About DanOfTheDead

I'm a lifelong geek trying to find a way to bridge the gaps between "craft," "hobby," and "art". I'm currently going back to school and am working on a BFA in Sculpture at the University of Houston. I was terrified that my custom action figure work would be considered too low brow, but I've been amazed at how supportive my instructors and fellow students have been with their encouragement to see where that path will lead me artistically.

It's been a frightening process, learning to identify myself as an "artist" and what I do as "art". I've played with and taken apart toys all my life, and dabbled in customizing action figures for as long as I can remember, but I really got involved in the hobby in 2009 after I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma/vestibular schwannoma. Six months of increasing hearing loss and MRIs all came to a head one fateful Friday afternoon when I got a call with the diagnosis and was laid off three hours later.

The good news in this was that the tumor was benign (though we wouldn't be certain of that until they cut it out of my head), but it was growing dangerously close to my brain stem. The pressure of it on my nerves caused the hearing loss, so obviously if it got big enough to interfere with the brain stem it was going to be a problem. So I had about 2 or 3 three months to sit around and be terrified about them cutting open my skull to move my brain aside and cut this mass out of a spaghetti-tangle of nerves that all served pretty important functions.

So I started to make things. I had a collection of toys and parts I'd built up over the years, and I started tearing through them with a purpose. The surgery came and went, and somewhere during my recovery, toys became art and art became therapy. There was a lot to process after the surgery; I lost half my hearing and my balance is a little off and the right side of my face is paralyzed and my right eye is wonky because it doesn't close quite right and I'm still not used to my own reflection and the way it moves, or doesn't move.

So I keep making things, and I keep trying to be a person who makes things, and I keep trying to understand what it means to be a person who makes things. It's hard, right now, to tell this story of why I do what I do without talking about the surgery and such, but I'm really still working through it all. And it will always be the point in my life where I went from being afraid of being an artist to being afraid of NOT being artist.

-Dan