The visual artist Dan Lam has made a name for herself through her inimitable sculptures, often referred to as “Drips,” “Blobs,” and “Squishes.” Celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Lily Aldridge rave about her work, and her huge social media following is not only a sign that her rainbow-hued forms are attracting a younger crowd of art aficionados, it has also opened many doors to collaborations. The Dallas-based artist is currently contributing to Refinery29’s sprawling, multi-room art experience 29Rooms—her art is displayed at the exhibit’s Art Park. Work frequently takes the 31-year-old traveling cross-country, but here’s what the artist does On Texas Time:
On arriving at the sculptures she creates now:
I think it’s taken a lot of years of evolving. I’ve been exploring my aesthetics probably since undergrad. I’m very interested in materials, so that’s half of what influences where the work goes. I’ll find a new material, experiment with it, learn from it, and my art will evolve from there. I’ll take that little bit of information and apply it to the next project—that helps the progression of things. The other half of it is just the concept that drives the material’s exploration. The work that I’m known for now deals with ideas of beauty and ideas of repulsion/attraction, organic/inorganic—opposing dichotomies. I think the reasons the pieces I make now are so ambiguous for people is because of that. It’s because they exist in between two things always, and that leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
On a typical workday:
I tend to keep really late hours. I work at night. My day usually starts at ten or eleven, sometimes noon, depending on when I got out of the studio the night before. My daytime is a lot of replying to emails, running errands, getting new materials, phone calls, stuff like that. I make sure to go to the gym every day because that helps me clear my head, so that’s definitely something I squeeze in. And then the evening time is pretty much my working time—I start working probably around seven or eight and I just keep going until anywhere between two to four [in the morning]. I just feel like I focus more with less distractions or something at night. I like the quiet, and I definitely feel the most creative at night. It usually hits its strongest peak probably around midnight.
On finding inspiration:
I think the inspiration is in the process. When I do or make something that’s an accident, mistake, or something unexpected—sometimes I’ll see it and I’ll want to recreate it or try it in something else. So that process kind of feeds itself to create more. But outside of that, I’d say I really try to stay away from direct influence or direct inspiration. I don’t look at a picture of coral and then recreate that. It’s the same with looking at other people’s art. I have other artists that I love, but I think that if you look at too much and then you work on your own stuff, sometimes you end up creating the things that you just looked at. I try to look and take in and just give myself time away from that stuff. In doing that, it lets me know that I’m not inadvertently just duplicating something. But it also helps how I want other people to view my work, which is in a completely ambiguous way.
On Texan artists she admires:
I know he’s not a Texan, but maybe honorary: Donald Judd. I love, love, love his work. I’m a huge light and space fan, so all the people and artists that came out of that time period or that school of making—I love their work. Donald Judd has been very influential to me, maybe not in a direct way, but I’ve gone down to Marfa, seen the Chinati Foundation, and definitely understand why he loved that place so much.
On facing creative roadblocks:
They do happen, but for me, creative roadblocks don’t come in the form of running out of ideas. Sometimes I get too into my head about something that makes me frustrated in the studio. And in times like that, I try to look at the big picture. I try to figure out what’s stressing me out because it’s usually not about the work. It’s usually something else outside of it—it may be art-related but not about the art itself. So that’s why it’s not a creative block, but an external block causing a little bit of a creative block. A lot of times it’s not long-lasting. For me, if I ever come to a point where things are just slowing down for me, it’s always important for me to just keep making things—just keep working and building and sculpting, and it always just naturally happens.
I do occasionally meditate. I’ll stop while I’m working and do some yoga—I’ll do some sun salutations. And I really, really enjoy hiking when I have the chance. When I do go on vacations for something outside of my art, it’s usually for nature. Just to be outside alone with nature, that’s definitely meditative.
On favorite Texas hiking spots:
We definitely like to explore a lot of the state because it’s huge. Within Dallas, I’ve done a few biking trails that I’ve enjoyed, but as far as hiking I usually go outside of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I really enjoy Enchanted Rock in central Texas—it’s so unexpected just with the landscape that you’re used to in the Hill Country, and all of a sudden there’s this giant rock in the middle of it. I love Fort Davis—that’s a great one. And I really enjoyed Palo Duro Canyon up in Amarillo.
On Instagram affecting her work:
Instagram’s really changed a lot for the art world, in terms of how we see art and how we take it in. Nowadays, when I want to look at art one of the first things I pull up is Instagram. I think a lot of people do that, and I’ve had many of my early opportunities come from people just seeing my work on Instagram, like curators or gallery owners, people curating group shows. People would reach out and be like, “Oh, I saw your work on Instagram and I want to put together this show: would you be interested?” So I think it’s been really instrumental in helping my career progress, and it still is. It plays a huge role. But as far as affecting my actual work, I try not to let it. I think that’s a slippery slope to go down.
On upcoming projects:
I’ve been talking to Meow Wolf—we’ve been talking all year about doing an installation. Meow Wolf is based in Santa Fe, so I’ll probably be doing something there for their space later this year. That’ll be collaborative, so I’ll be working with another artist on that too. I also have a solo show in March of next year with a gallery called Stephanie Chefas Projects in Portland, Oregon.