LA Based Daniel Thorr Hustwit on His Creative Process, Inspiration and His Shockboxx Solo

by Theodosia Marchant
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Today, we are pleased to present you with LA-based artist Daniel Thorr Hustwit. Daniel was born in 1966. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from UCLA in 1989
and his Juris Doctor from Pepperdine School of Law in 1992. He is a multi-award-winning painter whose art has been shown in galleries nationwide. He is a recipient of the First Fletcher H. Dyer Award for social and political commentary in art. 

Daniel currently has his solo show Diarealism and Peptobismolism at Shockboxx Gallery in Los Angeles. This is his first solo show with the LA gallery, known for its commitment to exploring unconventional themes while providing a safe space for its artists to experiment and take risks. 

Daniel, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Could you introduce yourself to our readers?

As an introduction to myself, I am a person that feels ridiculous introducing himself. 

What is a regular day like?

I have a (six-year-old) golden retriever, and every morning at dawn, we hike for two hours on the trails near my house. We only get one day at a time, and I try to go with the flow. Rather than seize the day, I prefer to try to advance the ball in some way, whatever  that might entail. 

Can we explore your unique painting style and the inspiration behind your practice?

I started drawing when I was very young. I was transfixed by the few paintings that were a part of my early childhood; an idyllic landscape with a lake and a red mill at my grandmother’s house, copies of the Cardsharps by Valentin de Boulogne and Young  Woman at an Open Half Door by Rembrandt. But my main inspiration was art created for the sitcom “Good Times” by the amazing Ernie Barnes. I have always had a love for portraiture. My art is based on, born of, and all about art. I disdain what I perceive to be the “art world” – they have been playing the same style over and over for 150 years. So, I guess you could say I am inspired by disdain, and my style is a combination of old school and new school.  

How do you choose the subjects and scenes for your paintings? Do you ever paint people from your circle?

My subjects are almost always artists/entertainers, and they’re chosen because, in my mind, I have some sort of deep relationship with them – a familiarity – so even though I’ve never actually met any of the subjects of my paintings, they are all people from my circle. 

Do you feel you have an established creative language, or are you open to changing things or styles?

I prefer straight oil painting because of its long history and its constant need for reinvention to remain relevant.  

What does your creative process look like, from start to finish?

Wow, I am always thinking of the next painting. I am always looking at art, reading about art, and enjoying myself in Los Angeles. For me, it’s all about the idea, the artistic justification for the painting. The execution always begins with a crazy blast of fun and creativity and ends in a fizzle of capitulation to the painting Gods. 

You have your first solo show at Shockboxx Gallery in California. Can you elaborate on the story behind it? What is it about, and what message do you wish to pass on?

The Shockboxx Gallery is a place that fosters cutting-edge art and a community of cutting-edge artists. It displays a fresh aesthetic and is a clear step above in the Los  Angeles gallery scene. My solo show, Diarealism, is part of a ludicrous notion of starting my own art movement and then ending it with another more ludicrous one,  Peptobismolism. I’ve manufactured a faux group of faux artists making, hopefully, real art. The show explores the idea that when there is nothing else left to eat, we eat each other in the context of contemporary art and culture. 

Since opening its doors, Shockboxx Gallery has cultivated a close-knit community of artists who support each other. You are part of this community. How has this network helped you and your practice?

Shockboxx painted these paintings with me. Ever since the first time a painting of mine got into one of their group shows, I have felt pushed to be better and better. Their aesthetic, which to me feels so rooted in L.A., is genuine and fresh. The people of Shockboxx are, without exception, delightful, charming and super talented. Without Shockboxx, I would be artistically adrift. I was a stray cat and Shockboxx decided to keep a little bowl of food for me outside the door.

Who are some of your favorite artists/critical influences?

So many but I’ll stick to the short list. For critics, give me Sean Tatol all day long from the critic’s corner at the Manhattan Art Review. For artists today, Henry Taylor is tops. Artists ever – John Singer Sargeant, Thomas Hart Benton, Velasquez, Franz Hals,  Dali Hokusai, Chris Burden.  

What keeps you motivated and interested in your work?

The pursuit of that which cannot be achieved.  

How do you see your work affecting societal issues and contributing to a dialogue?

I think we all just might be grains of sand, and society might be beyond the time of dialogue.  

Name one of the most memorable reactions regarding your work.

I was in a bar in Hollywood, sitting next to a tattoo artist who was showing me some of his portrait work, and I showed him a portrait I had just finished of my late grandmother, and he cried. That big, tattooed, scary-looking guy in a Hollywood bar was moved to tears.  

What simple pleasures bring you alive?

Mexican coke.

What does success mean to you?

The path.

What does being original or unique in the arts mean?

Originality is everything and nothing all at once. Other than the first cave paintings, everything else is somehow derived from or distilled from something that came before 
it. The problem now is that algorithms feed us an unoriginal dilution of ourselves over and over. This makes a truly original vision both rare and essential.

What do you dream about?

Usually running from invading aliens or trying to cross a field of lions with my dog, airplane crashes or flying, and my beard falling out.  

What are you reading now, and do you have a favorite film?

I just started Norman Rockwell drawings 1911-1976 by Plunkett and Kowalski. If I  could only bring one movie into my apocalypse bunker to watch over and over, it would  be the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” 

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear:

The first thing that comes to mind for all three is “maybe tomorrow.”

What’s next for Daniel Thorr Hustwit?

With a little luck, I’ll get to continue the journey.

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