Daniel Mack



Artist's Statements

2016 Ode to the Earth             Spirit-Tool-Wood

This ode (in three stanzas) tells of the ever-complicating life of humans and nature. It is a story of fierce interplay, of relentless adaptation ,of rust and shadow.

Earlier, my ode was about the generosity of the earth,

its abundance and availability.  

I was younger.

In my 35 years engaged with earth and trees, the ode has tempered. It is now more about rhythms and patience; about tidal orders and disorders. It’s still about appreciation and awe, but it’s a little different.



Later-life story figures                                      

For the last ten years, Daniel Mack has been making a collection of carvings to honor the emerging, changing qualities of human life. They are crones, elders, caretakers, hermits, misfits, and shamans. They start from driftwood bark collected from the Hudson River and take on form, feature, color and bits of nature and culture.  When put together in twos threes and fours, they tell stories about inner lives, families and friends.


Daniel Mack has been creating rustic work for more than 35 years, making furniture, architectural and garden structures, and small, simple objects. He is widely known for his signature chairs crafted out of natural materials and personal artifacts. His rustic works appear in many private and museum collections.

Daniel Mack is also a writer. He has written seven books on rustic work and writes regularly on finding the sacred in the ordinary.

He is a founding member of the Seligmann Center of Surrealism in Sugar Loaf, NY.

He teaches workshops on rustic work and creativity at The Omega Institute. www.danielmack.com

Dan on the beach



Looking at a collection of made things one can ask: What’s happening here?


Too often maker’s answers start with the word “I”  as in "I have always been fascinated with…”

But biography is a very partial and low-level answer.  It doesn’t honor either the unseen 

forces at work or the crucial importance of the object to take on life

ONLY when it comes in contact with an Other

The maker, aware or not, has at least two elusive roles:

to go deep into the old, the unspoken, the messy, the ambiguous, the irregular to go out, bridging to the sensibility of others.

Down and Out.      Out and Back.

It’s a changing rhythm the maker sets up and some people respond..
The maker is never quite in control of this rhythm. There are parts beyond control. Because accident, chance and coincidence are powerful, ever-present and humbling forces.
The down, for me, is the realm of the marginal, the common, the regular.

In sticks, bark, leaves, logs, stones, feathers, bones.

The hunt for the sacred in the profane. Is it there??

The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas puts it this way:

Split open a log and I am there; Lift a rock and I am there too.

This leads to an interest in folk, outsider, the raw, the found, the surreal

The word “foris” has appeared. It’s that place outside the control of the authorities; where the knights become demented.

It keeps me tied to decay and fleeting materials: Testimony to Impermanence

It impacts technique too. Just how much fussing is necessary to make the point?
When does flourish of technique get in the way of the connection?
It’s always so alluring to make it more perfect, more admirable … and more remote.

And for that impact on Others,

Duchamp said, maybe, “Don’t do as I do, Do as you do.”

Just go find stuff and put it together.



I explore the forms, textures and deformities of the trees. I separate the trees from the forest, re-present and re-member them. I want to keep the history of the tree present in the work and still reflect the hand and heart of the maker.

Dan on a rocky beach

I often interpret traditional furniture styles using natural forms. This produces both a caricature and a statement about time, history, impermanence, symmetry, and accident. Though this furniture is strong, its appearance of delicacy and animation is sometimes unsettling. Because the tree is readily recognized within my work, there is an element of dread, that mixture of awe, reverence and terror. Some people like dread, others don't. In recent years, I have developed a series of Memory Chairs which combine found objects into the natural form chair frame. This has allowed me a greater complexity with statements about the interplay of man and nature by using cultural artifacts – tools, fishing tackle, oars – fused with the Trees. I am interested in the soul of objects, that ability of an object to move, to carry, to help create meaning in life. Roland Barthes calls it punctum.