Sandoval Signpost
An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  Featured Artist

Rod Daniels

Rod Daniel—fiber artist Photo credit: —Oli Robbins

c. Rod Daniels

The Approach, by Rod Daniel Photo credit: —Jim Carnevale

c. Rod Daniels

Pauline’s Ford, by Rod Daniel Photo credit: —Jim Carnevale

Painting with fabric—The art quilts of Rod Daniel

—Oli Robbins

Quilting is one of the great American pastimes, a cultural staple since Colonial days. Historically, it has been a women’s craft—wealthy colonial women busied themselves with needlework, while women in the lower classes wove and spun materials to fashion clothing and blankets for their families. So, yes, quilting is an old art form. That’s part of what makes the fine-art quilts of Placitas artist Rod Daniel so outstanding. Not only is Daniel a male engaging with a medium traditionally dominated by women, his training in, and experimentation with, quilting dates back less than half a decade. While he’s been an artist and musician his whole life, it wasn’t until Daniel discovered quilting that he became the kind of artist who feels an ever-present urge to create, who allows art to take precedence over other important things like, you know, sleep. “With quilting, I just can’t stop… I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about my next project.”

Daniel is currently a band director for APS, so his days and nights oscillate between music and art. After growing up in South Carolina, Daniel went to college at University of Florida, then relocated to Washington, DC, where he completed graduate work in education administration at American University. For twenty years, Daniel was part of the US Army band, which played at the White House. As a musically-minded individual, he found fulfillment while in DC, but always had an itch to direct a band. He intended to retire upon moving to New Mexico ten years ago, but instead embarked on two new paths—one of which was entirely unforeseen. Not only did he finally become a band director, he located his true niche in the art realm.

Daniel’s world has been colored by the fine and auditory arts since his earliest years. His mom was a pianist who played for a dance studio. As a result, his childhood was permeated by the harmonies of music and dance. He learned the trumpet and piano and was taking drawing and painting classes by the age of six. In 2010, Daniel visited a seminar series called, “Empty Spools” in Monterey, CA. After having stumbled upon a class on appliqué quilting, led by fabric artist Susan Carlson, Daniel was intrigued. “I was just fascinated,” says Daniel, “because I’ve always been a visual artist, but never found a medium that grabbed me. They were painting with fabric.” The next year, Daniel enrolled in Carlson’s course, and was immediately enlivened by the process. Unlike many other students in the class, Daniel had very little training in sewing. But he did know how to paint and was willing to be free and imaginative. He applied his technical knowledge of drawing and painting to the quilting process so as to “make the fabrics speak.” Precision didn’t interest him, but the serendipitous relationships between different fabrics did.

Being a relatively novice quilter has actually worked to Daniel’s advantage. “With a background in drawing and painting—not quilting—I think I am more open to experimentation with fabric and more willing to embrace the loose feel of fabric collage than those who are skilled in traditional quilting techniques.” His process is very much like collage or mosaics, wherein he uses a fusible (like glue) to synthesize distinct pieces of fabric, and moves them around freely until his composition is complete, at which point he employs a mid-arm sewing machine to stitch. He frequently works with batiks due to their “luscious” patterns and colors that lend themselves well to blending. Daniel takes his time finding fabrics that will provide depth and dimension; he doesn’t seek out a fabric that looks obviously like a sky, for example, but rather one that will play an active role in the ensemble of pieces that become a sky.

In 1997, Daniel traveled to New Mexico for work—he assembled a conference here for an education association. Soon after, he and partner (and photographer) Jim Carnevale were anxious to return to the Land of Enchantment. On their second trip out here, they chanced upon Su Casa magazine, the cover of which read, “The Good Life in Placitas.” Thanks to Su Casa, they explored Placitas, and on their third journey out here, bought land. Like many visitors to our state, they were in awe of the “light, the bright sky, and the genuinely friendly people.” They knew they were taking a chance, but did so eagerly and with confidence. It’s no wonder New Mexico, and Placitas specifically, nurtured Daniel’s artistic self. He loves the ever-present southwestern images, colors and patterns, and felt his “creative juices” surging. “Placitas,” says Daniel, “almost feels like an artist ghetto—everyone I know is an artist.” He is inspired by the virtuosity surrounding him and often observes techniques that he was never before familiar with.

The three years Daniel has spent quilting have been productive, and if his early success and inherent talent are indicators, the future will provide Daniel with many opportunities to create and shine. He has connected with the Studio Art Quilt Associates and has shown his work in several venues, including the Texas Quilt Museum and the New Mexico State Capitol Rotunda. His quilts have already begun appearing in publications, such as Quilter Home Magazine and The Quilter. Last month, Daniel was part of a group show through Placitas Artist Series, along with Carnevale and painter Adrienne Kleiman, called “Three Artists, One Vision.” In this impressive gathering of works, a selection of Carnevale’s photographs informed the works of Daniel and Kleiman, so as to reveal the same image in three different mediums. The resulting images, effective on their own, are arresting when viewed as a triad; one image is brought alive by the other two. This process was a comfortable one for Daniel, who often uses Carnevale’s photography as a jumping off point.

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