Ep 38 Featured Image Podcast

The Art of Flying – Daniel Wurtzel – Ep 38

July 13, 2022


I love how the art-making journey can begin in the most unexpected, inconspicuous ways. Everyone’s origin story is different, but we all share the spark. That moment on what was most likely on an ordinary day, while doing seemingly unimportant things, where IT happened. A chance meeting with someone. The first paragraph of a book you happened to glance at, left behind at your table by someone you didn’t know. Or perhaps it was a piece of art you saw that changed everything. It increased the volume of the call to your art just loud enough that you couldn’t somehow begin. 

For Daniel Wurtzel, the Brooklyn-based air installation and performance artist, it was simply a leaf amazingly suspended above a subway air grate. It was hovering, as if by magic, 12 inches above the ground. Something about this moment stirred him. He couldn’t let it go. He had to follow its path. Daniel Wurtzel began. Today, Daniel’s ethereal air sculptures have been seen in Cirque du Soleil in Amaluna, the Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony, and countless museums and science centers across the globe. His kinetic sculptures and installations combine the lightweight and poetic materials of paper, silk, and glitter with the most wondrous but invisible material of all: Air. 

Listen if you are interested in…

  • Getting to know Daniel Wurtzel and his gravity-defying art [2:35]
  • The truth in materials and why ideas are so important to the creative process [7:22]
  • How Daniel freed his art and found his way in the art world [12:28]
  • Gifts from the natural world and the power of noticing  [20:43]
  • The role music and performance play in Daniel’s art [25:11] 
  • The moment Daniel knew he found his art [28:32]
  • Diving into Daniel’s creative process [33:20]
  • Looking down the road ahead [37:21]
  • Going outside of yourself and the most important choice an artist can make [39:38]

Creating without limits 

It’s amazing the limits we put on ourselves because we’re told they exist in the first place. One of the best things we can do as people and artists is explore these limits and prove them wrong. A fantastic example of this journey is the one Daniel took to find his way as an artist. He studied architecture in college because he loved to build things with his hands. However, Daniel soon realized the end goal of that career path would place him firmly behind a desk instead. So he dedicated himself to learning about any materials he could. He dove into the creative potential of stone, steel, and glass. He made carvings out of giant tree trunks with a chainsaw for ten years. I’m fairly certain you would be hard-pressed to find something Daniel hasn’t used in the art-making process. And that’s the point! This journey showed Daniel that you can make art out of anything and he’s not limited to conventional methods. In fact, it showed him he didn’t have limits at all.

Creating out of thin air

If there is truly no limit to our creativity, Daniel Wurtzel has made a career out of proving that point with every work he creates. Yet his chosen art-making tools stray far from the traditional brush and easel. Daniel harnesses the flow of air as his medium for creation. He uses lightweight material and various airflow patterns to create elaborate and moving installations and performances. One of Daniel’s most-popular installations is the air fountain. Air comes across the surface of a circular base towards the center from all sides of its perimeter. This forces the airflow, and subsequently any material on the platform, to dance upward until it falls again to repeat the process. Everything from fabric, glitter, feathers, and packing peanuts are used to create these emotionally expressive vortexes. However, the overall movement of these materials is far from random. Daniel controls the airflow to manipulate the movement and timing of each element in a spectacle you have to see to believe.

Leaving ourselves behind

One of the best parts about Daniel’s art is how he takes common materials and shows us a new way of experiencing them. Drawing inspiration from both Serra and Noguchi, he tries to boil his work down to only what is essential. His love for these sculptors stems from their commitment to leave their mark as human beings on the material without dominating it. Daniel’s process is to ask what the art wants from him and reduce his presence in it as much as possible until all that remains is essential. He wants to remove all embellishments from his work to present the most truthful art he can. And isn’t that what art-making is all about? I’m blown away by Daniel’s humility, represented by his dedication to removing unnecessary aspects of himself from the work to create something truly transcendent.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Daniel Wurtzel

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Nicholas Wilton

Hi! I’m
Nicholas Wilton
the founder of Art2Life.

With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.

Join me and artists from all over the world in our Free Art2Life Artists Facebook Group or learn more here about Art2Life.

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