Dallas-based artist Dan Lam has turned into an internet sensation: known for her aptly named “drippy” sculptures, she uses non-traditional materials such as polyurethane foam, acrylic paint, and epoxy resin to create sculptures that look like they are one step away from oozing onto the floor. Inspired by artists such as James Turrell, Olafur Eliason, and Lynda Benglis, Lam’s sculptures are quirky, fluid and otherworldly. Unsurprisingly, her work’s peculiarity loans itself well to social media, and her massive Instagram following has attracted the likes of Miley Cyrus and supermodel Lily Aldridge.
Lam’s work elicits varied reactions, with some people feeling that her sculptures teeter on the edge of being repulsive while others simply find them intriguing. Personally, I am drawn to the bizarre feeling that this work of art might just come to life and scuttle past you if you are not paying attention. It does not bother Lam that some people find her work freaky; as an artist, she is attracted to ideas that are conflicting. “I believe there is potential for creativity in the space between them. Although these ideas may seem opposed, they also can balance each other out. Similar to my perception of the world, I view things in shades of gray rather than in black and white,” says Lam.
Lam has a lot of exciting things on her plate: she is currently part of a group show at the McNay Art Museum and has an upcoming show at Chefas Projects. I got to chat with Lam about the differences between drip, blobs, and squishes, her artistic process, as well as how the impact social media has had on her growth as an artist
Alexandra Israel: Your drippy sculptures have captured the hearts of art lovers and fans of all things squishy. Can you walk me through your artistic process? What materials are you incorporating in your sculptures to achieve the drippy forms and sharp textures?
Dan Lam: For most of my sculptures, except for the life-size ones, I use polyurethane foam as the base material. I find this material fascinating because it has unique properties that require working with it, not against it. When used correctly, it can create beautiful and unusual shapes. Additionally, I incorporate various other materials, such as resins, spackle, plaster, and paint, in multiple layers. Ultimately, I aim to obscure the piece’s underlying material by the end of the process.
In an ideal world, how would you envision people interacting with your drip sculptures? Are the sculptures meant to be touched and held? I know I am not the first to say it, but your sculptures look like living, breathing, amorphous creatures.
In a perfect world, people would have access to everything they wish to touch. In my ideal scenario, my work would be on such a grand scale that entire rooms or buildings could be dedicated to it, allowing people to explore and uncover what lies within.
While I would love for people to have the opportunity to touch my sculptures, it is important to abide by the first rule of galleries and museums, which is not to touch the art. However, I have found ways to navigate this challenge by creating pieces specifically designed for touching at some shows. I am pleased that people are curious about my work and want to understand it through touch.
How do you distinguish between the blobs, drips, and squishes? Before you set down to work, do you have an idea of what will be what? What is the relationship between your forms?
I have categorized my artworks as “Blobs” for wall pieces, “Drips” for ledge pieces, and “Squishes” for freestanding sculptures. However, as my collection expands, I realize that I need to come up with more categories for better organization and communication..
I begin with a vision of what I want to achieve, but I am aware that the materials may have their own characteristics. Therefore, I am open to any unexpected outcomes. Creating the shapes is not a meticulously controlled process, whereas the application of surface textures requires a more precise approach due to its intricate nature.
I’ve been a fan of your work for years, and am pretty sure I was introduced to your work via Instagram. Your work is extremely eye-catching, with lots of bright colors and textures which of course lends itself to displaying well on social media. How do you think social media has played a role in your development as an artist?
My career as a full-time artist is thanks to social media. It has been an amazing tool for sharing, connecting, and testing my work. I enjoy how I can instantly share my creations with others. But, I ensure that creating my work remains my main focus and sharing it online is secondary, as it can be tempting to prioritize content over the art itself.
Beyond Reality, which is currently on view at The McNay Art Museum, displays an array of your work from 2017 to the present. Do you see any differences in your work (or execution) from past work to present?
It is hard to believe that seven years have passed since 2017! Looking back, it is great to see how my voice has evolved over time. I have noticed distinct differences in my skill with materials and the expansion of my knowledge. In fact, some of the larger sculptures I have created since then can be seen as extensions of the pieces in that show – almost like studies for the bigger works.
Like Delicious Monster? It is one of your largest sculptures to date. I love the title, where does it come from?
The Delicious Monster is derived from the Monstera deliciosa, which is also called the Swiss cheese plant. This plant is tropical and produces a fruit that has the delightful taste of banana and pineapple. However, it is essential to know that consuming the fruit too early can cause throat and skin irritation. It is fascinating to learn that this stunning plant produces such a fantastic treat that requires patience and knowledge to enjoy. I see a comparison between the sculpture and the plant that has two opposite aspects. They are both attractive but can be dangerous. Treat them with caution.
Dan Lam‘s sculptures are on view at the Mc Nay Art Museum‘s “Beyond Reality” exhibit until August 13th in San Antonio, Texas and her solo show “Cosmic Shake” is open July 7th-August 8th in Portland, Oregon. In December she will be showing with Hashimoto Contemporary in New York City.
You Might Also Like
What's Your Reaction?
Alexandra Israel graduated from Bates College in 2010. A museum aficionado since her introduction to Jean Dominque Ingres' portraits as a small child, she enjoys spending her free time at museums and finding off-the-beaten-track gallery shows. Israel has been working in PR for over seven years, primarily within book publishing and in the art world. She has held positions at Penguin Book Group, Aperture Foundation, and Third Eye among others. l Instagram l