Artist Interviews 2023

Frédéric Daty  
By Laura Siebold

Frédéric Daty is a French artist who creates an alternate world in his steel sculptures that are devoid of life and exist as “skeletons”, in constant play with light and shadows. With this special form of narration, the artist aims to encapsulate his audience, and to draw the spectators into the world of the artwork by forcing them to fill the void between layers of steel. In this process, metal and viewer become a part of the artwork itself. Frédéric designed a specific collection that captures the duality of the City of Los Angeles in steel, symbolizing the contrasts of its social structure; the collection captured our attention at a recent art fair. We are excited to feature Frédéric Daty in this issue, as the artist talks about the nature of cities, pride, and the importance of trying.

Frédéric, we discovered your art at The Other Art Fair Los Angeles 2023. What is your favorite thing about exhibiting at art fairs? Have you been exhibiting internationally for a while?

I have this bug inside my head… Kafkaian story ! He makes to come out in many ways… It can be clean. It can be dirty. Art fairs are a way of forcing myself to get clean and share the harms of my creative bug with others.

Tell me a little bit about your upbringing. Did you grow up in an artistic household and did you enjoy a formal art education?

My dad always told me I was a hamster in its wheel… always looking for the exit. Without artists around me, they were always supportive without ever understanding what my point was. Most of the ideas I had in mind when I grew up found the same answer: ‘No’. When I asked adults: ‘Is it possible?’ So, as a consequence I decided that ‘No’ wasn’t going to be in my vocabulary… and I spent my life looking for the impossible… made possible! Being an artist is not a job… it’s a way to communicate. It’s my way, as my words seem to come out of my mouth in a weird way… [I enjoyed] 3 years of formal art education in the City of Tours surrounded by the ghosts of the French nobilities in the Loire valley!

How did your love for steel come to life? What do you like about working with steel?

In 2000, I was hiding in my brother’s log house in Quebec surrounded by gigantic trees. They were talking to me, bending, moving their arms, comforting me. I was taking photos… Paint wouldn’t express this feeling of freedom and envelopment you feel when you’re surrounded by trees. So, I was introduced to metal and created my first metal skeleton of a web of trees-sculpture coming out from the wall… And I never stopped since then. More than 300 pieces have come emerged from the walls! Details are annoying. They tend to hide the essential. The core. Metal as I see it is a structure: From the planet made of rock and liquid metal to the buildings… I dream of metal skeletons… inside of us… So, I use the metal, austere, pure, from the nourishing soil, stylizing the forms, showing only the tints of this arid material. Suggesting emotion by the shadows, the light, the stylized forms to let the contemplator dress, live the emptiness and feel the movement, the life. The metal structure is not framed. She interacts with the space, the viewer. All forming the work itself. 

Pieces from your collection “L.A. Downtown Roots” were exhibited at The Other Art Fair Los 
Angeles and shown at MASH Gallery West Hollywood in 2023. What inspired this specific collection with a focus on the duality of Los Angeles and its famous personalities?

In a world with increasingly marked divisions between living standards, social classes and physical appearance, Los Angeles is perhaps one of the cities in North America that most characterizes this specificity. The city is centered on very marked and increasingly visible dualities: Luxury and poverty that coexist, dreams of success and quickly broken careers. Los Angeles is the city of all fantasies but also the life of lost illusions. In this evolving collection, Daty expresses these dualities that make up the grandeur and the decadence of a city as fascinating as it is mysterious, a city as attractive as it is impenetrable; landmarks known throughout the world, but a population that hides behind the walls of villas and the smoked windows of countless vehicles.

Famous characters like Marilyn Monroe have been depicted by many different artists throughout the decades – what fascinates artists and spectators alike about those personalities to this day? Why did you decide to incorporate their stories into your work?

I wanted to symbolize and popularize this android fantasy with an Angeleno icon who is familiar to us: Marilyn Monroe. The life of this star cannot leave anyone indifferent, whether we like this character or not. The double personality of Norma Jean who transforms into Marilyn to hide and to escape her fragile mental and social condition... Don't we all experience it to a varying degree? Becoming a star has completed her desire for perfection until annihilation in the face of cruel reality... Perfection does not exist.
What if Marilyn was this android that Norma Jean had created to live in her place? And if these beings in our place really saw the light of day, would they be able to confront us with our imperfections? Would we be able to assume this reality? The answer may be in the double gaze of this sculpture...

Is your art detached from yourself, or do your personal and artistic life intertwine in the artwork? How much does your artwork reveal about your personal life story? Elaborate.

I wish I had a switch near my ear. Just a simple one to shut down my brain sometimes. I can’t seem to accept anything the way it is. Everything I look at, anything I watch, I have to analyze and imagine another way of seeing it. It goes from the way I install the toilet paper on the holder to the way I roll my sushi! I’m a creation of my dear mistress, Nature, and as a way of thanking her, I want to participate and leave a trace. My wife Andrea is an active partner in my work. My sons also work with me. My whole life is about creating!

Your portfolio features steel sculptures of different cities like Dubai and Paris. What is the story behind each of those sculptures? How long does it take to get from the idea to the finished work?

It questions the love-hate relationship between the city and its creators because this tension is something I personally feel and reflect upon. Will the city become a ‘Frankenstein’-like creature who absorbs its creator but still keeps him sufficiently alive, to maintain itself ? By the year 2040, more than 5 billion human beings will live in cities of all forms: Urban zones, agglomerations, sprawling greater metropoleis with difficult-to-define city limits. The ability to render a city viable and coherent will be a gigantic challenge for the survival of humanity. Humans have created ‘monsters’ , hard to control...
However, it is interesting to see that the living spaces created by humans are in permanent evolution, taking shape and form from nature itself, such as the notion of a cell and the distribution of energy. The «city» is a cell, an organism, an ecosystem. It has energy, exchanges of substances. It is a predator and metabolizes. It is a catalyst for knowledge and a generator for technological revolutions. It is a protective cocoon, but it can also be a trap, taking away freedom. A week, a month… My whole life, I guess, was necessary to come to the point where I feel good creating these sculptures.

Do you consider your art a way of storytelling? What is the main purpose of your artistic work? 

If somewhere we can be proud of ourselves… What a relief… We wouldn’t need so many therapists. So, I’m trying to be proud of myself. At the end of the day… I love acknowledging what I did during the day, something I didn’t even know I could do. Once you feel good with yourself… share, share and share again… My art is my way of sharing.

What have been the greatest challenges throughout your career so far? 

My life is a challenge on its own, haha. Keeping my head straight on top of my spinal cord for my sons, my wife and creative partner and all the people who have a spiritual and emotional connection with me.

What do you imagine your artistic legacy to be? 

I will die with the satisfaction that I put a bit of sparkly glitters into the eyes of those amazing people who found a connection with my work. When you’re busy creating… You don’t have time to destroy. Too much destruction everywhere… nature, souls. I guess I just want to have this sentence on my tomb stone: « At least I tried! » Never give up is my legacy.

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