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Artist Danny Balgley

Danny Balgley (b. New York, NY) lives and works Ridgewood Queens NY. He holds a BFA in Painting from the Cooper Union and an MFA from Columbia University and has completed residencies at Yale Norfolk and received grants from Ellen Gellman Fellowship, Ethel Cram Memorial Prize and the Mark Rothko Award.

His work has been featured in “New American Paintings”, “Arts in Square” and “Friend of the Artist.” His most recent exhibition “Penumbrae” was at Ed Varet gallery in NYC.

"My paintings embody a dynamic and layered style, featuring an assortment of abstract forms and shapes that coalesce into illusionistic arrangements. As a painting progresses, my focus often shifts toward an internal logic, meticulously refining surface details and manipulating shadows, space, and light. My work frequently delves into a visual language rooted in earlier explorations of still life, vanitas, and trompe l'oeil. I’m drawn to reexamining these historical painting genres, often dismissed as mere decoration or déclassé, by subverting their fundamental tropes and forms to create hallucinatory, living tableaus. Eschewing depiction, I now improvise on the canvas. My practice draws upon the bold gestures of the New York School Abstract Expressionists, channeling their energetic liberation but infusing a distinctly queer personal lexicon - where their canvases roared with existential angst and often heterosexual machismo, mine hum with a more vibrant prismatic lens through which I reimagine the fabric of abstraction. I frequently juxtapose organic, loose brushwork with tightly rendered depictions of brushstrokes, manipulating scale to create an uncanny presence where brushstrokes themselves seem to become the subjects rather than the objects. The search for these contradictions drives my creative process and fuels my curiosity."

Tell us a little about yourself (where you are from) and your background in the arts.

I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised in the city. I went to The Bronx High School of Science, which barely had any art program - so, I spent a lot of my teenage years wandering around museums alone, studying from the old masters with my nose deep in sketchbooks. I even taught myself how to oil paint by taking books out of the mid-Manhattan library, studying them at night in my bedroom after school and on weekends. I'd leave my wet paintings in the stairwell to dry along with jars of medium and wet palettes to avoid bothering my parents with the smell of turpentine. Back then, art felt like such a mysterious pursuit, something I had to self-train in– I even sometimes lied to my dad, saying my paintings were school projects so he couldn’t disapprove. That self discovery and being an autodidact at such a liminal stage has carried through into my adult life. For me art still feels like something magical to uncover, decode and explore in secrecy in a room at night.

I was lucky enough to be accepted to Cooper Union for undergrad, where painting became my sole focus under David True, Cecily Brown, and Byron Kim. I later attended Columbia University for my MFA, and their interdisciplinary approach really shaped how I think about painting to this day. Studying under artists with varied practices added new facets to my understanding of painting – a photographer like Collier Schorr would focus on what’s being depicted in a painting, or a performance artist like Janine Antoni would emphasize the act of painting itself, or a painter like Dana Schutz would revel in the materiality of the paint.

More recently, my husband and I moved to Ridgewood, Queens with our dog George. It's a really great neighborhood where lots of other friends/artists live and work. This is also where my current studio is located!

What kind of work are you currently making?

My current focus is on large-scale abstract paintings. I typically have multiple works evolving at once and I begin with organic, expressive gestures – spills, scratches, and broad strokes. From this initial chaos, I find an inner logic and weave formal elements throughout the piece.

I've grown to love the physicality of larger canvases; I feel enveloped and immersed, which contrasts with the controlled experience of smaller works. Their sheer size dominates my vision, creating an exciting sense of discomfort and unpredictability which I really enjoy.

I’m also more recently exploring a limited palette, favoring blacks and blues - with more intentional minimal chromatic moments. I’m curious to see how this starkness will evolve my visual language and where it will take the work.

What is a day like in the studio for you?

I'm a morning painter. I love starting with fresh sunlight in the studio, a cup of coffee, and a clear mind after a shower. Those early hours feel less cluttered with mental static for me than the day's end. My practice often begins with a warm up using Sumi ink on bristol paper using large, free gestures with calligraphy brushes. These uninhibited sketches are meant to be ephemeral and noncommittal but oftentimes I wind up using marks, gestures and shapes from these in the larger paintings.

I also spend quite a bit of time mixing color – it's truly become one of my favorite parts of the painting process. I really enjoy focusing on color, being super intentional and then there is the physicality of the palette knife with the wet paint. There's a fascinating alchemy in taking disparate colors and mixing them together to create something altogether new. Like many artists, I have a collection of inspiring photos I’ve taken during walks around the city – a cracked sidewalk, chipped paint in the subway, a crumpled balloon on a hydrant. These offer unexpected color combinations or perspectives on layers and textures that might find their way into my paintings. With multiple works in progress, at any given time I might be working wet-into-wet on the floor, smoothing out a gradient, squeegeeing/scraping away wet layers, or refining the interplay of organic shapes and structured elements on the wall with a liner brush.

What are you looking at right now and/or reading?

I've been revisiting the work of the New York School Abstract Expressionists lately. The freshness of their brushwork on those vast canvases – it's captivating. And while I admire figures like Kline, Motherwell, and Still, I'm particularly drawn to the often overlooked female voices of the movement – Helen Frankenthaler's vibrant colors and fluid spills, the dynamic choreography of Joan Mitchell's work, and the kaleidoscopic abstractions of Alma Thomas. They offer a unique perspective that feels strikingly distinct from the machismo often associated with Abstract Expressionism.

As a queer artist, I'm fascinated by how identity might manifest within abstraction. How do gender or sexuality express themselves in the absence of figurative representation? While much of the queer art we recognize leans toward figuration, does a lack of a literal body diminish a work's queerness? What does it mean to create abstract art as a queer person? These aren't questions I have answers for, but they fuel my curiosity and drive my practice.

Where can we find more of your work? (ex. website/insta/gallery/upcoming shows)

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