This article is part of Hyperallergic’s Pride Month series, featuring an interview with a different transgender or nonbinary emerging or mid-career artist every weekday throughout the month of June.
Daniel Boccato’s fiberglass and epoxy resin sculptures appear simultaneously heavy and light; elegant and scrappy; self-serious and self-deprecating. Many of Boccato’s earlier pieces involved parsing through images and objects, extracting their outlines, and rendering these contours unrecognizable in the form of wall-mounted pieces that evoke contorted faces or mushrooms or the shape a feeling might take — anything but what they once were. The Brazilian-born, New York-based artist, who identifies as nonbinary and uses it/its pronouns, eases the constraints placed on our recognizable visual lexicon by emptying and rejiggering it, conveying levity and possibility. Below, Boccato discusses a new series of sculptures informed by ghosts and the delicious tension between spectral and material existence, and shouts out inspirations ranging from etymology and animism to The Powerpuff Girls.
Hyperallergic: What is the current focus of your artistic practice?
Daniel Boccato: I am currently working towards an exhibition at Magenta Plains in September 2023 that will feature two bodies of work: ghosts and lions. The lions I started in 2018, and the ghosts are new. I have been developing them for about two years and I am very excited for this opportunity to share them. I am working with curvy, wavy, sinuous shapes, making them with fiberglass and epoxy resin, and then spray-painting them with car paint. They are hanging off the wall sustained by steel pipes, appearing to float in front of the viewer. The tension between the concept of a ghost and something that is ultimately fixed and grounded in material reality is fascinating to me. I try to capture shape-shifting identities and fix them, crystallizing their form with rigid industrial materials. Not in order to exercise control over them, or dominate them conceptually, apprehending and pinning them down; I want to play with form, to animate and be animated by these forms.
H: In what ways — if any — does your gender identity play a role in your experience as an artist?
DB: Although my work does not literally or directly address the checkmarks of my identity on paper, I think the fluidity in my gender identity, and what that means to perception and how I understand the world around me, is present in my art. The works I make are the result of who I am and the accumulation of my experiences. Since the two things are inextricably linked, I do not feel the need to sprinkle autobiographical signs throughout my work. There is plenty ego to go around, most of my job is to stand out of the way.
H: Which artists inspire your work today? What are your other sources of inspiration?
DB: Music, walking on the street, going out, dancing, talking to peers, language, etymology, constructing and destructing jokes, looking at how things are built, building and making things, YouTube videos from other makers, Cocteau Twins, Harold Budd, Kaari Upson, Al Freeman, Ivy Pham, Molly Rose Lieberman, Iris Touliatou, Space Jam, The Powerpuff Girls, Mulan, Frances McDormand, Lisa Cholodenko, seeing people talking and understanding each other, seeing people talking and not understanding each other at all, reading and thinking about artificial intelligence, catching the moment when I realize I was wrong or understanding something different from what was being said, Blade Runner (both the original and 2049), the orange smog from Canadian wildfires, Fiona Alison Duncan, Natasha Stagg, Mary Gaitskill, Philip K. Dick, the view from my rooftop which has spectacular sunsets laid on top of the bleakest most dystopian city view I can imagine, The Emerald podcast and talks about animism, and how everything is connected and teeming with life.
H: What are your hopes for the LGBTQIA+ community at the current moment?
I hope that we can all achieve a sweet spot balance between selling out and keeping it real.