Danny Mansmith creates a new world at Lillstreet Art Center

September 30th, 2010

There is always something happening at the Lillstreet Art Center. Artists and students come in and out, bundles of supplies carried under their arm. The first floor is filled with delicious aromas from the café, and people stop by for a quick bite to eat. Enter the gallery, however, and all that disappears. You are entering a new world.

That world is the creation of Danny Mansmith. Every inch of space is filled with art – walls of drawings, clothespins and balls of yarn scattered on ledges and along the edge of the floor, fabric dolls and sewn panels hanging from the walls – all contained within an elaborate web of knotted strips of fabric. It is colorful and whimsical, a proliferation of art that is easy to get lost in.  But the personal nature of the work is unavoidable. Entering the gallery is akin to reading Mansmith’s diary; his thoughts, frustrations, and emotions are laid bare in these pieces. There is a thrill in looking, in being invited into his private world.

This world is just as powerful for him to render as it is for us to view it. For Mansmith, creating is nothing less than a means of survival. His artist’s statement begins simply: “Working with my hands has saved my life.” Growing up feeling isolated and set apart, Mansmith decided to embrace the idea of being different. With no formal training, he taught himself how to sew, and was pleased with the creativity inherent in those first attempts. Creating became a way of embracing his individuality.

Mansmith’s reverence for this transformative power of creating is everywhere in his work. It comes through in pieces like My Inspiration, a fabric sculpture complete with a miniature sewing machine – a shrine to the tool that lets his ideas find expression in fabric and thread. Mansfield’s world is also filled with figures: captivating faces rendered in technicolor markers on paper, faceless yet comforting fabric dolls such as Lacehead or Wings of Thread, and mysterious embroidered figures on fabric panels like Psychic and He Just Came to Me. No two are the same; they are all individual and unique.

It is a very dense show. One would expect nothing less from an artist who creates for survival.  The installation itself is a work of art. Don’t miss your chance to so completely enter into Mansmith’s heart and soul.

The Danny Mansmith show will be at Lillstreet Art Center until October 8th.

-Nicole Nelson

Nicole Nelson is a second-year graduate student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, going for her Masters in New Arts Journalism. She is currently the marketing intern at Fear No Art Chicago. When she’s not writing or studying, she enjoys taking pictures, reading historical fiction, and finding art in unexpected places.

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