainly my friend James Casebere has been a huge influence. He rather charted the territory that many of us who work in a “constructed reality” studio practice continue to mine and develop. And he just keeps going. His show now at Sean Kelly gallery in NYC featured all new work that continues to push the boundaries of what may be conveyed in a photograph. I’m also really inspired by a younger generation of artists who are turning their lenses back on the medium itself, including Lucas Blalock, John Houck, and Kate Steciw. And, really, any of the folks featured on the no-longer active blog, I Heart Photograph.

Are you working on anything new right now? Right now I’m working on a couple of projects, simultaneously. Super excited about both of them but they are very different. One involves a continuing investigation into still life photography informed by Object Oriented Ontology. That project creeps along and will look familiar to those already acquainted with my photographic work. The other is a collaborative book project with my brilliant friend and writer Ed Schwarzschild, who is a Fellow at the New York State Writers Institute. We’re interviewing and photographing folks at all levels of US Homeland Security and the Intelligence Community, from students considering a career to operatives and analysts to upper-level policy makers. A complicated project that is a few years in the making and many years still to go, but we are both pretty obsessed and have a ton of amazing material already. Can’t share any photos yet or, honestly, any more info on that project. Stay tuned.

Best advice or tips for other artists? My best advice for artists is to lean into the work. The artist Chuck Close has famously said something to the effect of “inspiration is for amateurs”. Meaning, the real pros just clock in and do the work. Loving what you do is helpful, of course, just not absolutely necessary and—if you are at it long enough--logically impossible for everything you make. I mean, so many people—especially young people (pressured by their parents, no doubt)—are solely focused on getting a job (if not career), rather than developing and nurturing a metier or calling. There are so many ways to sustain a practice as an artist and I think a lot of folks looking in from the outside imagine that to be a “real” artist, you must earn your primary living from the things you make. An understandable but no less unfortunately myopic, capitalist definition of success. That’s a pretty exclusive club and the rules for entry can be byzantine and bewildering. Not that it can’t happen if you’re singularly focused, but there are just so many other legitimate ways to be an artist in addition to “making it” in the commercial gallery scene, in the conventional sense. 

How do you take your coffee? I take my coffee black (like my soul) and constantly. Who tipped you off on my addiction? My new thing is this esoteric and erudite filtered pour-over process that involves a kettle with a built-in thermometer and a ceramic vessel. I find the drawn-out process incredibly centering first thing in the morning and I have a rule about not checking my phone or otherwise multi-tasking while I’m waiting for the elixir to brew. Like meditation but without the rigor and risk of learning anything about yourself. And when I repeat it at 1 pm, it is like getting to start my day all over again. Do-over! The slower the process, the better, actually. And of course I also have an espresso maker at the office and in the studio. I’m less of a coffee snob as I am a very high-functioning junkie. My doctor thinks I could have worse habits, though, so I have that going for me.

Tell us about your family. Lucky husband and dad in a house full of fiercely brilliant women and a dog who, I suppose, is pretty brilliant for a boy.

Want to know more about Danny? Watch a clip, preview, and the full episode of AHA! A House for Arts here: