Artists on Coping: Daniel John Gadd

During the coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.

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Daniel John Gadd, Assembling an Octopus, 2019,111 x 100 x 12 in. – oil, wood, copper, rope, mirrored glass, steel, epoxy resin and marble on wooden supports

Daniel John Gadd is an artist living and working in New Jersey. His work blurs the boundaries of painting and sculpture, abstraction and figuration, and “high” and “low” art. His work is fragile, violent, aggressive, and sensitive all at once, reflecting (literally, with his use of mirrors in much of his work), and sharing our complexity with an acceptance of all of what we are, and in the end, what makes us human. His most recent exhibition Animal was on display at M. David & Co. last fall.

AS: How are you coping?

DJG: I don’t know how well I’m coping yet.  I cycle between selfish fear, financial panic and calm. I have always struggled with a strong fear of death and hypochondria and this has amplified it exponentially. I have been trying to keep as busy as possible with home projects, exercise and staying off the internet. 

I am lucky. I have a home, a healthy family and enough food and supplies to survive. I wash my hands, don’t touch my face and haven’t left my house in two weeks. I have looked forward to Governor Cuomo’s, and in New Jersey where I live, Governor Murphy’s daily briefings. Their frankness and authority have been calming and based on facts. I have a 6 year old whose school has been closed for two weeks. Being able to be present and help my daughter with schoolwork has been rewarding. Virtual Learning is much more difficult than I imagined though, teachers are taken for granted.

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Daniel John Gadd, Installation view, Animal, at M. David & Co.

AS: Has your routine changed?

DJG: My routine has completely changed.  Normally I would wake up around 7:15 and head to my studio until about 6.   These past few weeks, I’ve slept until almost 9, make some coffee and sit down and start helping my daughter with her schoolwork. She’s in first grade so she’s dependent on instruction. My wife is a teacher so she’s busy on the computer fielding questions and making lessons for her students. After that I deep clean the house and try to keep as busy as possible. 

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Daniel John Gadd, Untitled, 2019, 25 x 22 in. oil, plaster, rope, mirrored glass, copper and string on wooden panel

I have only recently been able to start making art. With all that’s going on, especially taking care of my children, it doesn’t seem important right now. I can feel it shifting again, but for a while making some furniture and yard work took its place.  I’ll then run for about an hour, we’ll have dinner and I’ll try to watch some Netflix and not go down a rabbit hole on my phone.

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

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Daniel John Gadd, Overbite, 2019, 24 x 20 x 24 in. – Oil, lead, resin, string, plaster, copper and glass

DJG: Once I get past the fear of being sick, dying or someone I know being affected by this awful disease, I feel a different type of fear.  I’m not a rich man, I don’t know how I will pay my studio rent or other bills, or when work will start coming in again.  The whole world changed in a matter of weeks, most likely significantly.  I get angry when I see or read about people not taking this seriously.  Even if you’re not worried, think about your grandma, mom, dad, sister, brother, neighbor and friends. I worry about my children, mainly my 6 year old.  She feels frustrated, our community is very social. She doesn’t understand why she can’t go play in the street like we used to encourage, or sleep over her grandma’s house, or go to the park.  I hope my anxiety doesn’t rub off on her. At the same time, I realize how fortunate I am. So far we’re all healthy and just have to stay in. I’m grateful for the people risking their lives to help others.

AS: What matters most right now?

DJG: Being healthy, kind and as selfless as possible. I can’t let fear hurt my ability to be a good father or husband. I also think we collectively need to think about others and how we can best not spread this virus.  Being home with four people and two cats and a dog in a small house is not easy.  But compared what others are going through, it’s a walk in the park.

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Daniel John Gadd, Veil, 2016-17, 39 x 36 in. – oil, wax and mirrored glass on wooden panel

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

DJG: I have a fantasy of going back to my normal routine, but this I fear will change everything. I read articles of hope and terror, but all conclusions seem to say social distancing is going to be more than a few weeks, but a necessary sacrifice.  I will get to spend time with people I love and focus on little things I usually take for granted.  I’ve read that pandemics can catalyze social change. Hopefully, during this outbreak and long after I can be a more honest and compassionate version of myself and others will be affected similarly.


Daniel John Gadd, studio view, works in progress, March 13, 2020

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: