Q&A with MFA Candidate Daniel Jonas on upcoming exhibit “DIY (Do It Yourself)”

Photo by Daniel Jonas from “DIY (Do It Yourself)”

MFA candidate Daniel Jonas’ “DIY (Do It Yourself)” exhibition can be viewed on his website and will be coming soon to Towson University’s (TU) online galleries. 

Jonas shares his background in art, plus how the “DIY” exhibit came to be.

The interview below has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

What are your first memories of art? 

My first memories of art come from my trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other museums in New York City with family and on school trips. We would make day trips from Connecticut and spend the day wandering the museums.

Why did you decide to pursue an education in art?

I decided to pursue an education in art for two reasons. First, I enjoy working with my hands, and second, my family encouraged me to pursue something I was happy doing. Making art and working with my hands is satisfying and gives me the freedom to build and explore different topics. Without the support and encouragement of my family and friends, I do not think I would be where I am now.

Is there a specific medium of art that you have focused on the most and why did you choose that medium? 

I am a sculptor. My work is primarily made of wood, but often features other materials like plastics, metals and drywall. 

What has your journey as an MFA student been like here at TU?

My journey as an MFA student has had its ups-and-downs. I struggled in my first year to create work that inspired me. My early work was scattered and felt incomplete. My second year in the program was much more productive. Many of the pieces I created in 2019 made their way into my thesis show, “DIY (Do It Yourself).” My third and final year in the program has felt like a blur at times, but I also consider it one of my most productive years. When the pandemic started, I was nervous about how I would continue to make my work but, as things opened up again, I was able to craft “DIY.” 

What has served as your biggest inspiration while studying? 

My biggest inspiration comes from my family and family history. I find my family history to be enlightening, and, with family support, I have been able to build a body of work that reflects my relationship with them. My grandparents, some of whom have passed away, inspire both my content and drive to continue my education. My grandma was an educator for many years, and I think my passion for learning comes from her.

“DIY (Do It Yourself)” is currently on view at Towson University. Where did the idea of an exhibition centered on “DIY” come from? 

There is a certain amount of emotional labor that comes with communication, particularly with loved ones. The statement, “Do It Yourself,” comes from the mentality that if you want something done (like having a meaningful conversation), the labor must come from both sides. When one party does not put in thought or effort, the relationship (and conversation) can struggle. 

Could you tell us what the process of planning an exhibition like this was like? 

The process of planning this exhibition was a little different than what it would normally have been. Due to the pandemic, there was no reception to plan, which meant that more thought could be put into the selection of pieces and the layout of the show. By finding common themes across my work, selecting the pieces became easier. The layout came next, and I worked with fellow exhibitor Ikenna Umeh to decide the best way to display our work. Dr. Isaacs, Dr. Lehman, and Michael Bouyoucas also added input and support in laying out and installing the show. One great thing is that Towson’s MFA program afforded us the ability to see many shows, including those of my fellow MFA candidates. Their show installations helped guide me in what I wanted in my show.

What would you say is the main message of DIY? 

There are two bodies of work which make up the show: Home and Communication. I want viewers to become curious when looking at my work and to contemplate how we communicate with one another. 

What was your favorite part of creating this exhibition and why? 

My favorite part of creating this exhibition was the installation and figuring out what looked best in the space. For so long, my work has hung in the sculpture studio, surrounded by other students’ work and supplies. It was amazing to finally install the work in a nice gallery and get a good look at the last three years of my portfolio. I was able to play around with the placement of the sculptures and found the best way to display each piece. 

What are some goals or future hopes that you want following your MFA experience? 

I have some short-term and long-term goals. In the short term, I have set a goal of selling 3,000 dollars of my own work, and would like to start applying to more shows in Baltimore and D.C. In the long term, I would like to open a maker space. Art centers and maker spaces have had a huge impact on my trajectory as an artist, and I believe they can benefit a community in a multitude of ways. 

Do you have any advice for other art students looking to pursue an MFA or curate their own exhibit for the first time?

Reflect and write about your work often. This was something I wished I had done before and throughout my program. Never be afraid to advocate for yourself or ask for what you need to be successful. Lastly, be purposeful with going for an MFA. Set goals for yourself; the program is what you make of it. 

Compiled by Grace Coughlan, Associate Editor. 

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