BY SHALEEN DESTEFANO
Denver-based artist Dan Ericson, best known as Dunn or “The Signtologist,” is an entirely green artist who has turned his art form into a science, recycling hundreds of street signs into unique homages to the musicians, actors, public figures and athletes that inspire him. We were lucky to have a chance to get to know this Wash Park native and learn more about his journey.
How did your journey as an artist begin?
My mom is an artist and started me on this journey at a very young age. I fell in love with art, focused study on it; and, whenever possible, have always used it as an outlet.
All the signs I use are recycled. Sometimes I will order and use new signs, but it will just depend on the project. Over time my sources have varied for my supplies. By being flexible and not knowing where my next batch of supplies is coming from, it has allowed me to further explore this medium in ways I wouldn’t have thought of, including light reflection, shape, age of materials, etc.
How do you decide which signs work with which pieces?
Some signs and pieces are very intentional while other are completely random. It really depends on the subject and what type of supplies I have on hand at the time.
Are you repurposing not only these signs but their meaning to create a message in your work?
Taking an old sign that has instructed an audience for years in one particular way, I am able to breathe new life into the same sign now, which once was viewed as waste. Presenting it to a another audience in a different manner with a new subject matter. I have had people tell me, after finding my work, that they never look at signs the same way again.
How did you find this unique process and style?
It was a total accident. I messed up an art assignment and didn’t have another canvas. But had a no-parking sign so I used that as my canvas and just went with it.
It’s been called street sign art, road sign art, urban art, street art, contemporary art, green art, but the best term I have found to describe my work is just: Signtology and I am The Signtologist.
You have a strong relationship to the hip hop community. Can you tell us more?
I have always been enamored by Hip Hop and all the elements of the culture. My first concert was Public Enemy in 8th grade. I have been very fortunate to use this medium to interact with local and international Hip Hop communities. I’m a member of two all element Hip Hop crews. I proudly represent The Lordz of Finesse from Denver, CO & The Bronx Boys Rocking Crew from Bronx, NY
Much of your art has been collected by some very prominent culture icons. Do you have any favorite stories you could share about making these sorts of connections?
I have used my artwork as a way to meet & interact with people I idolize and admire. I have had many surreal experiences because of this accident and further exploring this medium.
My favorite story is trading Black Thought (Tariq Trotter) of The Roots the name “The Signtologist” for a ride to his hotel.
One funny story is got Nelly Frutado a painting when she played the Fillmore here in Denver. Didn’t get to meet her and didn’t think much else about it. Until months later watching some music videos and the painting is with her in the Nickelback “RockStar” video. Totally random and completely unexpected!
Where can people see your work?
I currently have work at the following Denver locations; The Preservery, The Levitt Pavilion (Green Rooms), The Brutal Poodle, Hazel Art Bar, and The Black Box (Lounge). You can also find me in Brooklyn, NY at the Richard Beavers Gallery, or the Universal Hip Hop Museum opening in 2022 in NY. I’m also at The American Jazz Museum in Kansas City.
While attending South I really realized I wanted to pursue art and took as many classes as I could. Most of my teachers encouraged me & helped me to understand and better utilize my talents. I met a lot of creatives at South which broadened my perspective on art. It was also the beginning of creating a network that has extended well into my artistic career. For example I just finished a mural at Hazel (also owned by South Alumni) with one of my long time friends (who also went to South) and fellow local artists Ian Rumley.
What projects are you planning for the future?
I have been very focused on family lately over the past year. For more details about all this visit my abstract body of work “Signs of Life” currently on display at The Preservery. I still create whenever possible with more freedom than I have allowed myself in quite some time. Less pressure, less expectations more exploring and tapping back into my love of art. I would like to create more outdoor or public art and collaborate with as many artists as possible in 2019. Either way I will continue to set and meet goals for myself & my artwork just like I have always done.
We have seen the “Slow The Funk Down” signs around the neighborhood. How are you involved in this project?
My friend Pat Milbery of the SoGnar Creative Division was working on some projects for Walk Denver and Vision Zero. When the idea of a yard sign project was presented he brought me in to help with the design. With the help of Walk Denver & Vision Zero’s community outreach. Pat and I took the community input and created the Please Slow The Funk Down yard signs. It has been a very successful project with over 500 signs distributed around the metro area.
Do you have any shows coming up?
I am working some collaborations, and public art projects for 2019. Keep up to date with all my shows on social media and at www.thesigntologist.com
Thank you for taking time to introduce yourself to our audience in the neighborhood where you grew up. In our eyes you are another South High School success story. We appreciate your sustainable style and your efforts to help with Walk Denver and Vision Zero. We wish you all the luck with your future endeavors.