Controlled Calamity: The art and life of Daniel Crook

 

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Up on Mount Veeder, in the western Napa Valley, Daniel Crook grew up in a household with a father who was an unpredictable, experimental artist and a strong, rough-around-the-edges mother. He packs a larger-than-life personality in a compact person. Upon first meeting Crook, one can instantly sense he is an observer. His eyes seem to be forever in search of the next visually stimulating thing, and he’s quick to point it out. Every fiber of his being screams expression. His dedication to his craft puts most to shame and because of that, Crook is certainly an artist you’ll want to keep an eye on.

Along with the impressionistic paintings of the (mostly male) figures he paints, Crook writes and plays music daily. Appropriately, his art and his music contradict each other. On one hand, his paintings are quiet; calculated, loving and honest. On the other hand, his music is abrasive and full of ethos. These two halves collectively describe Crook’s personality. With calm, purposeful movements, he paints figures as if it were an unconscious act, like breathing. He has the muscles and curves memorized and distorts from there. His paintings are created with automatic certainty and conceptual consideration, rarely with a head or a face, always with the intricate curvature of the body; muscles and tendons reaching and pulling over bone. He is a person whose taste we trust and words we value. So we sat down and talked with him about creativity and the future.

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 Do you think your childhood has affected the art you make now?

I do. Being raised in a rather violent, unpredictable environment by a drug-addict father who just so happened to be an impeccable graphic artist made me both introverted and obsessive about my work. I have always been far more meticulous than my art would make itself, or I, seem. Due to the constantly changing nature of my childhood, I learned to carry a rather calm demeanor, but just underneath the skin is a very different story. The figures; they show that same nature. The line is controlled, though rough in appearance, but everything inside it is calamitous and smashed together.

 What do you do to get into your creative frame of mind?

Often, it all starts with coffee. I go out every morning to get my usual iced latte. I take a seat and enjoy a cigarette and I let my mind wander. Maybe it comes from a dream, or some sexual encounter the night before; maybe it’s because of a memory of an old friend who modeled for me, or maybe one who hasn’t yet. I will say though, there is usually a sativa involved in that ritual somewhere.

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 What is creativity to you?

I realize that it is so many things to so many people. But creativity to me is the experience of thinking only about what you choose to. Nothing comes the wayside in that state, just you and whatever subject or person you have been wrestling with. For me, it’s almost like having coffee with your demons; a cordial time where you can all agree to disagree.

 How do you feel about medical cannabis and the medical cannabis movement? How does it help you?

I can say this about pot: It is the only reason I can sit or stand for longer than 15 minutes. Without it, I would be nearly incapable to perform at the level I do now. I have been using it since very young. I needed to sleep, which is not something I am naturally wired to do, apparently. At five years old, I was diagnosed with an epidermoid tumor growing in my spinal chord, just above my tailbone. I had been experiencing pain that the doctor related to my mother as similar to “labor pains.” The pain is something I can still remember, even being so young. They had to take the outermost layers of bone from my spine in order to remove the tumor in its entirety, leaving me with only morrow and my parents’ hemoglobin to hold me up. As you can imagine, it’s not very easy to keep pressure on this region for any length of time, but with the right sativa . . . I’m good to go. No other medication could do that for me without some risk of side effects in the long term. I made my choice.

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 If you had the chance to live during a different artistic movement other than now, when and where would it be?

The future. We already know what happened back then. Though I love to reminisce, I feel like the future is just so fascinating. Will we see a return to sexual neutrality? Will we see the death of dogma? Who knows, but I spend a lot of time thinking about it.

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