About Brett McDanel
Norman, Oklahoma artist Brett McDanel constructs innovative industrial sculptures from found objects. For the last twelve years McDanel has spent his free time scouring streets, vintage stores and the scrap yards for parts that, to most people, are insignificant. The artist states, “When walking down the street you find a random piece of metal that doesn’t belong there. All by itself, it’s just a piece of metal, but when you place it with other objects, it becomes something bigger... a part of something. All together these creations have a place.”
He relates it to his own life story adding, “I spent half my life lost and then somewhere along the way something clicked and put me where I belong... here working with metal.” Using his background in construction he up-cycles gears, widgets, thingamabobs and other found parts, animating them into action as featherless fiends, anamorphic figures and otherwise eccentrically allegorical sculpture that often delivers a dark comical mood.He does not sketch or premeditate the designs. McDanel envisions the pieces assembling in his mind's eye and attacks his hoard of jumbled parts with welding torch and grinder in hand. The resulting assemblages may take hours, days, or weeks, but in every case create an object of whimsy and an astute example of the beautiful grotesque.
Brett has created quite a reputation for his found object innovations. So much so that he now finds metal donations delivered to his home lawn and representative galleries on a weekly basis which has dramatically decreased his need to scour for parts; and allowed him much more time to assemble them.
Over the years, as the production of the artist’s works have become more fluid, the subjectivity of the work has also become more narrative and elements of the artist’s life now present themselves with consistency. Brett’s segue into the arts world came about when he went to work for artist Tom Lee seventeen years ago. McDanel was initially forced to get a job by the system and Brett took the first job he could find. Tom Lee was constantly prodding McDanel toward creativity. It was, however, Tom’s passing in 2010 that prompted the inception of Brett’s creative career. The next major evolution in the artist’s sculptures also arrived with tragedy. Following a car wreck and a nasty series of events, the artist’s compositions became something more than just a playful practice and it was around that time that McDanel’s figure studies started to emerge.
Ever increasingly, Brett started to rely on his artwork as an outlet for his experience. Emotional content started to present itself in sculptural allegories where the earliest figures expressed human commonalities such as feeling forlorn, seeking inspiration and poking things you know you shouldn’t; in an act of ignorant curiosity. As his figures developed, so did the reach of the experiences that inspired them; and today the sociopolitical nature of the Brett’s work is undeniable. “At this point in my life, it’s everything I can do not to build statements out of spite. I hate a lot of what’s going on in the world right now.” The artist continues, “There are a lot of hoops. As you get older, they get smaller; and there are more of them.”
The recurrent theme in McDanel’s sculpture is working through and overcoming struggle. Speaking on the topic of his newest sculptures, Brett says “People get shut down; they won’t push through because they’ve hit that point. They say I can either go to the stars or I can sit down and look at them from here. A lot of people just sit down and look, not many people say you know what, screw it I’m doing this. If they push through it, they wind up being these inspiring examples, and that’s what I want to do with these pieces. I want to inspire strength!”