Artist’s perspective of photos viewed side by side in exhibit
January 27, 2017
Each morning for a year, photography enthusiast Dan Riordan captured a moment in time. His venture began as a personal project, gained a Facebook following and now is being shared from a painted perspective in a collaborative art exhibit.
Riordan, 72, who retired from University of Wisconsin-Stout in 2010, started the project in October 2015 after doctors said progressing prostate cancer would give him about a year to live. Desiring a challenge, he dubbed it the “366” project, the number of days he took the photos until October 2016.
Most of the photos were taken on one of three routes from his house, in Menomonie’s Grandview Heights neighborhood overlooking Lake Menomin, to Marketplace Foods in north Menomonie to buy the morning newspaper. Each day he posted one on Facebook. They garnered more attention than he expected.
“After a while, people starting following me,” he said. “Then they went from likes to making comments.”
Drawn to his inspirational images, UW-Stout art professor Tamara Brantmeier, 47, became a follower.
“They became like a daily meditation or moment to just slow down, paying attention to where you were on an ordinary trip to get the paper,” Brantmeier said while reflecting with Riordan. “They transform the ordinary and get us to look at our small Midwestern town surroundings in a new way.”
Brantmeier was mulling new art project possibilities for herself when an idea came to mind: Creating some of the photos as paintings would make a great art exhibit. When she proposed the idea to Riordan, he was interested. “We met for coffee and figured out what it could look like, and it went from there,” she said.
Their collaboration is on exhibit at Lucette Brewery and Woodfire Eatery in Menomonie until Friday, Feb. 24. Ten of his photos are featured alongside Brantmeier’s oil-painted perspectives.
Senior UW-Stout industrial design student Aaron Thompson, of Cottage Grove, Minn., mounted Riordan’s photos on foam core in the spray booth of the university’s industrial design room.
Riordan’s photo subjects range from buildings to streets to nature. Though choosing just 10 photos from Riordan’s 366 shots was tough, Brantmeier managed to narrow the painting potentials to 10 nature views, many taken in summer. Among their matching favorites is a shot of trees and grass taken atop a hill on Rudiger Road, Riordan’s frequent fallback location when others didn’t offer a desired result.
Brantmeier and Riordan met years back at UW-Stout when she was a new art instructor and Riordan was director of the Nakatani Teaching and Learning Center. Riordan retired after teaching English for 37 years; helping launch the university’s technical communication program, now called professional communication and emerging media; and directing the Nakatani center for 10 years.
“It’s so fun to watch someone interpret these,” Riordan said of Brantmeier’s work.
“It was interesting to see the number of people who saw a spiritual dimension to these photos,” which Riordan said wasn’t his intent. “One guy, who had lost his son that year, recently told me ‘Your photos helped me get through the year.’ It was very impressive, not for me, but for what he was able to take from my photos.”
Riordan’s photography interest stems from age 10, first owning an Eastman Kodak Brownie camera. While spending a summer in Montana at a mountain resort when he was 21, he bought an Argus camera for $10 from a drifter. He discovered a talent for picture composition and is self-taught. He now uses an older Canon 7D model, though he used his iPhone for the yearlong Facebook postings.
Though his “366” project has ended, Riordan continues to post photos. A separate 15-photo exhibit is displayed at the Barrel Room in Menomonie until Feb. 24.
Doctors estimate he has months to live. He tries to stay active physically and mentally through walking and writing.
Like the students who once learned from him, Riordan learned from his experience.
“I saw things that I didn’t see before; my eyes opened up,” he said. “The challenge makes you grow. Since I kept going through the same locale, I had to find new ways to present those locales, and that really was a lot of fun.”
Visit Riordan’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/riordand?fref=ts, where his “366” project is in an album titled Early Morning 2015-16.
Top: University of Wisconsin-Stout art professor Tamara Brantmeier and retired English professor Dan Riordan collaborated on an art and photo exhibit on display at Lucette Brewery and Woodfire Eatery in Menomonie. Brantmeier’s depictions of Riordan’s photos are in the background.
Bottom: Dan Riordan describes his experiences during a yearlong project of taking a daily morning photo.