My Daughter Allegra
Flying her up in the sky,
like a kite amidst the clouds,
back and forth amongst the changing breezes,
Ten tied strings end to end,
sending her so very far away,
What might it be but some other thing?
Perhaps my imagination?
I pull on the string.
I feel her in my hands.
The connection exists.
a mere dot,
pinned against the sky,
suddenly disappears behind the clouds.
Yet I know she is there,
so happy and well.
Inside my being,
my lovely daughter.
The sweetest thing that ever lived.
an unanswerable conclusion.
But who cares?
It is now time to go,
I pull in the string.
The fun for the day yet has not ended,
as she tumbles out from the sky.
appearing silhouette against the moonlight,
she drifts again,
down toward the soft earth,
touching the ground so lightly with her feet.
an unquenchable energy,
that somehow persists,
in this form or another,
I love her.
Born 1953 in Oak Park, Illinois, my creative pursuits blossomed as a sculptor during the early seventies in college. The ’74 work, Emergence & Transformations, expressed the source of my pain and needs. Refer to ‘news’ for a review of this work.
I loved to draw and create objects at a very young age. I still have my first sculpture, a clay sentient named Schnaz that was glazed and kiln fired in 3rd grade, 1961. Three years later, one of my color drawings went on an international exhibit, Homes on a Hillside. It never returned and to this day, I’ve no idea where it is. In early childhood, I learned to cope through creative invention where art provided balance and resolved problems. Simply put, art saved my soul from deep-seated issues that I was too young to articulate at the time. Despite everything, art has sparked great beauty in my life. I’ve a partner, Carolyn, who I’ve had the pleasure to share and be with for many years and a wonderful daughter, Allegra, born in 1988. I’m incredibly grateful for my life and have never felt stronger.
I’m blessed people confided in me to tell their stories – This goes back to high school. Their vulnerability and brave admission of inner pain made me hopeful for them and myself. I trusted that these emotional wounds people suffered from would be opportunities to learn and heal. Deeply touched by human courage, I felt my calling as a psychiatrist. Thanks to these experiences, I became a seeker of inner truth.
I was a psychology major in college. However, I ended up spending most of my time doing sculpture. Even the Art Head approached me, suggesting I become an art major since I was spending more time in the sculpture room than anyone else. I had inadvertently returned to my passion and there seemed no turning back. However, this greatly upset my parents.
Initially, their efforts succeeded as I resumed my psychology studies toward a “promising and lucrative” career in psychiatry. I was bombarded by the myth that there’s no future in art. I never informed my parents about my indifference to money. Since I thought that would sound irresponsible and provoke confrontations with them, I kept it to myself. I loved the idea of helping others and psychiatry seemed like a logical choice. But my panic attacks continued to mount that began in high school. Despite my dedication to psychiatry, I suffered and didn’t know how to resolve my dilemma. My inner voice was screaming and I couldn’t make any sense of it. On top of that, my family was discouraging my artistic pursuits. I continued to do art at a junior college since regular art classes were not offered at the school I transferred to. Some unstoppable force of nature was guiding me. I kept very quiet about my art since my parents would fight me tooth and nail. During my junior year in college, I had a visionary experience in my college courtyard and perceived the world in a whole new way. It came from out of the blue and has tormented me to no end. After the vision, the panic attacks ceased and it took a while to adjust to my new worldview. In any event, I had to find a way to express my “vision”. Possessing the skills to render art, I immortalized my vision in the ‘74 sculpture, Emergence & Transformations. The power of my instincts won over and I thank God for that. Once I exhibited this work that was reviewed on WFMT radio in ’75, my parents were convinced, like me, that this was my calling. I had risen above the do’s and don’ts of the world. My heart and soul were showing me the way to express my true bliss, inner nature, and freedom.
Soon after my visionary experience in ’73, I found myself drawing profiles of simple people-like figures with bowed heads and large gravitated feet. I identified so strongly with these forms that I had to find a way to make them more “alive”. Wood was plentiful and easy to find. I began carving 4.5” tall people-like forms. I bathed most with a propane flame and charred a few using a welding torch. A motif of collective identity developed that began with the ’74 work, Perpetuity, inspired by Stonehenge. This piece evolved into the more complex sculpture, Emergence & Transformations, that integrates many burnt people-like figures with mirrors, melted plastic, towers of worship and deference that includes various forms of sacrifice and crucifixion. Most of these figures conclude inconclusively in mirrors plus caverns and labors over unnatural piles built by the excrement of the ages.
During the nineties, my creative pursuits expanded into photography, music, and writing. Recognizing the many wonderful things people do, I sought connections to facilitate their efforts. I’ve devised a plan to expand the knowledge and implementation of social entrepreneurship plus its focus to end global poverty. To briefly explain, quoting from the Ashoka website: “Rather than leaving social needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps. They are both visionaries and ultimate realists, concerned with the practical applications of their vision above all else.” I applaud the efforts of individuals and organizations that place themselves on the front lines of these intensely challenged environments. This fight to end world poverty is a battle we can win and a fundamental reason for my creative pursuits.
I believe that the media and private enterprise are keys in bringing awareness to world poverty and its solution. The proliferation of such knowledge should promote a stronger effort in resolving this crisis and others.
Elevating the quality of life would create smarter governments through the demands and strength of its people. Empowered individuals will promote better decisions that avoid joining terrorist groups and other destructive forces. Our money and efforts could then be diverted to more great causes rather than the prohibitive cost of war. In the long run, there is nothing gained from tyranny and bloodshed. We must heed the lessons of history and end this senseless brutality.
I envision social entrepreneurs as the warriors of the future: brave men and women who take on the most daunting challenges that billions face daily. This includes the acquisition of clean water, sanitation, food provisions, and to educate the public on the necessities of life, inspiring hope for the future. If neglected, it could undermine everything our ancestors have sacrificed and worked so hard for. We must honor their contributions and efforts by helping those in need. Let us meld nature, compassion, and technology on the highest order to innovate and evolve a prosperous world.
EMERGENCE & TRANSFORMATIONS
1975 ‘Critic’s Choice’ review, 98.7 WFMT Radio by Harry Bouras
“…Let me rush on and say that, for me, the best of show and the piece you must rush up to see is a piece by Dan Kaplan of Glenview. Called Emergence & Transformations, it’s made out of wood and mirrors and burnt plastic and the like and it cost $850 dollars, which must be the lowest price in the world for a gigantic work of art.”
“It is a big, clumsy, ugly, stupidly done, bravely heroic, wonderfully rich, deeply ambitious, magnificently thought out rhetoric for the condition of man, for the human condition right now. His clumsiness is an outgrowth of his passion.”
“Imagine if you will: The piece must be about eighteen feet long, made out of burned, great wooden chunks that are assembled together. There are mirrors standing, and what seems to be thousands of little figures passing through these great portals which seem to be the entrance into hell. And these wooden figures that have all been burned and are painted a dark brown, these figures come through a landscape of charred pieces of bone and matte and so on, out of the world of Dante with the mentality of Samuel Beckett, to give it meaning.”
“They wander through the mirrors and the labyrinth ‘til they’re processed at the other end of this thing where they’re either burnt into great piles of ash and bone, or turned into figures in constant deference and worship to a large, gate-like figure that enters into absolutely nothing; a structure which is separate from the sculpture itself.”
“I think Mr. Kaplan, Dan Kaplan, in spite of his ungainliness and foolishness now, the weakness and the wild ambition of it and the limitations of technique, is verging on trying to make a very great and a very important art. It’s highly unsalable and I doubt if you’ll see many shows of it, but it’s really wonderful stuff and one cannot wait to see where he goes with his figures.”
Special thanks to Harry Bouras, artist, teacher, critic, and WFMT radio for their permission to include a modified version of the June 1, 1975 review in my upcoming book series, Warrior of Humanity.