His eyes look at the painting as if it’s the first time he’s seen it. The way he stares at the scene on the canvas is the way one might stare at a difficult math equation. He tries to figure it out. “Sirens,” he finally says, “I hadn’t thought of that aspect.”
Daniel Verner is the artist who created the painting. He’s also the one learning new things about it the more time he spends with it, and with its viewers. He knows that his ideas about his work are not the only ones that count.
“Art for me is a dialogue, not a monologue,” he says, “I enjoy more hearing the viewer tell me what’s going on.”
A collection of Verner’s artwork from the 1960s to the present day is on display in the third floor gallery of the Stevenson Union at Southern Oregon University until Thursday, Feb. 9.
Looking around the gallery, Verner keeps a small smile on his face. Paintings depicting various people and scenes cover the walls, and the walking space is narrowed by remodeled toys made into the ideas and thoughts of one man. They cover a broad range of topics from religion to American culture; consumerism to plain-old humor.
“The whole room is the piece,” he says, “you walk in here, you walk inside my mind.”
Growing up in a lower-class family in East Los Angeles, Verner says his creativity with art stemmed from childhood. “I kinda learned to make things up out of other things,” he says. This is evident by his reassembled action figures, Barbie dolls, and miscellaneous objects that make up much of his exhibit.
Some of the other works on display in the exhibit, “The Call Series” for example, come from something as simple as a lucky second-hand find.
What was amazing about the 1920’s telephone Verner found was that it still worked. The quality of the device impressed him, and provoked thought about what types of conversations might have taken place over that very phone. How many relationships had flourished. How many hearts had been broken. How many lives had been altered, for better or worse, via that very old phone.
“A good painting has a novel in it,” he says.
The beginning of the series shows some of the characters naked. This, Verner assures, is not erotic, but used to show “privacy”. The fact that many of them are in the buff gives the impression that the characters are in their own home, comfortable, yet still near the phone. Wating. Wishing. Wanting it to ring.
One must wonder where this inspiring phone is now after seeing it so many paintings….
Verner has it.
“Almost all the objects [used], I actually have,” he says.
It’s almost easy to dismiss as just an old phone set on a table toward the end of the exhibit, but after knowing about how this phone became so beautiful and interesting to Verner, it becomes something much more.
Verner explained that he doesn’t do it for the money. He does it because it truly is his passion, and the tool he has to share.
“I’m doing art for the love,” he says, “I didn’t want to associate art with my economics.”