Q/A About the Play Ball 20/20 Virtual Exhibits

We’ve received lots of questions about Dan Smith’s PLAY BALL 20/20 Virtual Exhibit. Here are the top 10 questions with answers on the exhibit.

1.   Please let me know if Dan has created any other virtual exhibitions I can access, and if other artists have combined artwork and the written word in a similar way.

There are no other virtual exhibits available for you to access that feature Dan’s written and visual art in the form he has used to this exhibition.  He has, however, been recording his thoughts, feelings and information in a written diary-like documenthe called Dansmyth.  It includes themes incorporated in PLAY BALL 20/20 that he has been recording for the past 30 years, in conjunction with his personal visual exhibition series entitled Extended Sites. 

Dan’s visual satire has similarities to French printmaker, caricaturist, painter, and sculptor Honoré-Victorin Daumier (1808- 1879), best known for his commentary on social and political life in 19th century France.  Dan’s written satire has similarities to the Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), author of Gulliver’s Travels (Daniel Boone’s favorite book); and the English writer, photographer, and inventor famous for his word play, fantasy, and logic, Lewis Carroll (1832-1898).

2.   What are ways to look at art, and specifically at this exhibition?

There are many ways to interact with a work of art in an art exhibition, or wherever the artwork is being seen. Many art museum educators suggest students of all ages: 1st look at an artwork; then, describe what is seen (exploring elements of design like line, shape, form, color, as well as composition, materials (media), and subject). Then, think about or interpret what is or seems to be going on in the piece. Before moving on, viewers are encouraged to think about what the object means to them. Art viewers can also change this sequence, as well as drop or add other steps. The goal is to have a meaningful experience that can help develop a personal “vocabulary” to be utilized throughout the viewer’s lifetime of learning about art and artists.

 As with most contemporary art exhibitions, Dan’s Full Circle Arts exhibit was planned to feature authentic artworks, instead of 2-dimensional (flat) reproductions of the actual objects, which usually are different sizes, textures, and colors. Additionally, actual 3-dimensional objects have depth, which cannot easily document an entire image in a flat reproduction. 

This art exhibit is different, providing new ways to utilize art, depending on your preference and situation. Instead of an actual on-site space focusing on artwork, this show is designed to look and read at your speed and direction, within your own home! Dan’s written commentary plays an integral part in his exhibit, also providing viewers with the potential for a deeper, more introspective experience and engagement.

During the past 30 or more years, Dan has recorded his thoughts and feelings through the written word, creating a personal satire, based on history and heavy on fiction, for an audience of one! He has hoped for a larger audience someday, and now PLAY BALL viewers are part of that larger group! Dan has invented a baseball story for this expanded audience, incorporating his Native American research with current events, and additional research he has done throughout his Extended Sites project, begun in 1990.

3.   What does “mixed media” mean?

The term “mixed media” means an artwork has been created by using more than one material. Dan’s paintings and works on paper are often made with more than paint or a drawing utensil. Some mixed media labels may list each material used to make an artwork. Other labels may list only a few used, in addition to the term “mixed media”.

4.   Did Dan play baseball in college?

Dan played Little League baseball, continuing to play throughout high school. He played 2nd base on his last official baseball team as a member of the European All Stars, in Germany, before his family returned to the US before he entered college. He tried out for the Pembroke College team, however, had disagreements with the coach’s “short hair” requirements, and refused to bend to authoritarian pressure.

Dan and his father are shown in their BB uniforms (on page 39). His father, who was often Dan’s team coach. His father also played on a NY Yankee Farm Team in California, before joining the Army after an accident, however, continued to play baseball during his Army career and retirement.

5.   What is a ledger drawing?

The Plains Indian men used ledger books (bound, lined record-keeping sheets) to record the history of their tribes during the late 19th and early 20th centuries because they had no written language. Before the ledgers, they also painted pictorial images on buffalo hides, tipis and their garments that depicted aspects of their cultural traditions preserved by oral histories.  For centuries Native Americans also created petroglyphs and pictographs. One of the earliest known petroglyph example in our country is the Rainbow Rock of the Rochester Rock Art Panel (on page 30). Dan visited it outside Emery, Utah to see the various ages of rock carvings beginning with the Prehistoric Freemont Culture, and including more modern people, perhaps even tourists. 

Native Americans living in the Great Plains region learned about ledger books used by explorers, traders, and military men to keep inventories. Plains Indians began to use these ledgers to record cultural memory, usually recycling the “used” pages in bound ledger books, obtaining them by trade or after winning battles. Pencils, pens, crayons, and watercolors, when available, were used by Indian artists to describe the lives of the Plains Indians, drawing over lists of inventories made by earlier owners.

In a rare case, after the Red River War of 1874-75, Plains Indian warriors and chiefs were sent to Fort Marion in St. Augustine. Close to 20 were given supplies, and for three years created drawings, mostly about Cheyenne and Kiowa lifestyles. By the 1910’s, most ledger art was made for tourist trade, or for anthropologists studying and preserving the history and culture of these Native Americans. Some Contemporary Native American artists still create and exhibit their ledger arts. 

Dan’s ledger art featured in this exhibition was made in ledger books purchased at a Newton, NC auction. Although he does not plan to remove and sell his original ledger art, photographic reproductions are for sale, and can be made in a variety of sizes.  (For more extensive information and Great Plains Indian Ledger Art images, go to: The Ledger Art Collection, Milwaukee Public Museum, access@mpm.edu)

6.   What is a Dorodango?

Dorodango is a Japanese art form in which earth and water are combined, then molded it into balls.  The phrase “dorodango” comes from Japanese words: “doro” which means mud, and “dango” a type of round dumpling made from pressed rice flour.

All dorodangos begin with a mud core, carefully shaped by hand as round as possible. After the core is left to dry, it is carefully dusted with finely sifted soil, creating a thin crust.  This step is repeated a number of times, using finer and finer grains of dirt for each step.

In the early stage of its creation, the dorodango has a matte finish. At the end of the process it is usually shined by hand. A cloth may also be used in polishing the last layer of the finest dirt particles, for a shiny ball that looks like a billiard ball.

Dan decided to participate in the repetitive, thoughtful process of dorodango-making to help focus on his closeness to Nature, and to honor the indigenous individuals who once lived close to their land and the water where he visited. He would be pleased to make and/or teach others to make their own dorodangos.

7.   What’s the difference between a printing plate size and a paper size?

The dimensions of the metal etching plates that Dan used to make his Black Elk prints are smaller than the paper, because the plate image is printed on the paper, a larger dimension. Both dimensions are needed when making decisions concerning framing for prints created by using printing plates.

8.   How is a Giclée print made?

A giclée is an art reproduction printed on a high quality piece of paper through an inkjet printer. Giclée is derived from the French word “gicler” which means “to squirt or spray”.  Giclées are more expensive than other printed reproductions because the printmaker can fine tune the color and contrast of the image to make it almost a replica of the original piece, which can’t be matched by other less expensive printing processes.

9.   What does POR mean? 

POR stands for Price On Request. This abbreviation is often used if an artist cannot or would not like to list a specific sales price, however, would like to know more about what a prospective buyer actually wants and is willing to pay, which might result in a commission. For instance, all of the ledger book images on Dan’s sales list are POR, because he is not selling the original’s separately, however, they can be printed in a variety of dimensions, and with a variety of printmaking processes, for a variety of prices.

10.  How can I commission an artwork to be created?

Please visit Commission Art to commission a portrait from Dan, as well as other original artworks.