Check the tape
Sacramento artist Danny Scheible employs humble everyday materials, most notably masking tape, to build his visions: Vast, sprawling pieces that, at first glance, resemble a mythical underwater city composed of coral and sea anemone. Scheible’s art installations don’t just occupy an exhibition space, they take over, seemingly moving and breathing with a tangible energy. Scheible, whose work will be on display May 10 to 13, at the Whole Earth Festival in Davis, spoke to SN&R about creating his life-sized interactive pieces and why cities shouldn’t just display art, they should become it.
I’ve seen your work described as “origami.” Is that accurate?
How would you describe it?
I make interactive social art, and I create the materials. I create physical objects with everyday materials, materials found at house and hardware stores—ideally stuff that people have handled before and have in their everyday lives.
What kind of materials do you specifically use?
I use many different kinds of tape, wire hangers, recycled fabrics, garments, cable ties. I also do screen-printing—T-shirts—and I draw as well. There’s a difference between what I exhibit publicly and what I make for myself.
Can you give me an example?
I go to people’s houses and take portraits of myself wearing their clothes. That’s not ready for exhibit.
You dress up in their clothes?
A lot of my artwork deals with who you are and how you exist and you relate to people in the world. You can be whomever you want. It’s up to you to decide, if possible. But in other people’s minds, they put a label on you. The point of this is to create a stronger bond with people. It’s very personal work. … It helps me have a social connection with people. I think I’ll exhibit it eventually, but I haven’t been focused on it as much lately. I’ve been focused on the masking-tape work.
How many pieces have you made?
I don’t create singular pieces of artwork. I’ve been creating one piece of art for seven years. It’s an expanding social structure; it’s an exhibit, it’s an installation, so they are, inherently, not a single piece of art.
What inspires these pieces?
A lot of times I’ll see an artist and take what I like from them. I’ll appropriate ideas and integrate them into my sculptures. The piece of work, when it exists in a physical sense, exists like a gondola—always different in a different space. It always has a different focus depending on the space.
How much time do you spend on them?
I couldn’t tell you. I work 10 to 12 hours a day on it and different aspects. Whether it’s going out and making art in public places or alone in my studio, it just happens every day.
What kind of reactions do you get?
Depends on the context—whether it’s in the context of an installation or me hanging out with a roll of tape at a bar or with friends at a party or at the library or department store, everyone has a different reaction. It’s important to remind people that it’s an open process; that they’re free to talk to me about it. I want to share it with them. Most of the time, if I’m out in public, I give the art to the people I engage with. If someone comments on it, I hand it to them and say, “This is my art. It’s important to me.” It’s redefining how you interact with art [and] letting them know that an artist’s daily work is not different than their daily work.
I imagine children are really open to that idea.
Often they’re surprised. They don’t know what to do. The art challenges them. … There’s no reason to sacrifice your childhood at the cost of your maturity. Some adults are open and creative and some kids are just as hard as adults; they have assumptions.
Your first tapigami show was at Fools Foundation in 2005. Then, you explained your works as being “about a city becoming a sculpture.” What did you mean by that?
Art in Sacramento is not very public. Other cities have mural districts and more sculptures in buildings and more businesses with art on the walls. You need to have artists cycle through and a healthy environment for customers and employees. I’m always excited when I find a business that wants to integrate art into the daily lives of people. My friends and I have an art incubator, the Flywheel, [which] exists through the Arts and Business [Council of Sacramento]. We’re accepting applications through May 10 and [want to create] art, time and entrepreneurial support for people.