July 29, 2020

IN FLUX In Depth with Daniel Mariotti

Daniel Mariotti is a Phoenix-based artist and is one of the featured artists for IN FLUX Cycle 9. We asked him a few questions about his process. Be sure to scroll down to watch a video of him pouring his piece.

Daniel Mariotti polishing Meditation on Fragmented Space, his artwork for IN FLUX Cycle 9. Photo: Courtesy of Daniel Mariotti.

Tell us who you are and what kind of art you make.

I tend to make art about my flaws and navigate them through science and philosophy. I have a degree in photography and printmaking, but I use any medium to get the point across. The thing I try my best to create is a narrative through my work so that viewers can relate.

Meditation on Fragmented Space is installed on the northeast corner of Scottsdale Road and Roosevelt Street. Photo: Courtesy Daniel Mariotti.

Tell us about your project for IN FLUX, including how it was created, what it’s made of, your inspiration, and so forth.

The piece I made for IN FLUX is called Meditation on Fragmented Space, and it is made of cast bronze. To put it simply, the idea behind it is self-reflection. I took the inspiration of my younger self, spending way too much time looking at rocks and imagining different worlds on them. Those moments calm me. Imagination calms me; it’s one of the core reasons I make things. So the basic form came from that idea. The smooth reflective pattern represents a “memory mirror” of sorts. Memories are so tricky; they tend to not contain the full truth and warp over time. So that part mimics that idea. But mainly, I wanted it to be a piece that you could potentially look at for a long time and maybe get your mind to wander into a self-reflective state.

What materials and tools do you use to create?

It kind of runs the full gamut but relies mostly on what I have available to me at the time.

Meditation on Fragmented Space in the studio. Photo: Courtesy of Daniel Mariotti.

What is your process when creating a piece?

I typically start with playing with a form based on some vague idea I have. Then I do multiple iterations of it and start creating the narrative around it, which then pushes how the form starts to take shape. I know that’s the most abstract way of saying essentially nothing, but for example, I have been making these smaller “meteorite” bronzes lately. It first started by finding an object that reminded me of a meteorite. I molded it and cast it. Then I went back to the mold and experimented with how I could get a wax from it, which got me thinking about how I could make the pieces look as they were deteriorating. I made four iterations behind that idea. From them I was experimenting with their patinas, ending up liking polishing the flatter spots. The reflective quality on such a textured piece got me thinking about how our lives are chaotic and how, because of the chaos, we don’t allow our reflections to accurately describe us and all the metaphors associated with reflection.

I know, it’s a weird leap, but at this point it was three months of me thinking about the work after “finishing” them. This, in turn, had me thinking about the defacing of sculptures through graffiti or otherwise and what the person’s intent of defacing an object is. And where I have landed with the work is creating these varying objects that are coming from one mold (a metaphor to us growing up and through experience forming our individual perspectives and “style,” for a lack of a better word, through forces that are put on us—how and where we grew up, etc.), polishing a center section of the piece that distorts your reflection back (our warped perceptions of ourselves), and then hiding everything under a patina (the walls we build up).

I then engrave a positive affirmation that is also hidden by the patina but covered in graphite. Overtop that affirmation is the negative version such as “do better.” Since it’s a wall piece, it can act like a mirror. Every morning you wipe away the “negative,” revealing the positive while looking at yourself. The graphite gets on your hands because it shows the work it takes to change your negative ideas of yourself. But also, this act starts to reveal both the polished surface and the positive affirmation while causing the negative phrase to dissipate. This also takes time, so doing it over a month, a year, 10, etc., will then change the piece—similarly to how working on yourself takes time. So, the way you interact with the piece then becomes a part of the work itself. After getting the design and patina correct, then I can go back to my mold and make a couple of them to create a series. That was a long-winded explanation, I know, but I think it’s increasingly important to understand the process because there’s this common misconception that art is ONLY a technical field. It’s often the combination between technical and intent.

Watch the pouring process for Meditation on Fragmented Space.
Video courtesy of Daniel Mariotti.

Has your process changed over time? If so, how?

It definitely has. The most obvious way is in the materials I use. Most of my work before has been 2-D (photography, painting, printmaking), but currently I work in more sculptural work. Also, I’ve been trying to not just create interesting forms but have these forms have some sort of narrative behind it. And as I had mentioned previously about technical versus intentional, I’ve been trying to better fuse the two. In school it was very much about the technique, and the intent was an afterthought.

Do you have any upcoming projects you are working on?

I’ve always got a couple that I work on in sections. The one I mentioned earlier is intended for a series called Tak, Slucham (Polish phrase when picking up a phone, translated to: “Yes, I’m listening”). Tak, Slucham is intended to be a precursor to my “completed” series Hello, Sunshine. But also completely unrelated, I’m trying to make a lamp from one of my meteorite bronzes. And the biggest project that I’ve been putting off for almost two years now is to update my website. Right now it doesn’t reflect what I am doing in sculpture or any graphic work. I really don’t know why I’ve been dragging my feet for this long about it.

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