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July 18, 2018

Spotlight: Meet Dan Tanenbaum the artist behind ‘Gear Head’ for The Brain Project

The Brain Project is here at Yonge + St. Clair and we sat down with Dan Tanenbaum, the artist behind ‘Gear Head’, to chat about brain health, watches, and this amazing initiative.

Q: What was your creative thinking and process behind Gear Head and how does a watch symbolize brain communication to you? 

I work with vintage parts for my art and when I heard of the Brain Project I thought it would be a perfect fit for my artwork.  Watch movements are very intricate with hundreds of tiny gears and cogs all working together to accurately tell the time.  If one piece doesn’t work then the whole mechanism falls apart.  To me, the brain is very similar.  It’s a very complicated organ that has many different functions all working together, but if one aspect of the brain isn’t working correctly it affects us in one way or another.

Q: Gear Head is encrusted with thousands of vintage watch parts, appearing to be one cohesive movement. How did you source the parts for the sculpture and how long did this sculpture take to create? 

Sourcing parts is always the most difficult part of my creations.  The size of the Gear Head Brain was a larger canvas than I was used to and had to compile thousands of parts, luckily, I have been hoarding parts for many years by attending flea markets, antique shows and estate sales and was able seamlessly cover the brain to appear as if all the parts are working together.

Q: In previous interviews, you mentioned you come from a long line of watch collectors. Are you still collecting watches? If so, what is your favourite or most valuable watch in your collection?

I do indeed come from a long line of collectors and I have collected many different things over the years.  The truth is that most of my collections are housed in drawers but with watches it is a collection I can wear and see daily.  While I only have one wrist to showcase my collection one at a time I continue to seek out unique timepieces as they become available.  While all my watches get “wrist time” I have a couple of favourites.  My 1958 Rolex submariner ref 6538 and my Urwerk 103.09 are two of my unique pieces.

Q: Your work is very detail-oriented. Have you always worked in this medium, or did you begin your career as an artist producing other types of work? 

I was an art director for many years and transitioned into becoming a technology entrepreneur in my early 30s.  I wanted to stay connected with my creative spirit and searched out a medium that would work for me. With my obsession with timepieces I felt that working with these intricate parts would be a perfect medium.

Q: Is this your first year participating in The Brain Project? If so, what excited you the most about this city-wide initiative? 

This is my first year participating in The Brain Project.  I loved seeing these creative art pieces throughout the city over the years and have always wanted to participate.  I am a huge fan of how this project brings art and brain health awareness to the streets.  I love seeing how each artist brings their unique flare to the medium and the reactions of the people on the streets.

Q: What role do you think public art plays in sparking conversations or raising awareness about particular issues? 

I believe that public art invigorates public spaces and allows artists to be social and civic leaders, advocating through art for different perspectives that can challenge beliefs and start conversations.  I love that public art is so accessible it engages people outside the typical medium (museums and art galleries).

Q: Can you tell us about some other current projects that are underway and do your works have residing themes you are interested in? If so, what are they? 

My artwork is constantly evolving.  While I continue to use the same medium I work hard to reach different audiences.  One project I just completed was working with Kidrobot on one of their vinyl figures called the Dunny.  I encrusted them with vintage watch parts turning these typically soft and light figures into a heavy steampunk character.

Q: Yonge + St. Clair is home to many different art forms, what compelled you to participate in this project and what initiatives are you excited to see in the area?

I am a huge fan of this amazing city we live in with such diversity and energy this art project brings new life to some incredible parts of Toronto.

It was somewhat serendipitous that my piece ended up at Yonge + St. Clair.  My first condo was at Avoca and my first startup company was built in an office right at that corner.  Watching that part of the city evolve over the years has been amazing to see.  While some of the Brains are in the downtown core I was thrilled to hear that my artwork would be showcased on this corner.  I’m excited that this area is seen as an innovative and forward-thinking area of the city.

— Don’t forget to vote for your favourite 2018 brain! — 

The artist with the most public votes as of August 31st 11:59pm (est) will win the Yonge + St. Clair People’s Choice award!

Vote here

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