Artists in the Garden – Daniel Kathalynas
Artists in the Garden
When I first arrived at Norfolk Botanical Garden, one of the things that impressed me the most was the beautiful art. Being a former Gallery Host of the Chrysler Museum of Art, I immediately recognized Maizelle’s paintings and jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the many sculptures in the garden. That’s why I am so excited to bring an artist spotlight to Sow it Grows. Art and nature, it is often said, they go together. After working in Visitor Services for awhile I always found myself coming back to a bright and beautiful little painting of a water lily hanging near our Tour Op’s desk. Curious, I decided to find out more about the person who created this art. My coworker Ande, another artist here at NBG, happily told me about Daniel Kathalynas. Therefore it is with great pleasure I bring you Artists in the Garden, a new feature that shines a light on the spectacular NBG arts community.
Remarkable. That is the first word that comes to mind when viewing Daniel’s art. It kind of takes your breath away. The unique nature of his work literally jumps out of frame.
Daniel Kathalynas is an artist native to PA with a penchant for traveling and meditation. He creates striking pieces that are as textured as they are vibrant in color. The artist sat down to chat with me and share a little about his process, inspiration, and some meditation hot spots here at NBG.
Be sure to check out Accelerated Apotheosis which opens in Baker Hall this Saturday January 16th! Find more information about Daniel at his website https://www.danielkathalynas.com/ or find him on Youtube at Channel Intro – Daniel Kathalynas. In his Roaming Artist series you can listen to Daniel’s peaceful musings and witness his spirited process in motion.
CB: What inspired you to start this project?
DK: Accelerated Apotheosis. I was working with an elderly friend, a mentor of mine. He’s not doing well physically so I started taking him to doctor’s appointments and helping him out and I realized he’s at the twilight of his life. He still has his wits about him… The theme of Apotheosis was inspired in part by him. Apotheosis means a transition from man to god and also the apotheosis of someone’s work. The final gleam at the end of someone’s life – a very interesting light spot. Apotheosis became accelerated when Connie Miller asked me to show at NBG and I had just returned all my art work I had here back to Albuquerque, NM. So the idea became how much art work can be made in 32 days and how can I display it?
CB:Is it similar in style to your work we’ve seen here at Norfolk Botanical Garden?
DK: It’s me so it’s similar. . .(laughs) so Yes. It still involves the natural world as well as something more than that I believe. I work from the inside out – what I call first thought creation – I go into a meditation and I move from that first higher thought – not all the little low ones – I use the first higher thought to initiate the moving meditation – no plan for the art work, no specific draftsmanship usually happening.. Just meditating on the theme and allowing the movement to happen.
CB: Mm. Mhmm. Could you tell us a little more about your background?
DK: Sure. I’m originally from Scranton PA. I studied Fine Art at Keystone College and went to Brooklyn College NYC for music. I’ve been doing artwork ever since I was a young boy. I’ve displayed in NYC, exhibited in Rome, Tokyo, Washington DC, across the country. . . and I also create a series of videos called The Roaming Artist which features me going to different places. . . reacting to a sense of place, the people, culture and making art work on the spot.
CB: What inspires you the most?
DK: (laughs) That’s a great question! What doesn’t inspire me the most? I work in the nature of things – When i was the resident artist of the NBG for 3 ½ years working as tour operations manager the nature of this reality, this planet, this world, the full cycle of things — the small seed that pops thru the soil that grows and works and struggles and works its way to thriving seeding and withering that whole process that i learned at the garden seems so simple but it is so real that has informed me of the natural world and informed me of my artwork as well.
CB: Yes. (I’m trying to contain my excitement, thinking this is so familiar to work I have witnessed and created in Butoh the dance of the Cherry Blossom – budding, blooming, wilting. . .) Favorite memory here at NBG?
DK: Oh – so many! Y’know it’s interesting because my favorite memory is not necessarily the most positive one, but it’s the most poignant one. It’s the idea of unity, you know, working side by side with other people – beautiful because we learned so much about being in the water, connectivity between other departments in the garden, and I really developed great friendships. We’re still friends to this day. There’s all kinds of beautiful memories that don’t involve fear or a learning process, but to me the learning process is the key to growth and I learned a lot and other people did too.
CB: Any advice you would give to young artists today?
DK: Be authentic and be true to yourself. The tools that artists learn in academia are just that. Tools. We have a chance to learn that if we want to, but it’s not necessary. To be an artist, to be a creator, as long as we take what’s within us and bring it to the outside world so other people can see that visibility. That’s what matters. Mimicking will only be a façade and it’s noticeable.
CB: Favorite wild and plant life at NBG?
DK: My two favorite trees are in the garden. Grandmother and Grandfather. I call one Grandmother and one Grandfather because I used to lead a meditation class at the garden for 5 or 6 years and before class on different days I would go meditate. Grandmother is a Southern Magnolia in Holly Garden and Grandfather is the Ginkgo Tree in the Shady Woods. I have many other favorite flowering plants from the camellias to the azaleas. Oh and definitely Osmanthus! The fragrant amazing beauty of the chilled air. Love those plants!
CB: When did you begin meditating?
DK: 25 years ago when I was living in NYC went to a veggie restaurant called Annam Brahma in Queens NY, I was interested to find that there was a special seat, books, even a little library. . .and I was very interested to see what was going on and there was pictures of him, this old skinny man lifting weights of incredible measure. There were pictures of him running marathons at 80 and I was enthusiastic to know this man’s story and it turns out he was the meditation leader Sri Chinmoy. So yeah, in NYC I picked up a book called meditation and started reading. That started my journey into mediation.
CB: What is your ultimate dream, or goal as an artist?
DK: Have a retrospective art show in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. (MOMA). That’s the big goal and there are many smaller goals to work up to that.
CB: Interesting. Any reason why that particular museum?
DK: That is the place where some of my favorite paintings are. – Starry Night by Van Gogh and the Water Lilies by Monet, it’s a treasure trove of fantastic art. I wanted to be part of those people’s work and lives even though they’ve passed on.
CB: Has New Mexico influenced your art at all?
DK: It has influenced my work. Albuquerque, and of course Sante Fe is a hot spot for artists. As a matter of fact it was on a list. . I think it was called the top arts vibrancy report – New Mexico, in particular Santa Fe was listed as the #1 spot for medium cities. That’s because of all the transactions that happen within the art world there and it really has a gigantic sphere . . .of music, from visual art to dance. . . you could reach out and touch an artist anywhere. So that has been a pleasure, to connect with other artists.
CB: Why Youtube?
DK: I was working at NBG and I was also working at the Hermitage Museum as a resident artist there and I was approached by a fellow artist to show a painting in
Japan with her artist group and I actually borrowed a camera from the Education department I believe to take with me to Tokyo and to Japan to film some of the stuff I was doing there. I did the first very simple film so my friends and other people at the garden could look at it and lo and behold I had such a good response! People said it felt like they were watching the travel channel for the Arts – they really enjoyed it and they wanted me to do more. So that began the Roaming Artist video series.
CB: Are there any artists that inspire you?
DK: Van Gogh.
CB: Mmm. Yes!
DK: Van Gogh, ever since I was a little boy when I first saw reproductions of his work. Pablo Picasso, Guernica. . .that was a major event when I saw Guernica for the first time in my Spanish class. It really turned my thinking around on art. Oh and there’s another living German artist – Anselm Kiefer.
CB: Okay, I have one last question for you. How do you decide on a title for your creations?
DK: (chuckles) That’s a great question! At first when I move into that first thought. . .a question comes from my heart to my mind. . .there’s that first higher thought. . .As I continue a dialogue with the artwork itself it eventually tells me the name.
The beginning process is just the process of things. I mean things do roll around in my head like marbles, but by the time it’s finished it resonates the name to me. It’s interesting because I’ve had other artists, like a leading trick artist – an optical art master in Japan. He looked at my art and he said, ”this is interesting, but the title is bad.” The title? Enchanted Is the Forest on the Edge of Reason – it’s still over there in Japan . . . but he didn’t like the title and I thought oh well. It’s not what you like, it’s what resonates. And since I’m also a songwriter and a musician these words come pretty quick to my head when they’re ready to gestate.
Be sure to check out Accelerated Apotheosis which opens in Baker Hall this Saturday January 16th! Daniel will be giving a special Artist Talk at 2pm and a socially distanced meet and greet from 1:00 – 5:00. Accelerated Apotheosis runs thru January 30th. It is not to be missed! Find more information about Daniel at his website https://www.danielkathalynas.com/