Galleries : Dan VanLandingham : Making His Mark
"It's exciting being in the next generation of Island artists," says 23-year-old West Tisbury native Dan VanLandingham as he sits outside on the deck of his parents' West Tisbury home.
The Island has fostered the creative spirit in Mr. VanLandingham, as demonstrated in his work that appeared last year at the West Tisbury Artisans Festival and at the Sail Martha's Vineyard Christmas show. "I think this is an ideal place for a painter," he says. "I love everything about the Vineyard -- fishing, surfing -- that's where I get my inspiration."
He also credits artist Janice Frame, his art teacher at the West Tisbury School, for encouraging him to continue with his art. But to Mr. VanLandingham, it comes naturally. His great grandmother was a painter, and an aunt in Florida is an artist.
By the time Mr. VanLandingham entered Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, Ms. Frame was already teaching there. He found himself painting his first oil, a self-portrait, in her art class. A man with a mission, Mr. VanLandingham went on to major in art at Vermont's Green Mountain College, spending his last year at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth and earning a BFA degree in 2007.
"I went into college with an art degree in mind. I tried everything -- sculpture, photography. When I got into painting, I realized it was what I was interested in," he says. He also took a lot of art history, and found it opened his eyes to the possibilities for painting.
Graduate school in art will come next for Mr. VanLandingham, who has applied for fall admission to different schools. He has not yet decided where he wants to go.
The Vineyard community has played a significant role in the development of Mr. VanLandingham's talent. "I don't think it would be possible anywhere else," he says.
A friend of painter Allan Whiting's youngest son, Everett, Mr. VanLandingham became a fan of the celebrated landscape painter. Although he hadn't seen Mr. Whiting for several years, and wasn't sure the painter would recognize him, Mr. VanLandingham visited him recently. Mr. Whiting did remember him, and since he was "Island blood," offered advice. He told him: keep painting and never stop experimenting; and offer work to Island causes. "We're actually pretty close," Mr. VanLandingham says. "I've spent time this year in his studio talking to him."
Among Vineyard artists of his own generation, Max Decker is the friend with whom Mr. VanLandingham most often trades ideas. Last summer, the two went on painting excursions as often as three or four times a week. "I wasn't much of a landscape painter, and Max inspired me," he says.
New to the Vineyard art market, Mr. VanLandingham applied to the West Tisbury Artisans Festival last year. He feels they took a risk by accepting such an artistic newcomer, but he had a very successful summer.
As a result, he decided to devote himself full-time to art, giving up his day job in landscaping, creating a website (danvanlandingham.com) and building his own frames. Next on the agenda is finding a gallery to represent him, a task he's already working on.
Of the 15 paintings he will display at the Chilmark Library, most will be landscapes. A number depict scenes of Menemsha, where he often fished as a boy. The Island's waters have proved to be a particular source of inspiration. The colors in Mr. VanLandingham's work reflect a Vineyard palette of blues, greens, and grays, sometimes laced with the colors of a vibrant Island sunset.
"I feel like I'm constantly improving. I really strive to capture those moments in time that only happen once. It's my way of expressing my personal connection to the Vineyard," he says.
Dan VanLandingham's first solo exhibit opens Saturday, June 14, at the Chilmark Public Library with a reception from 3 to 5 pm.