Apophenia is defined as: The human tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things. In psychology this tendency for seeing connections and patterns is thought to give rise to the perception of conspiracy theories. The images in the eponymously titled series depict what may be clouds, or perhaps something more nefarious. They superimpose and iterate modernism’s love of seriality, abstraction and the near omnipresent grid and perhaps reference the serially produced cloud studies of John Constable and Alfred Stieglitz. But the act of anthropomorphizing we all take part in, now asks "what is it that we see and what is actually being depicted?” And in addition, why is the innate perception of pattern equated with conspiracies in the annals of psychological texts?
The grid also is used as the framework for the Project Monarch series of panel paintings. They are the segmented and color-averaged results of the artist's personal photographs. Implicit in these image-modification experiments, are questions of public vs private and what constitutes portraiture. They are intimate images willingly obfuscated in this tell-all age of social-media. The title of this series comes from a CIA-funded program that is described in some detail by the Agency's own documents which have been heavily redacted and released to the public through FOIA requests. Spoken of is a dark and nefarious series of experiments, intended to fracture a person's psyche through exposure to trauma. Self and non-self, co-existing within the same physical vessel… now simply a vehicle for others' use. The artist uses these segmented, painted and non-specified portraits also as a metaphor for the forcible fracturing of the "whole” of the individual into dissonant, yet interdependent and co-existing pieces.
Sullivan’s digitally manipulated photographs from the Color Theory series, also employ modernism's grid, this time superimposed and atomizing the depiction of a surveillance camera. The division of a collective whole into individual elements is an apt metaphor, when one realizes the role of this camera is to identify and isolate inciting individuals within a crowd or culture. A gridded system attempts to imbue a sense of order and logical control to an image with deeply emotive implications, and begs the questions as to whom is actually the viewer? The questioning of power, informational control and the gaze is relegated, as the title implies, to the equivalent of a visual, aesthetic exercise.
Sullivan’s work superficially references modernism’s fondness for seriality, grids and muted content, but once past these initial associations, they call it and the very activity of perception, into question. Under these stoic exteriors lurk the dark and foreboding underbelly of a covert history, that we as viewers passively perceive, and of which we can only catch glimpses of, lest we be labeled as conspiracists.
Artist Daniel Sullivan is a founding partner/owner at Oliver Street Studios and was co-founding Director of AREA 405. Born in Columbus, Ohio; he received his BFA in painting from The Ohio State University, where he received numerous honors and awards - including the Hoyt L. Sherman Memorial Scholarship. He received his MFA, also in painting, from The University of Maryland, College Park. Daniel currently lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland. Daniel has a thirty-year exhibition history, showing regionally, nationally and internationally. Exhibition venues have included solo and group shows at The Columbus Museum of Art, The Delaware Museum of Art, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Muscarelle Museum of Art, Maryland Art Place, School 33 Art Center, Walker Arts Center, Baumgartner Gallery, Acme Art Company, Atlantic Center for the Arts and many others. He has also been awarded grants from both the NEA and the Maryland State Arts Council, as well as being a national finalist for the Richard C. Diebenkorn Memorial Teaching Fellowship at The San Francisco Art Institute.