Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Noah Dasho


One of my first fine art purchases was a print by Noah Dasho at the annual Fort Mason Holiday Print Sale. Years later, I met him at the Bay Printmakers Open Studios. We met after work downtown one evening for this Arteaser interview.

Originally from the Bay Area, Noah Dasho began spending his school years in North Carolina with his mother. They lived near a wildlife refuge, which fed Dasho's early interest in birds: 

"When I was probably six years old I wanted to be an ornithologist [...] I had every bird book there was [...] Roger Tory Peterson was someone that made field guides and he painted every single bird there was, and John James Audubon as well, the naturalist. I would just look at the way that they could draw every bird under the sun"

These detailed bird drawings were more akin to Dasho's own creative pursuits, despite his father's preference for practicing music:

"My dad was a musician and he always wanted me to play an instrument, and I just never took up any instruments, but I've drawn since I was little and I guess always kind of considered myself an artist from a young age" 

Dasho continued art into high school, where he was first exposed to printmaking. These early attempts, however, were not encouraging:

"I did a couple lino-cuts in high school art class and absolutely hated them. I just couldn't get what I wanted. [...] I just remember trying to rub a linoleum block with a wooden spoon in high school and being incredibly frustrated [laughing]" 

Dasho returned to the Bay Area for college at UCSC, where he ultimately majored in Art and Economics:

"I've  always done art, but didn't think I would study that in college. I started trying to take art classes and couldn't get into any unless I had that major. Then I [thought], 'I can do two majors in four years.' So, I did it"

Despite his earlier frustrations in the medium, Dasho found himself back in a printmaking class in college. This time, however, he connected with the technique:

"In college I had no interest in photography, so I took the printmaking course because it fulfilled the same elective. Once I started doing it, I just fell in love with it [...] I love detail and I love line. Printmaking just gave a line that I had never seen before, especially etchings"

The process and precision work of printmaking appeals to Dasho. He enjoys a high level of detail and the patterns it can create:

"Whether it was feathers on a bird, I used to meticulously draw every feather - it was sort of the pattern. And lately I've been doing scales on fish and sort of the patterning of those and different things in urban landscapes. I'm really drawn to those kind of details"

Extending the notion of patterns beyond the image, Dasho is interested in the reproduced nature of the print itself. He reflects this by replicating images within a composition:

"Everything starts with line. I'm incredibly interested in pattern as well. Within that I really like that there's a sort of a nod to the fact that you're creating multiples and I like to do small groupings of things [...] like little flocks of birds"

Dasho doesn't confuse detail with realism. Replication is just one of his stylistic traits:

"I like to kind of flatten shapes a little bit and kind of change the perspective in a lot of my prints. I want do something a little bit beyond just straight photographic [images]"

His early stylistic influences came from traditional printmaking artists:

"I think the reason that I got into printmaking was definitely Japanese woodblock artists [...]  it's the composition, the flattening, the styling, and the colors, sort of the scale [...] I love the big sky and the intricate, yet stylized detail"

Dasho has branched out and now takes inspiration from urban graffiti artists like Barry McGee, Andrew Schoultz, and Evan Hecox:

"Currently, I'm extremely into urban art, and I'm into people who have strong line, strong pattern [...] and also their use of color and imagery"

The defiant nature of urban artist is exciting for Dasho, but he is challenged to reconcile his passion for traditional printmaking: 

"I kind of want to get out of that [traditional] box a little bit, but there's something so beautiful and contained that draws you in about printmaking. It's not really something you view from a distance, it's something that you walk up to and inspect, at least for me, and I hope that my audience has that same relationship with it, that they can go in and see the craft and the detail"

Noah will be participating in the Fort Mason Annual Print Sale from December 5-7. He also has a few works on display at the Falkirk Cultural Center through the end of the year.

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