Dan Treado. American, born ca. 1972

Employing unique tools, such as squeegees and scrapers, artist Dan Treado is able to manipulate solvent and oil paint into luminous, richly surfaced paintings. Treado's paintings are process works that borrow from sources such as film and photography, physics and biology textbooks, and electron microscope images.
(Addison / Ripley Fine Art)

Artist Statement

Robert Ryman's comment about the nature of painting in the latter half of the twentieth century has always stuck with me: "It's not a question of what to paint, but rather, how to paint it." My paintings are process works that borrow subject matter from sources such as film and photography, physics, biology, x-ray and electron microscope images, and most recently, illustrations from anatomy books. The organic forms I tend to employ are fluid but restrained, and part of their function is to articulate the space that surrounds the form; paint is called to substitute for flesh, for air, for dust particles floating in cinematic light.

I use squeegees, scrapers, and invented brushes to build up many thin layers of paint that produce taut, skin-like surfaces that have almost no evidence of a mark of the hand. Often individual images are combined to form a single larger painting. The bigger picture reads as a chart of microscopic and macroscopic space – a kind of catalog of invisible things – that describes the slow motion dynamics of evolution as it relies on its twin engines of random adaption and mutation. The figures in the paintings are outside of time; they have no up or down, no perspectival geometry, no gravity. They are pictures of the absurd theater that is evolutionary simultaneity, of bodies in various states that have succeeded in achieving their potential, and then are willed by an unseen force to disperse and dissolve into newer and different forms. My studio practice and the processes I invent are coincidentally approximate the way nature goes about its business.

The titles to the paintings are significant in that they add a third or fourth layer to layers already present in the paintings. They're often comical, the way nature can appear to be, and in my mind, they describe the shortest one-act plays one could imagine. Often they rely on language that is usually very specific to a particular discipline, such as names for race horses, or pop music song lyrics, or punch lines to old jokes; I think it fascinating, and useful, that these tropes follow the same set of rules involving random mutation and adaption that drives the life cycle of species.




born 1965 Silver Spring, MD

1992 Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, MFA
1992 Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture
1988 Georgetown University, Washington DC, BA

work in permanent collections
US Embassy Cambodia, Nepal & Equatorial Guinea


by Ben H Rome
He Loves DC: Dan Treado

Dan Treado on artline

For the next four weeks, the Addison/Ripley Fine Art gallery is showing the work of local artist Dan Treado. Though Requesting Quiet is his first public showing in a few years, his art retains his signature imagery with layers of color and airy associations on top of a depth that pulls the viewer into the piece. “In some of the paintings, appropriated samples from selected illustrations and texts provide tense contrast. In others, a crazy quilt of disparate organic images is woven together by this talented painter,” states the gallery’s exhibition description. “At once cryptic and mesmerizing, the paintings demonstrate a rich complexity and accomplished maturity. They may ‘request quiet’ but they shout and crackle with energy.”

When I got the invitation to Dan’s show, I was intrigued by the description of his work, not to mention the interesting titles on some of his pieces such as “Shoulda Traveled More,” “In the Key of Shut Your Mouth,” and “Ow, My Leg.” I’ve known Dan more for his incredible exhibition work at the Spy Museum; the opportunity to see a different side of his creative mind was too good to pass up. So this past weekend, I attended the show’s opening night and was quietly amazed at the sheer emotional tapestry on display.

Dan was gracious enough to sit down with WeLoveDC for an interview on his work and his love for the city. 

Dan Treado on artline

Tell us what you do, where you’re from. If I remember right, you’re a DC-area native?

Dan: I’m currently the Manager of Exhibition Production at the International Spy Museum; I grew up in Silver Spring MD, went to Georgetown University, moved to New York, got my MFA at Pratt Institute, and then eventually moved back to the DC area about fifteen years ago. I’m here to stay.

So then, share – what is your absolute favorite spot in the DC metro area?

Dan: The Potomac River, Maryland side. All of it.

Your work in Requesting Quiet is quite emotionally vibrant. What is your inspiration, your vision when you sit down to create?

Dan: Each painting I make generates ideas for two or three more, so I think I’m lucky that way. I would describe myself as a process painter interested in organic structures; I’m very curious about the way things work.

When I’m working on a show, I consider the paintings (in the early stages) to be experiments. I try to invent a few new techniques or tools, and I intentionally limit myself to a few variables in order to guide the direction of the paintings, and then the process sort of takes over. Random mutation, adaptation – these are mechanisms that drive the evolution of biological systems (but also systems we don’t really consider to be organic, like economics or language), and I find that fascinating.

Lately, I’ve relied on these mechanisms in the studio to help me generate individual images which can end up looking like microbes, crystal structures, plants… Ultimately, I combine them to make a painting that I think of as a kind of flip book that tells a story about a single discreet moment in a timeline.

Dan Treado on artline

What’s your favorite piece in the collection?

Dan: I couldn’t say I have a favorite painting, but I do have some favorite titles; one in particular: “France In Your Pants.” Too good. And my wife thought that one up, I have to give credit to her–

Amanda, Dan’s wife (laughing): Dan is lying…I have nothing to do with painting titles! Leave me out of it!

What message do you hope people walk away with after viewing your art?

No message. But I’ll quote Ed Ruscha, a great artist: “Good art should elicit a response of ‘Huh? Wow!’ as opposed to ‘Wow! Huh?’”

So on a typical day in DC, when you have free time, you’d…

Bike ride on the C&O Canal along the Potomac. Or the Billy Goat Trail. On a not so typical day, redneck hot-tubbin’ at Cunningham Falls.

What’s your take on the local arts scene in DC?

Great scene, great artists, great energy, too.

Dan Treado on artline

Any other local artists we should keep an eye on?

Matt Batista, great photographer. Andy Holtin makes very interesting work, he’s currently got a show up at the Katzen center. My brother, Colin Treado, is a talented painter. Lisa Marie Thalhammer. Maggie Michael. Erik Sandberg. Steven Cushner has a great show up right now. Jeff Smith, love his work. Kevin Kepple. Nancy Sansom Reynolds. Too many to name –.

Ok, so if you could change one thing about DC, what would you do?

Make the Nationals all powerful…

What’s the most absolute don’t-miss event that both residents and tourists should hit?

Shows at Fort Reno, this summer. Love that!



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