The Ephemeral Work of Daniel Ranalli

To see a world in a grain of sand…
-William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

In October, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum will be exhibiting a twenty-year photographic survey of the work of Daniel Ranalli, MCC ’10 Drawing Fellow. He has a long standing comittment to the creation of conceptual environmental work encompassing the Outer Cape. This is an extraordinary opportunity to see the breadth of his vision, reflect on the power of nature, and comtemplate the balance between order and chaos here on planet earth.

ArtSake: How did you arrive at creating environmental work?
Daniel: For a decade or so before I began this work, I had been doing very abstract work in photography (large scale photograms). I had started spending time on the Outer Cape and realized that I wanted to react to that environment in some way – yet I didn’t want to reproduce the history of Provincetown art still again. I just began walking the beaches and tidal plain in Wellfleet and Truro – it felt like a devotional exercise and I began to gather materials and make things. Piles of seaweed, rows of clam shells, arrangements of rocks – began to emerge from these walks.

ArtSake: What it the biggest challenge to creating a site-specific piece?
Daniel: I think it is probably the need to work on a larger scale than one often expects is necessary. In some of the works – the constructions are 60 to 100 feet long. Anything less out there and they seem too small to matter. Of course the tides just erase most all of them in a day or two and I like that.

ArtSake: What’s the most surprising reaction someone has had looking at your work?
Daniel: There are the reactions from curious onlookers and then other reactions when they are in a gallery or museum space. Onlookers just tend to happen on them when I’m working and I always enjoy the conversation. Most everyone has built sandcastles or played with the same materials as kids and they have a fond memory of it. When I tell them I am an artist, they often ask me ‘What my real work is like?’

ArtSake: What environmental changes to the Outer Cape have you’ve witnessed over the last twenty years?
Daniel: The seashore is always changing – the beaches, especially on the ocean side are constantly being eroded – and not just by inches each year. Storms take away yards of dune in a single season. It makes you realize that it is a very fragile little finger of land protruding into an ocean capable of great power. Also, the dunes in Provincetown are becoming grassy hills. The National Seashore planted them with dune grass 20 or 30 years ago and now when one walks out to the Atlantic from Provincetown there is far less sand visible. I miss the sensuousness of those dunes.

ArtSake: What do you hope people will feel seeing this retrospective?
Daniel: For me the very idea of a ‘retrospective’ is difficult. Like most artists I am very prospective in my approach to my work. It is awkward to look backward. What I hope is that people can get a sense of the conviction that resonates in the work. Work that is conceptual or environmentally based still presents difficulty for many people. I hope to make some converts!


Traces: Daniel Ranalli, Cape Work 1987-2007
The Provincetown Art Association and Museum
Exhibition Dates: October 15, 2010 – January 16, 2011
Opening Reception: October 22, 2010, at 7-9 pm.
Curated by Leslie K. Brown

Image credits: All images by Daniel Ranalli.
Top image: Stone Alignment Piece, 1998, Tidal Plain Series, Gelatin silver print, 10 x 10 inches (20 x 16″ framed); Seaweed Pyramid, 1998, Tidal Plain Series, Gelatin silver print, 10 x 10 inches (20 x 16″ framed); Stone Column, 1999 Tidal Plain Series, Gelatin silver print, 10 x 10 inches (20 x 16″ framed); 100′ Stone Line, 1998, Tidal Plain Series, Gelatin silver print, 10 x 10 inches (20 x 16″ framed); Horseshoe Crab Triangle, 1991, Tidal Plain Series Photograph, gelatin silver print, 10″x10 image (20″x16″ framed); Rock Removal Piece, 1989, Tidal Plain Series, Gelatin silver print, 10 x 10 inches (20 x 16″ framed).

“Every Mark I Make Seems to Fade Away”, 1992, Photographic Triptych, 13”x40”

“Snail Drawing Series: Spiral #9”, 1995, Photographic diptych, 20”x28”

“Squid Returning”, 1995,  Photographic triptych, 12”x30”

“Zen Dune Series: Thalassa #6, 2007, 22”x34”

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