Dan Van Tassell is a ceramics and mixed media sculptor who was born and raised in Janesville, Wisconsin.  He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in ceramics at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2008, and his Masters of Fine Art in ceramics in 2012 at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.   He was an artist in residence at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, North Dakota in 2012. 

Upon completing the residency, he accepted a position in that department both as an Instructor, and as Preparator and Registrar of the University of North Dakota’s Art Collections.  Dan joined the faculty at Emory & Henry College in the summer of 2015 as Curator, and also teaches in the Visual Art Department. 

As Curator at Emory & Henry College he has curated numerous exhibitions including the popular shows, A Wing and A Prayer, by prominent artist Jennifer Angus, and also Portraits, Landscapes and Still Lifes: A Distinguished Collaboration of Artworks Provided by James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin.

He has exhibited throughout the United States, and his work has been published in the popular “500 Series” book 500 Ceramic Sculptures: Contemporary Practice, Singular Works. Currently, he and his wife reside in Glade Spring, Virginia. He remains an active studio artist, as well as a fanatically avid fisherman, fly tyer, and outdoor enthusiast.

Artist Statement

“Life comes to us in fragments a world in pieces the eye must reconstruct. A different kind of logic—every brain assembles its own.” - Emily Ruth Hazel

I am fascinated with how human beings interpret information, particularly when presented with a situation or idea that requires them to break their preconditioned notions of what the reality of an object or situation is.  The ways which we interact with one another and the environment which we exist in is a curiosity to me. This curiosity is furthered in how each of these elements affects the other. These relationships exist in their most primal state through the notion that what we do affects where we exist, but where we exist can also affect what we do.  The focus of my interest in this relationship lies in the “what if” which is unique to human perception. Through this psychology of connection, a narrative is formed in the work. By displaying works which have this implied narrative quality, I hope to create visual tension, as well as to speak to a particular metaphor unique to each individual work.

I have recently become interested in semiology, or the study of signs or symbols as a form of communication. This has caused me to further consider what my personal symbols are and how I can more directly speak to the increasingly personal narratives present in my work.  I feel that at this time it is important to me that I am able to more openly communicate by developing a visual language of symbols representative of my life, and my personal views, while at the same time allowing for a commentary on the things and people I experience around me.  These ideas about semiology are not strictly limited to only physically literal or tangible symbols such as an object itself. Rather, each color and surface has a carefully considered meaning which I desire to contribute to the overall idea or message present in each composition.  It is most important to me that I am able to cue the viewer in on some personal moments, however small, which they are able to respond to and develop new questions of their own.

On the surface, the works I create are playful and beg for interaction. While at the same time they are also provocative, and at times even repulsive in their content. It is my intention to utilize these elements of our humanity to emphasize the beauty in how humans interpret information, including information that can make us feel uncomfortable.

©Dan Van Tassell 2019–All rights reserved.