Artist’s Notebook asks artists to show us their original “idea sketch” next to a finished artwork or project. For this edition, Dan Gausman explains the process and philosophy behind his mixed-media piece “Blackhole.”

Blackhole is a sculptural painting from my recent Black Burlap series. The approach for Blackhole, as with all of my work, is to maintain a firm grasp of simplicity and oneness while evoking deeper visual elaboration. Often I direct this through application of core geometry (circles, squares, equilateral triangles), but what allows Blackhole to be unique is the use of a t-shirt.

Months before landing on a final design for Blackhole, I had been busy designing a series of one-of-a-kind black t-shirts for personal use. On the market there weren’t many shirts I found that appropriately reflected my broad perspective on sports, punk music, film and TV, or junk food so I left it up to myself to make them. The results varied from clear cut ideas such as swapping out the logo of the Chicago Bulls with the Danzig skull to more non-sequitur designs like Toy Story spelled as Soy Sauce or Outkast’s Stakonia album cover mashed up with The Simpsons characters Nelson Muntz and Disco Stu.

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Going through this process I became concerned with how a black t-shirt was a uniform. It is worn to reflect a tie to cultural scenes and movements, social classes, or in many cases a simple act of apathy. The visualization of a wavy t-shirt floating from a hanger while being pinned down by a strong circle or eclipse amongst a textured black abyss was inviting.

Every work I produce requires a custom built frame or panel. Some are rudimentary but Blackhole required the most involvement. For starters, I would need to find a way to align the negative and positive shapes of my acrylic hardened t-shirt so that they could lie even on a plane. Meanwhile, I would also need to pinch in a hanger and pad a circle into the center of the chest. As the photo below expresses there is really no magic to it other than the simple trial and error of an artist.

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In Blackhole’s finished state, completed with several unifying coats of black paint, the logic of geometry so often found in my other work is evident in the centrally focused circle and the contour of the shirt. The rippling t-shirt performs as itself, as does the hanger, but in doing so demands authority as a cultural symbol and creates a dialogue. However, drawing a conclusion as to whether that symbol is being crushed or stretching its arms into a great expanse is emotionally more conflicting for me.

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(Photos: Dan Gausman)