In the Danny-Sphere
by Peggy Sturdivant
My mother was disappointed I wasn’t invited on the media tour for the opening of Amazon’s Spheres. After all the unveiling made national news. So when I was alerted to another installation growing within glass panels I felt vindicated. Especially once I got to see and hold what artist Danny Mansmith is cultivating within his glass walls, which is genius, not imported plants.
Mansmith is one of the two artists showing through the end of March as part of the Burien Downtown Art Project mentioned in the February 2nd issue. While ceramic artist John Taylor is using his space in Merrill Gardens as a 35-year retrospective Mansmith is treating his windowed streetfront corner in The Maverick on 150th SW as a residency. He is even ‘in-residence’ on Mondays “growing” his installation before a reception during Art Walk on Sunday, March 4.
If the corner window is his biosphere the home studio is his greenhouse, where Mansmith creates his varied work, looking out on free-range trees. Danny Mansmith is a work of art unto himself, from his beard and style of dress to what’s reflected in his eyes, mirrored from walls, ceiling, even his chair. He identifies as a textile artist but is clearly much more.
In Mansmith’s backroom/studio there are suspended works of paper cuts, shelves and walls of cloth dolls, sculptures, drawings, paintings, fabric rings with stitched designs and a straightforward, older model, metal sewing machine. Mansmith is glad the machine can only do forward, reverse and zig-zag, otherwise he says it would seem like cheating to him as he draws in thread. Week by week he is creating new works in his studio and in the window space. He will declare the installation done on March 4, 2018.
I doubt Amazon workers will appreciate pedestrians knocking on the windows of their spheres, but Danny Mansmith loves his Monday visitors. He believes in making art accessible. “People don’t go into a gallery space because they’re fearful.” Mansmith is counteracting this with his installation-in-process. “Let yourself be curious,” is one of his guiding principles, for himself and others.
Another theme in Mansmith’s life and work is, “Use the resources that come your way.” Faced with limited funds and a space to fill quickly he started with the back of architectural drawings he found discarded in an alley, and black Sharpies. “I can draw faster than sew,” he explained.
Next he splurged on lumber (and the right shade of blue fabric for sky) to realize his theme of “Eight Doorways.” Then he proceeded to wrap his structure in fabric and has been adding to it weekly since January. “I’m not a planner at all,” he said. “You have to jump off a cliff and hope you make it down.”
Mansmith and his partner moved here from Chicago about five years ago and were able to settle in Burien. He works at the Burien Goodwill and sells many of his creations on Etsy, what he calls his functional things. He finds it’s much harder to sell larger work and he doesn’t really like to send a standalone piece to a gallery. He’s not a standalone person. Even in the non-studio spaces of his home every object doubles as art, give or take an exterior door or two.
He credits his grandmother, who wouldn’t have called herself an artist, with his own creativity, as though it was passed through his genes and the skin beneath the clothes she made for him. Mansmith said his own mother claimed to hate art, and yet in the medication log she kept later in life he found that she was drawing amazing creatures that he calls her peacock people. He knows himself to be an artist, but may not be aware of how seeing objects through his eyes render them into art, and the possibility of art, for others. Seeing how he had turned the simplest materials into creations made me want to create.
“I just want to keep doing what I’m doing,” Mansmith says. “I try to live in a small way so I can keep ‘making’ and share it with the world.” He’s doing it, and we’re invited to watch.
For more information or to see installation progress online visit dannymansmith.com. The Maverick is located at 15045 5th Ave SW, Burien. The reception starting at 1:30 p.m. on March 4, 2018 will coincide with Art Walk and a concert one block away.