Dan Goldman: “Art is Choice”

Artist name: Dan Goldman

Featured Work 1: Cover of Priya’s Mirror

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Dan Goldman is a gifted artist, designer, and writer who creates comics and graphic novels, such as Priya’s Mirror, pictured above, screenplays, and video games. In Priya’s Mirror, the second story in the Priya’s Shakti series, he again lends his deft hand to illustrate a heroic tale of women’s empowerment. This chapter brings together powerful female survivors and champions, Hindu symbolism, a flying tiger, and more exciting twists while examining cultural gender norms, attitudes towards violence against women, and themes of self-knowledge and redemption. All of this is packaged in an augmented-reality comic that is free to download here. The augmented-reality comic tells real acid-attack survivors’ stories and offers interactive experiences through the Blippar app and social media. Priya’s Mirror premiered at the New York Film Festival and launched at the Mumbai Comic Con in October of 2016. Read on to learn more about Goldman and his creative process as well as his upcoming comics-journalism project addressing homelessness in LA: TENT CITY.

Featured Works Slideshow:

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5 Questions for the Artist: (be aware that Goldman’s answers use the word f*ck, unedited)

1. What is art to you?

Art is communication, challenge, and evolution. It’s a conversation with ourselves, across time, that grows our cultures. Art is a non-religion wherein we take responsibility for the world we have inherited, one that’s ours to remake. Art comes in every flavor, and can be used for good, for evil, for apathy, for backwards motion as often as forwards. Art is choice, it’s what we do in the now that channels the past into the future.

2. What did you make in the past, and why?

When I was in high school, I was really depressed. Suicidal even. I think that’s normal in American society to a degree, but I really struggled with my emotions and didn’t always have a good handle on them. So, what I did was paint. I’d shown the school art teacher my portfolio of homemade comic-book characters and begged him to let me opt out of the mandatory gym class, which was full of morons looking to humiliate the new kid in school (me). My portfolio impressed him and I got my own cubicle upstairs, which I occupied for three years until graduation. Up in my cubicle, I painted and art-ed my fucking guts out. All the bad thoughts and impulses and pain of being alienated in a new school I didn’t seem to fit into. But more than that, I began to develop a series of symbols — almost a cartoon shorthand — for these emotional aspects of myself: elongated figures of myself at different stages in my life, color-coded geometric symbols for specific emotions; rages, lusts. Hormonal as fuck, sure, but I worked through a lot of this in shapes and colors that repeated for about two years. I created a portfolio of acrylic paintings that were spray-painted or lit on fire, angry and confused things that got these feelings out of me so I could go to bed at night clean. Senior year I was in the AP (Advanced Placement) Art Program, and my teacher was pushing me to submit this body of work to get scored, which would in turn help me get into college. I didn’t want to do that, because this work wasn’t for a grade. It wasn’t for other people, it was for me. He was very irritated — he had a quota for high-scoring students to maintain — but I refused. In the end, I didn’t go to art school. But I ended up becoming an artist.

3. What are you making now, and why?

I’m writing this from a cafe in Bangalore, where research has just begun for the third volume of the PRIYA’S SHAKTI comic series. It’s a series set in India about a young girl who’s a rape survivor who conquers her fears with the assistance of the Hindu goddess Parvati and travels across India on a flying tiger tackling issues that face women in a patriarchal society. The first book spoke about rape, the just-released second about acid attacks, and the third will be about sex trafficking.

My partner Ram Devineni and I just visited Sonagachi — the largest red light district in Asia — a few days ago and spoke to women of all ages who have lived unimaginable lives trying to survive and provide for their families.

The story’s still coming together, but it’s going to be longer than the others and even darker. When I met Ram and he explained the project, I was fascinated by it. We did the first book together and had massive viral success, but after that, I’d been intending on drawing less and screenwriting more. In between books, I moved out to Los Angeles for that reason (and done a lot of new work since). But right before the move, I was traveling in Japan with my wife. I had told Ram that I wasn’t interested in drawing any more comics. He emailed me and asked for introductions to artists who could continue the series with him. I said sure, that I’d hook him up with an artist friend when I got back to New York. A few days later I was in the town of Nara visiting Todai-ji, the “temple of the Golden Buddha.” I was completely involved in the trip, the magical surroundings, the town, a park full of tiny deer descended from the Buddha’s own deer. I wasn’t thinking about comics at all. But as I stared up at this massive golden Buddha statue, I couldn’t force the image of Priya from my mind. I was consciously trying to, but just being in the room with the Buddha statues, I felt my own comic character I had already left behind pressing in on me. The temple was telling me something: my work wasn’t done with this yet. When I reached Kyoto, I emailed Ram again to say: no one else is going to draw this series. I’m with it until the end. It felt rooted and deep just writing those words, and he was of course thrilled. The team stayed together and the second book PRIYA’S MIRROR launched a few weeks ago and we’re in India now getting tons of accolades, doing lots of press. I think this second book is an even stronger work than the first, and the next one’s going to be even better.

4. What are your hopes for the future?

Creating social-political-activist work for India as an American is a funny position to be in, and somewhere between these two books and my move to LA, the thought has recurred to me about using the same kind of grant-funded comics model to talk about issues facing my own crumbling late-capitalist democracy. Watching the homeless population in Los Angeles mushrooming in the year-and-change I’ve lived there, I’ve begun work on a new comics project called TENT CITY that looks at what’s going on in Skid Row, a perfect microcosm of immigration, mental illness, drug addiction, gang activity, sex trafficking… all on the sidewalks of the USA’s second biggest city, happening in broad daylight, shielded from our eyes by a single layer of nylon with tents. This will be my first ongoing nonfiction series, comics journalism that will be told with a touch of magical realism. I’m heading back to the US next week and will dive right back into my research and project planning for this. It’s my hope that any of the projects I do make a difference in the world, using art, using emotions. For me, it’s all about connecting with people and evolving together.

5. What else would you like to say?

I think about death a lot — not in a necessarily morbid way, but the idea that life is finite for all of us, even while the fount of ideas feels limitless. That’s partially a comfort and partially a drag: the knowledge that there less time than there are ideas/projects/things to say. So I’m doing my best to make whatever time there is for me count. I wake up early, I eat healthy (most of the time), try to maintain my physical vehicle best I can, and focus, focus, so I can get shit done.

Artist Supplied Background:

A writer/artist of graphic novels, screenplays and video games, Dan is the co-creator/artist of the augmented reality comic book series, PRIYA’S SHAKTI. Funded by the World Bank and the Tribeca Film Institute, the series features the first Indian female superhero who is a rape survivor. Following its release, Priya was honored by UN Women as a “Gender Equality Champion.” The first chapter PRIYA’S SHAKTI went viral upon its release with over 500,000 downloads and over 400 news stories reaching over 20 million readers. The second chapter PRIYA’S MIRROR recently premiered as a selection of the NY Film Festival.

You can follow Dan Goldman on Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr.

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Also, check out my previous articles on Priya’s Shakti and Priya’s Mirror.

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5 Questions for the Artist, © Julia Travers

 

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