Dan Quintana: The Camo Chameleon

When first examining the scope and breadth of LA artist, Dan Quintana’s work, I can’t help but feel I’m blindly trying to pin the tail onto a wayward phoenix. Nailing that critter down is like kissing bubbles. On the one hand there’s his stark and graphic charcoal work with space to move and savour. At the other end of the spectrum is his decadent, broiling, surrealist oil paintings. A Bosch like layering of demons, serpents and subconscious sojourns, choking an alien landscape.  There’s also his Hollywood starlets rendered with some razzle dazzle and then sprinkled with a little of that David Lynch style freaky. And finally there’s his figurative portraits. Women who wash across the canvas yet fix you with their gaze. Each one in the midst of a story that sits outside of the frame.

So are we looking at the evolution of an artist or is it more about someone hungry to tell the various facets of a single narrative? Quintana is one of LA’s cool kids collaborating with the likes of Brian Viveros, Miss Van and photographer Karen Hsiao in their recent exhibition, ‘Perverse Foil’. Far from an egocentric approach, Quintana takes on the colours of his context, but that’s not at the sacrifice of a consistent thread.

At the heart of each piece is a warrior woman, a soldier girl, a world weary veteran at odds with her surrounds. She’s an Ellen Ripley of sorts, either wrestling with the demonic exterior or the alien within. Whatever the medium, she’s masterfully rendered. Just let her gaze hook you and I promise you she’ll fight.

Perhaps a clue to the second overarching theme lies in a quote from the very illusive Quintana himself. When asked about music he says, “I have run out of music to listen to. It’s now mostly classical. Chopin is a favourite . .  and live feeds off police scanners. These two go well hand in hand.” That sense of collision pervades much of his work. Whether it’s style, mood or narrative, the friction of worlds seems to spark off the canvas.

While a chameleon may change it’s shades, the creature or story at the centre remains the same.

“The living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system” ~ Bruce Lee

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