Beauty and Longing 

Artist Dan Scott paints the human form

I won't soon forget the moment I realized the painting hanging in my parents' living room was of naked people. I had seen the picture for years as a child without thinking about the images, so this realization struck with uncomfortable feelings of something like shame or embarrassment or even uncertainty about my parents' relationship. So I asked my father, an artist and an art collector, why they displayed it.

It isn't pornography, he explained. That would cause sexual excitement. My dad liked the picture because it told a story and stimulated his thoughts about the lives and personalities of the characters, about how they got to the lake, about why they were acting as they did the moment they were captured in paint. He meant erotica.

If he'd used that word, I would have been more uncomfortable. But as an adult, I understand.

Boise-based artist Dan Scott understands this as well. "In art, there is a constant dialogue between the formal and the conceptual ... There is an amazing tension between the subject-meaning represented and the form-meaning made present in the work," he writes about his art.

Scott paints and draws figures and still life, but much of his focus is on erotica--which in his pieces appears with varying palpability in stimulating different ways to think about his images and characters.

Scott is also a professor at Boise State, where he received his B.F.A. before continuing his education at New York Academy of Art with an M.F.A. in painting. He teaches mostly drawing and intro to art classes at Boise State, and when he speaks, he is gentle and confident--he knows his artwork and what he wants to convey.

Scott has a broad range of styles and ways in which he creates; he also tends to work in series linked by subject or style or the point of his thoughts.

"The thing that I am always dealing with is how human beings have this longing," Scott tells BW. "I ask myself about that. What am I moving to and how do I come to complete it?"

He doesn't have the answers, but still he enjoys thinking about the question and applying it to his work.

"When I think of eroticism, I think of taking the sex impulse, a biological thing, and making it complicated," he says. "Because we want to find wonder and beauty and transcendency in things ... And when we make that part of our life special, it makes us bond to people."

Scott finds wonder in life and he wants to capture it by creating a little magic around it. His wonder is genuine, laced with an appreciation for details and love of being engaged, which is what makes him convincing when he philosophizes about art, about relationships, about life.

Scott creates content that is revealed slowly through a intricate dialogue with his forms. In one of his paintings, Speaking in Tongues, a bound man kneels in child's pose below an intricately crafted Victorian bottle. The pairing of the two images is complicated at first glance. The connection unfolds slowly.

"The Victorian era was the most fetishized time in history--they wanted everything to be beautiful," he says. "I confess to having that quality in myself. I love things made by hand or that have some idea of complexity in construction."

To Scott, form surpasses function. The desire to be beautiful, to notice beauty, to create beauty is of salient importance and attention. Accordingly, his art is beautiful. The colors, the brush strokes, the composition, and the pairing of paintings illuminate the talents of an educated artist, and are also undeniably erotic. But for Scott, the erotic style is not necessarily based on the sexual nature of an image, but on something less clear, more complex, that describes ideas in a more conceptual way that is intended to bring arousal through thought--and which can sometimes be difficult for people to see.

Such is the case with some of Scott's works depicting chained, masked men. The images of bondage are primal and intimate and, like the painting in my parents' house, can make a viewer feel uncomfortably voyeuristic if they can't move through it.

"I did a series of sleeping men and ... it is so much more erotic to me because they require from the viewer something that is about sensual response rather than a deconstruction of thinking," Scott says. "I think of that as true erotic art. My recent work is much more analytical."

But he hasn't truly shifted perspectives, he says. Scott tends to work in series and though he refers to the current work as much colder than his earlier paintings that were more sensual, he decided to produce more analytical work in an effort to find himself through the analysis.

Scott's work is represented by J Crist Gallery in Boise. Some of his paintings are at J Crist; another hangs at the Peninsula Museum of Art in Belmont, California.

This spring, Scott has an upcoming one-night show with another artist in town on April 1 at the new Visual Arts Collective. Both artists will talk about how they construct images--which ought to be interesting, especially if people start volunteering to be figure models.

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