Erie Art Museum Exhibit - Daniel Burke: Callings

For six decades, Daniel Burke has answered a calling to make art and to teach. This retrospective exhibition looks back across the career of a prolific artist to explore highlights from each decade and reveal connections across his various series. After proudly serving in the military for three years, Daniel Burke enrolled at Mercyhurst College through the GI Bill. He graduated in 1969 alongside 125 women and was the first male student to receive a degree from Mercyhurst College. That same year Burke began teaching at Mercyhurst while earning his Master’s in Education from Edinboro University. Almost 50 years later, he still works at Mercyhurst as a Professor of Art and Research Fellow.

Over the course of six decades, Burke has explored dozens of themes and variations. His practice has evolved from representation to geometric abstraction; collage to installation. He tends to work in series: creating and combining multiple parts, or drawing the same subject over and over, constantly experimenting with mediums, styles, and techniques. Education is central to Burke’s artistic practice. Many of his works and studies begin as classroom examples and illustrate stages in the making of art. Although drawing and painting ground his work, his explorations include three-dimensional form making, printmaking, display design, and installations.

An enthusiastic observer, Burke selects and collects objects with a history and gives them new life through this art. His printing matrices are works of art in their own right; his cutouts form the basis of new works; and objects such as game boards, books, sewing patterns, and toys find a second life in his art. Often the materials enhance and complicate his concept: children’s books transform into birds and take flight; an ironing board becomes a slave ship; dominoes evoke cityscapes that reference play, mathematics, construction, and decay. Burke’s constructions depict coexistence and conflict, the collision of natural and built environments. His installations evoke feelings of claustrophobic excess through the repetition of consumer objects, amplified by layering multiple objects of a series to fill a wall or a room.

Burke sees himself first and foremost as a traditional studio artist working within the context of history. As a result of Burke’s early art training, he views art as a process brought about by skilled craftsmen who organize and present their ideas through good design. “I can’t help but see formal (aesthetically appealing, beautiful if you will) things everywhere,” he explains. “I look to colors, shapes, rhythms and patterns that guide me to concerns of fragility, improbability, imagination, abstraction, and change. I look to scenes of grandiose wonder and to commonplace objects in their unique settings. I’m trying to be open to something hidden which when revealed, becomes Art.”