On an intolerably hot Thursday afternoon, I arrived at The Salon, a hidden gem of a gallery space tucked away from the street in Culver City’s Arts District, to talk with artist/actor/skateboarder Danny Minnick and artist/actress/designer Samaire Armstrong about their new collaborative exhibition, Beautiful Beast. The prolific duo has created over fifty paintings together, intuitively merging their own starkly different backgrounds and styles to create an original artistic animal, a collection of feverish and fearless paintings that both capture and heighten the intoxicating intersection of masculine and feminine energy.
The seamless interaction of their personal techniques acts as a catalyst for the raw and evocative impact of their work. Minnick and Armstrong combine the best of their individual talents into an inspired force of nature that feels organic, nuanced, and deeply free. Individually, they each make compelling and intuitive work that hints at an immersive creative background. Together, their differing styles and intertwined energy and passion creates a unique experience: a playful and provocative dance at the crossroads of visceral and cerebral.
The experimental exploration has proved incredibly fruitful: when I stopped by to chat with them two days before the opening of their show, they told me they had created an entirely new body of work over the past three days, working continuously in 100 degree heat to satisfy a seemingly unquenchable flow of inspiration. Armstrong and Minnick have been dear friends for years, working on art side by side from “the alley to the gallery,” but the pair was inspired to collaborate after Samaire gave Danny a canvas she had already painted on, expecting him to paint over it. He was struck by her elegant painting of a woman’s face, and was inspired to add to it, balancing Armstrong’s refined brushstrokes with a touch of his own edgy chaos.
Their combined stylistic methods gave the piece a renewed energy, and they decided to keep collaborating, just “painting out of our souls” and “throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.” Their relationship is playful and easygoing, filled with enthusiasm for a life well-lived, and their relationship to each other’s art is authentic and supportive – they encourage each other to experiment and see what works, each playing off the other as a constant source of inspiration and advice. Their differing interpretations of the work only add to the rich multi-dimensional texture of it.
Armstrong and Minnick are both well-versed in the art of living creatively, even outside of the studio. Both are constantly and fearlessly pursuing new creative endeavors (last summer Danny caused a stir painting his infamous character onto Birkin bags in the Hamptons) and learning from each other in unexpected ways: they go hiking together when they’re not in the studio and recently, Danny taught Samaire how to ollie: “She learned in one day!” They both believe fiercely in fearlessly putting your soul in whatever you do. As Samaire says, “You have to face the fear and do the work. Dance, paint, whatever, you have to exercise it out.”
The resulting collection is a mesmerizing meditation on color and pattern – large canvases splashed with decadent blurs of muted color evoke a vibrant sense of movement and a shimmering emotional landscape. Minnick’s colorful Hering-esque characters, pulsating with jagged lines and a primal energy, dance across many of the canvases, adding a frenetic, larger than life dimension to Armstrong’s expressive eye for abstract color. Both artists are fearless with bright color, and share a passion for the emotional capacity of color and texture, how it can evoke a variety of wildly different feelings and interpretations.
The originality and impact of their work seems to stem from their diverging styles, which, when combined, complement each other thoughtfully. As Armstrong puts it, “Where I stop, he starts, and vice versa.” Armstrong spent many of her formative years in Tokyo and was greatly influenced by Japanese art and culture, which can be seen in the refined elegance of her work, in her clean brushstrokes, intricate patterns, and flowing movement of color. Minnick, on the other hand, cut his artistic teeth in Seattle (he met Kurt Cobain, twice) and his spirited brand of vivid and gritty abstract expressionism includes a chaotic cast of original characters, and pulls inspiration from graffiti, street art, and skateboarding (“When you’re skateboarding, you are unconsciously painting”).
In theory, their backgrounds are as different as night and day, but when working on the same canvas, their styles stretch and flow together with a dynamic energy, balancing each other gracefully, feeding off of each other’s passion and skill. Their work touches upon a delicate chaos. It tells both sides of the story. It sits at the center of masculine and feminine and reminds us of the power of combining the two, of acknowledging the duality of energy that exists inside everything. The beautiful cannot exist freely and authentically without the beast, and vice versa.
Sitting in their paint-covered studio in Culver City, surrounded by the vivid results of their shared passion and differing energies, I ask them Live FAST’s customary final question: how fast do you live? Samaire thinks for a moment, then responds: “These days, I’m trying to stay in the moment, trying to find comfort in the now – I live as fast as the now is.” I ask Danny the same thing and he laughs. “207 miles per hour. No. 206 miles per hour. That’s how fast I live.”
Beautiful Beast, Danny Minnick and Samaire Armstrong’s first collaborative exhibit, is up now through July 23rd at The Salon at Automatic Sweat Gallery in Culver City. Don’t miss it!