Her eye-catching, neon-colored and drippy sculptures went viral on social media, establishing her reputation as one of today's most successful contemporary artists
With an impressive and dedicated following of over one million across her Instagram and TikTok profiles, Dan Lam is a new breed of artist who rose to popularity via exposure on social media. Meanwhile, her art has been featured in Architectural Digest, Travel and Leisure, and Forbes, amongst many other international media outlets.
The Texas-based artist uses unconventional materials such as foams, polyurethanes, and resins to create drippy, organic forms that are often brightly colored, resulting in a visual feast for the viewer. With an approach that values experimentation, play, and interaction, she continues to push the boundaries of contemporary sculpture.
In a Q&A conducted over email, the social media influencer discusses her creative process and explores her inspirations, challenges and hopes for the future.
What was your lightning bolt moment when you realized you wanted to be an artist?
That desire to create and make has existed since I was a child, but I knew I wanted to make that a career in high school. When I got to college, I started in graphic design. That was the compromise I made with my mom – I could go into the arts, but I needed to do something that could ensure a stable job. After a year in the program, I knew it wasn't right for me, and I had a drawing professor who strongly encouraged me to switch to fine arts. Recognizing that friction with being a graphic designer was a lightning bolt moment to jump fully into being an artist.
Can you tell us about any specific technique or process you use in creating your sculptures?
My process involves layering many different, mostly non-traditional, materials together. I use materials such as foams, resins, and polymers. Experimenting with different colors, textures, and forms is vital for me, so the process will often change. I also work on multiple pieces at a time due to the curing and drying time of the materials.
How do you choose the materials you use in your sculptures?
I'm often drawn to a material because of its physical properties; it's lightweight, easily shaped, shiny, etc. Other times it's a material I stumble upon outside of an art setting, and I'm curious about how to use it for artmaking. I like the idea of learning materials and having that knowledge as a sort of toolbox that's available as I need it. Sometimes I'll play with a material, and I won't have a use for it at the time, but a year later, it's the perfect material for a solution.
What does a typical day for you look like?
I'm a night owl, so my day normally starts around 10 am. I go to the gym at noon, make lunch, and head to the studio around 2 pm. If I have calls or meetings, I'll take all those before 5 pm, and I usually work until 11 pm. Some days in the studio are more experimental and playful; others are more honed in and focused. If I'm in between shows, there's a lot more experimenting. I'm in the studio most days, but I also like to keep it flexible and allow for spontaneity.
Can you talk about a particularly challenging or memorable project you've worked on?
In 2021 I made an 8ft tall sculpture called A Subtle Alchemy for an exhibit at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX. It's the largest sculpture I have made in my studio to date (I have larger pieces, but I've worked with fabricators to create those). It took two months of intense work. It was a challenge because of the scale, and I was using automotive paint for the first time. It was memorable because I grew up visiting the Nasher, and it was my first museum showing.
How do you see your work evolving in the future?
I can't see how it will change, but I want to keep pushing the scale. In the same vein, I want to create more installations and environments. And continue to discover new materials, which will inevitably change the work.
Which specific piece of your work holds a special meaning to you? Any artworks which you would never part with?
I don't have a specific piece that holds special meaning, but I have multiple pieces that stand out in my memory as catalysts for a new direction. I create a lot of work, and I'm not very sentimental about it, so I don't have any I would never part with. The ones left in my studio are usually the studies I don't show – the ones that didn't quite make it but informed the ones that did make it.
Can you tell us a bit more about the collaborations you’ve had with big companies like Facebook?
With Facebook, they greatly emphasize visual arts, and the collection is amazing and prominently displayed all over their campuses. The curators were also a pleasure to work with, so it felt more personable than you would expect from such a large company. I've found that true with most big companies I've worked with. The people facilitating the art are art lovers and passionate about their work.
Do you dream of exhibiting anywhere in particular?
Particularly, I would love to show in Japan. Generally, I want to show in places I haven't been to so I have a reason to visit!
Are there any Instagram accounts or influencers you admire and follow? If yes, which ones and why?
I love @DesignMilk. They post design and art, and I appreciate the aesthetic and variety of what they share.
Do you have any advice for budding artists? Do you think it's easier to be discovered nowadays, with the advent of social media?
There are many ways to navigate social media, but I think you should share what and how you want. I started posting process videos in 2015 because I thought those were interesting moments and figured someone else might find them interesting too. People can feel the excitement you feel. Also, ignore the negative comments! Generally, it does seem easier to be discovered because of social media. You have a direct line to artists, art lovers and collectors. The flip side of that, though, is that there are a lot of artists out there, so in that way, it may take some effort to find.
What’s the next big project that you’re working on?
I have a mini release this summer, a solo show at Chefas Projects in Portland, Oregon opening in July, and a solo show at Hashimoto Contemporary in New York City in December. I also recently wrapped up my largest installation for the new Meow Wolf in Grapevine, Texas, and I'm so proud. I've shared some of it on my Instagram, but I can't wait to show the finished piece when the space opens this summer.