Thursday, June 26, 2014
Alumni Spotlight: New Orleans Artist and Two-Time UNO Alumnus Dan Tague
New Orleans artist and two-time University of New Orleans alumnus Dan Tague recently
won a national fine arts contest, an honor he adds to a growing list of achievements
as a new series of works depicting the almighty dollar grabs attention around the
"My work often has word plays in it," said Tague on Friday. "I was always fascinated
with the idea of linguistics and words, where they come from, what do they mean?"
he said. "I just like the idea of the fallacies of things people say. I like the idea
of semantics and the way words can be twisted around, which always leads me into the
idea of politics."
With a work he calls "The American Standard," New Orleans artist Dan Tague recently
won the title Best Emerging Male Artist in the annual Art Comes Alive contest hosted
by Art Design Consultants in Cincinnati.
Tague learned this month that he had been named "Emerging Artist of the Year" in Art
Comes Alive, an annual fine art contest and exhibit hosted by Art Design Consultants
to honor "the brightest and best artists working in North America." Based in Cincinnati,
ADC has shown and sold local and regional artist works for more than 20 years and
placed artists' works in some of the most prestigious corporate and private collections
in the country. Tague was selected for his award by a panel of art firms and curators,
he said. The award was for an entire body of work in a series of photographs of handfolded
dollar bills represented at the show with a work called "The American Standard." The
series, which stemmed from a dramatic and frustrating seven-day episode on a rooftop
in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is both a political statement
and enduring body of work.
Tague, who received his Master of Fine Arts degree in 2000 and a Bachelor of Arts
degree from in 1997 from the UNO Fine Arts program, has previously received several
top awards and residencies, including grants from The Joan Mitchell Foundation and
Pollock Krasner Foundation, He has been an artist-in-residence at the Santa Fe Art
Institute, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the La Napoule Art Foundation in France.
Tague, who is represented by the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans' Warehouse
District, has shown his work both nationally and internationally. Lately, his signature
works have grabbed the attention of media from around the world.
On the Money with His Dollar-Bill Art Works
Tague made headlines last year with a work he prepared on commission for The New York Times. His work of art, a photograph of a carefully folded dollar bill, debuted before millions
on August 8, 2013 when it ran alongside a Sunday editorial by chief editor David E.
Sanger entitled "A Washington Riddle: What Is 'Top Secret'?"
New Orleans artist Dan Tague made headlines in the New York Times Sunday Review last
August with a "Cyber Warfare," a commissioned work of a dollar bill carefully folded
to reveal the words "public and private...cyber...warfare."
The opinion followed publication in The Guardian of classified material leaked by
Edward J. Snowden and the conviction of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who allegedly shared
250,000 State Department cables and defense documents to WikiLeaks.
The Snowden leaks included the National Security Agency's playbook for XKeyscore,
described by The New York Times as "a powerful surveillance program enabling the agency's analysts to monitor and
trace Internet searches around the globe."
For the article, which appeared in The New York Times Sunday Review, Tague created a photograph of a carefully folded dollar bill — its corners and edges
carefully manipulated to reveal a giant eye and the words "Public and Private," "Cyber,"
The iconic work, called "Cyber Warfare," is part of a series that inspires emotional
responses from people on all ends of the political spectrum.
Tague's "dollar bill works...are a hybrid of sculpture, photography and political
statements," according to Jonathan Ferrara Gallery.
"Tague addresses the issues of our day by rendering visual equivalents by the most
powerful means necessary. Installations, photography and artistic activism are his
means of confronting and responding to the concerns of today's world."
His dollar-bill works have a poignant beginning. Tague did not evacuate during Hurricane
Katrina and in the aftermath of the storm spent seven days on the rooftop of the Gold
Seal Dairy on South Alexander Street, where his studio was, sleeping on the roof and
enduring the blazing sun. A friend fortunately had brought a canoe as a joke. When
the levees failed, it came in outrageously handy.
New Orleans artist Dan Tague, started creating dollar-bill works such as "Lest We
Forget" following Hurricane Katrina.
Tague recalls paddling through a "sea of shining debris" and entering a grocery store,
which he describes as "a sea of junk food." He spent days and nights wondering "Why
is nobody coming?" he said. He could see fires, hear gunshots. Army Rangers arrived
and instead of helping, he said, stared victims down at the end of their M-16 rifles.
Tague and his friends cooled themselves by escaping periodically into elevator shafts.
Inside he could avoid the sun, but it was difficult to stay calm and keep the mind
occupied, he said.
"I started folding dollar bills," the artist said. "I was starting to go crazy."
Noteworthy publications including ArtForum, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Seattle Times, have included Tague's work, according to the gallery. Tague was also featured in
spring 2012 in Farrameh Media's Curated Collection Publication "For Which it Stands:
Americana in Contemporary Art" with contemporaries such as Ai Weiwei, Shepard Fairey
and Steve McQueen.
Nine of Tague's signature folded dollar bills were used to illustrate The New Yorker's annual Financial Issue in October 2012 and the dollar bill works have also been featured
in British Vogue and Condé Nast's SModa, Spain.
In August 2013, the same month he created a commissioned piece for The Sunday Review
in The New York Times, Tague also appeared on the BBC news channel in a major interview about his dollar
"I still dream about the helicopters...whooping blades...circulating overhead...buzzing
like locusts..." said Tague last week, explaining the rage and frustration that had
him still folding dollar bills three months after the storm.
He was in an in-house residency at the University of California-Berkeley, after his
home and studio were completely totaled by floodwaters. He folded and folded and folded
again, creating his first work, "Osama Wars."
A work by Dan Tague called "Save the Coast" draws attention to wetlands loss and coastal
erosion in Louisiana.
When he returned to New Orleans in January 2007, he looked around and began thinking
about "the extreme money issues about government still not being able to do anything
about infrastructure because of being so tapped out at wars," he said. He started
the series that has gained runaway success.
"Folded bills just happen to have a lot of traction because everything seems to be
about money," he said last summer in an interview with the BBC. "I mean, that's how
movies are rated. It's not how good they are. It's how much money they made. I mean,
that's how everything seems to be rated these days," he said. "And I guess that's
why it so heavily weighs on people's minds, to see these kinds of images and put their
associations to it."
He has folded dollar bills into works with messages such as "Trust No One," "Live
Free Or Die" and "Reality Sucks." A work called "We the People" oddly became an icon
for both the Occupied Movement and the Tea Party, he said.
He folded "The End Is Near," when the economy crashed. Now he's working on positive
messages, like "The Kids Are All Right," in hopes of spurring attention toward public
education in the U.S.
The Prospect of Money
Tague works in various media: sculpture, video, photography, drawings, paintings,
installations, performance. He has created works using crude oil and the Mobil Oil
and BP Oil logos and transformed former U.S. Presidents George Washington and Abraham
Lincoln into everyday masked superheroes: "Citizen One" and "The Liberator."
"I usually put everything into this one piece, just like 'Make it or break it,'" Tague
told the BBC. "So you have very diverse things, like the folded bills or the chandelier
bombs or the oil painting with the Pinocchio nose and the eyes or even the Washington
and the Lincoln superheroes, the everyday superheroes...with masks on and these abandoned
building with an ax or a bat," he said, recalling various works. "But really the only
series that I've ever remembered everything is these folded dollar bills."
Tague's work has appeared across the U.S. in venues, including Exit Art, DUMBO Arts
Center, LMCC and Bronx River Arts Center in New York; The Soap Factory in Minneapolis;
and Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University, according to the Jonathan Ferrara
Gallery. Key exhibitions appeared at Ballroom Marfa and VOLTA NY Art Fair in 2010
and PULSE Art Fair in Miami and Los Angeles in 2011.
Dan Tague's dollar-bill series has appeared in collections and periodicals around
His work also appears in numerous public and private collections, including: The Whitney
Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, The Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation,
collector Beth Rudin DeWoody, Roll Global Collection, curator Dan Cameron, the Louisiana
State Museum, collector Virginia Speed, Sanam Vaziri Quraishi Foundation and the West
Collection of Contemporary Art.
Tague was also one of the first artists chosen by curator Dan Cameron to participate
in Prospect 2.0 Biennial, a large-scale international art exhibition that attracts
tens of thousands of visitors and adds millions of dollars to the city economy every
year, organizers said in a statement.
Prospect New Orleans was designed to be a great international exhibition, rivaling
grand shows such as the Venice Biennale and the Bienal de São Paulo, the statement
said. The aim of Prospect New Orleans is to showcase new artistic practices from around
the world and contribute to the city's and region's cultural economy. The first event,
held in 2009, showcased new artistic practices of 81 leading international contemporary
artists at more than 24 venues across New Orleans and now the show returns biannually
to the city.
Tague's Prospect 2.0 installation, Department of Civil Obedience, was on exhibit in the Contemporary Arts Center from October 20, 2011 to January
29, 2012. His work is currently on view at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery for his solo exhibition
entitled The Almighty Dollar, as well as the Dishman Art Museum in Beaumont, Texas.
Tague, who has shown his work frequently at the UNO St. Claude Gallery, recently finished
a commission for Burton Snowboards, in which he collaborated with the manufacturer
to create a new clothing line, he said. In August, he will put on a solo exhibition
called "I Am: Money Matters," at the Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State
University in Grand Rapids, Mich. The show is curated by Michele Bosak.
He is now preparing works of art surrounding themes of gun violence, wealth, and injustice
for three concurrent exhibitions in New Orleans during Prospect New Orleans 3.0, which
will be on view from October 25, 2014 through January 25, 2015 at 15 venues across
New Orleans, Tague said.
The October exhibitions are satellites of Prospect 3: New Orleans. They include installations
at Treo Gallery on Tulane Ave.; "Guns In the Hands of Artists," a group show at Jonathan
Ferrara Gallery; and "The Chapel of The Almighty Dollar," a major outdoor installation
on St. Claude Ave., including a pyramid-shaped chapel.
The Chapel of the Almighty Dollar
The Chapel of the Almighty Dollar will be a 22-foot pyramid designed in the style
of the pyramid seen on the back of a dollar bill. At its apex, where the "eye" would
usually be, will be a four-foot frosted plexiglass structure with a rotating light
inside that will illuminate the symbol of a dollar bill, Tague said.
In October, Dan Tague will unveil "The Chapel of the Almighty Dollar" at the international
art exhibit Prospect 3.0., to be held in New Orleans. The outdoor installation is
a 22-foot pyramid that doubles as a contemplation space. Inside is the work "The Almighty
Dollar" and two others designed to make viewers consider the meaning and value of
money in American culture.
"As you walk inside the pyramid, you will see three 10-foot tall dollar bill works
that are mural structures: 'The Almighty Dollar'...'The Pursuit of Happiness' on the
right, 'The Root of All Evil' on the left," said Tague. "As you sit in the chapel,
or as you enter, your eyes adjust."
The dimly lit dollar bill works will slowly reveal themselves to viewers adjusting
their eyes in the dark chapel, Tague said. As they take in the pictures of money,
background music by Heathcliff Haley will play. Haley, a musician and a popular chef
in the city, is sampling the Gregorian Chant, "Desi Irae," with a tribal beat "to
summon spirits of prosperity," said Tague. "For the bass, he has huge stacks of change
dropping onto the raised wooden floor."
Haley's moving installation will circulate stacks of coins from floor to ceiling via
an elaborate rigged electrical structure, explained Tague.
The pyramid designed by artist and contractor John Henry Kelley "will be a pretty
large structure. It holds about eight people," Tague said. "I didn't want more than
that. It's really meant to be a reflection place...kind of a nondenominational chapel
He plans to begin raising money on Kickstarter soon, promising certain donors photo
etchings of one of the three handfolded dollar bills that will appear in the chapel,
"As I was considering the idea of wealth, I think it always kinds of addresses some
kind of advantage," said Tague, who wants people to enter his installation and think,
for a moment about the role of money in our lives. "Just the contemplation of anything
monetary, whether it's wealth, whether it's value, kind of bring everything to the
An Appreciative Audience at UNO
Tague's success has been heralded at home, where colleagues at his alma mater sang
"Dan Tague is the embodiment of a success story. I suppose in some regard his life
reads more like a great movie screenplay," said UNO Fine Arts Department Chair Cheryl
Hayes. "He is a hallmark example of what a creative mind, burgeoned with determination
and the benefit of a excellent education, can accomplish."
The UNO Fine Arts Department has been the academic home of many colleagues, over several
decades, who graduated from Ivy League universities and other prestigious institutions,
said Hayes. They have positively impacted the lives of countless students and the
University recognizes their achievements with pride.
Tague makes it especially easy, she said.
"Despite his fame and numerous accolades, Dan has remained an approachable, and extraordinarily
deferential man, and one who constantly encourages students to continue their studies
at the University of New Orleans," said Hayes.
"It has certainly been to our benefit that Dan's accomplishments have placed our university
in the spotlight, but more importantly, it is his consistent promotion of the opportunities
that exist for anyone who aspires to achieve their educational goals to recognize
the University of New Orleans as their first and best opportunity that has won him
our undying gratitude and our sincerest friendship."
Hayes expressed delight that Tague is the 2014 ACA Male Emerging Artist of the Year.
"It is most gratifying to know that his continued recognition is in keeping with his
voracious artistic practice, his loyalty to the University of New Orleans and his
continued exemplary example to aspiring and minds."
Watch The Interview
Learn About the UNO Fine Arts Department