Making Emotion Visible

Mikel Durlam is an American artist based in New York City. Through painting, sculpture, installation and artifacts, Durlam examines his relationship to life and death in his personal search to understand its meaning and purpose.

RMSQRL - faux fur, paper-mache, cardboard, air-dry clay, audio, wire, paint. 17 x 24x 18 2009.

Durlam’s process is highly intuitive, spontaneous and deeply emotionally based. His work grows organically from his everyday experiences navigating relationships, solitude, as well as the greater surprises and challenges that life typically delivers.

JMPNTHFR DOG; A FLAG - paper-mache, cardboard, air-dry clay, bamboo, taxidermy eye, paint found object 40 x 21 x 14 2010.Unlike many artists, rather than beginning with a concept, Durlam starts when he feels driven to make something though he never knows for certain what form it will take. He sets about to capture and express the emotional impact of an experience or memory of one, which may have been confused him or of which cannot make sense. He often creates a performance combining different mediums – objects, paintings, installation and music – which reflect aspects of the dilemma with which he struggles.

gggbbbbrrrrkkkk - Ceramic, cast epoxy. 42 x 35 x 27 2005For Durlam the meaning and purpose of the event, or it’s emotional source, isn’t understood until afterward, when he has the distance, objectivity and emotional release required to be able to analyze it. What was invisible becomes visualized. What was unconscious becomes articulated through the enactment of the work, providing the context and symbols, the divine, some personal truth and understanding.

As an artist, Durlam is a purist. He has no interest in the commerce of art or even talking about his own. For him, everything is about the moment of the experience. Words are less relevant than performance, movement, and music, languages that he feels are more generous, engaging and accurate in communicating what he is struggling to express.

Durlam believes that art is its own language that doesn’t need to be explained by words. As he sees it, artists are expected to explain the meaning of their work in catalogues, placards, magazines and interviews as part of the commerce of the art market. For Durlam, art needs no translation. In fact, explanations limit our individual experience with a work of art and collectively leads to loose a natural ability to read art.

DRESS (detail) - acrylic and gouache on paper and mylar. 77 x 54, 2010

There are some works Durlam has never shown. They are cherished interpretations of a moment, created out of his need to understand an experience. Once completed, Durlman has no need or desire to talk about or share them. They have already accomplished their relevance and are simply part of the story of his life.

Especially interested in community, Durlam often engages others in a collaborative effort to create work. He worries about the cost of striving for individuality in art, with it’s accompanying isolationism, and instead favors an approach in which a community of people share a moment of creativity together.

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