- “Telling My Own Story”: An Interview with Daniel Minter
Selected Works by Daniel Minter
This interview was recorded on Sunday, January 8, 1995, in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil.
Coming to Bahia is always fascinating for me, if for no other reason than the fact that—in addition to meeting interesting Brazilians here in Salvador—I always meet North Americans, some of whom I interview. It’s here, for example, that I met George C. Wolfe in 1992, and now in 1995, on my third visit, I meet you. What are you doing here in Brazil?
Doing the same thing I’d do in the United States, doing art work. I came here specifically to do art work and basically to see how I fit into the community as an artist. I’ve been here for six months now. When I came here the first time, I just wanted to see what it was like to visit this city. I was here for only three weeks. I didn’t do any art work then, but I did talk to some of the artists here and show some of my work to them. And decided that I had to come back. I managed to get a grant, a travel grant, from the National Endowment for the Humanities, to save some money, and sell some artwork—I did everything I could—to get back here. I had to come back here. And now I’m here, part of the art community here, doing artwork, and pretty much living here for another three months.
What do you mean when you say “I had to come back”? What does that mean?
I had to come back because there were things answered about my artwork here that I thought were unanswerable. I saw some direct results or responses to things in my artwork from the people here, from some of the other artists here. They could see things in my artwork that I thought were coming from my imagination—or maybe coming from, or not from my imagination, but just coming from some other place. I also wanted to be in a community that appreciated artists. The community here appreciates its artists even though they have to struggle. I mean financially; there’s no financial support for artists here. But from a community level artists are very much appreciated, and I wanted to be a part of that community.
What have they been able to answer about your art? Will you be more specific about that. [End Page 353]
Okay. Just one thing. Some of the emotions in my artwork—I tried to show certain expressions in my figures’ faces. I say their spirits are present. Here in Bahia the spirits are present, and the people have given a name to each one. The artists here in Bahia gave me names for each of those spirits. And basically they gave me a lot more background on the spiritual side of creating artwork.
And “background” means what?
By background I mean the source of your inspiration and the story you are telling. When you grow up in the United States and you try to become an artist, you are taught to do art for art’s sake; you’re taught to do art, you know, for decoration’s sake. Well, or for reasons only you can understand, and other people can’t. I don’t feel like that’s the way to do artwork. And I feel that your artwork should support the community the same way, that somehow it should reflect your community. Creating artwork without any regard for community is valueless for me. So coming here has filled in gaps for me, has clarified some things for me—has explained for me where my artwork was going.
You’re also studying capoeira here. Does it help you to communicate with this community? Does it have anything to do with, or for, you as a visual artist?
Yes, it does have something to do with me as an artist. I’m here mainly to be an artist in a community...