Mixed media artist Dolan Geiman sees beauty in metal scraps, forgotten newspapers, and discarded cans of house paint.
“Being green is something my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were doing long before it was trendy,” says Dolan Geiman, a 30-something mixed media artist who creates original paintings, collages, and “constructions” from what others might pass up as junk. “Cutting up old clothes for rugs, pulling hardware from rotting floorboards, and making toys from tin and string — I was taught at an early age that everything around me could have multiple purposes.”
Growing up in that manner, Geiman learned to see not just usefulness but also beauty in metal scraps, forgotten newspapers, and discarded cans of house paint. Today, the innovative artist transforms these castoffs into dynamic works of modern art.
Born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley, Geiman did not leave the country boy in Virginia when he moved to Chicago to pursue a career as an artist. In fact, city life has only deepened his connection to the Blue Ridge Mountains. “When I first arrived in Chicago, people assumed I was fleeing rural life; but frankly, I missed it and I found myself telling the story of growing up in the country out of materials I gathered near my childhood home.”
Photography: Chief by Dolan Geiman/photo by David Ettinger
Trained as a sculptor and printmaker, Geiman begins his mixed media creations with a salvaged surface — often a panel of wood from an old road sign or shipping crate — then uses everything from vintage papers and found objects to construct thick and densely layered images that are at the same time iconic yet fully contemporary.
Despite his unorthodox materials, nothing Geiman does is haphazard. Consider his commanding portrait Chief (Bison Head) which was created exclusively out of items gleaned from Oklahoma and Texas, the territory where the collaged chief might have lived. “His shirt is made out of early 1900s corn advertisements I found in a barn, pages of music I found in an abandoned saloon make up the feathers, and maps are what I used to create the texture in his face,” Geiman says.
That is the beauty of his work: Not only is the overall image a striking piece of Americana, each individual item — every tiny scrap of paper, shard of metal, and sliver of wood — has a story to tell.
From the October 2013 issue.