Dakota Batchler defines art pretty broadly, saying. “It’s anything that you create that wasn’t already in existence.” Then he adds, “It’s something that you make using your heart, you know.”
Batchler’s heart is clearly in his work, and has been pretty much forever. Throughout school, he was always drawing when he had a spare moment or space, like on top of a math assignment or on one of his arms. One of the first artists he paid attention to was Shepard Fairey. He and his artistic friends all had their black notebooks with graffiti inspired designs, and Fairey, who was doing his widespread Obey series was their hero.
“My own art kind of blossomed out of the whole graffiti thing; I was like, training to do what I do now,” Batchler said.
What Batchler does now blocks the use of his family’s living room, but they don’t seem to mind. They are all supportive of his work, but Batchler’s mother is the parent to whom he attributes his artistic side. “Everything she does is kind of just artsy. As far as decorating the house, and gardening, you know. She makes wreaths for the holidays and really goes all out for Halloween – a lot of creativity.” Batchler also gives a nod to how his father used to draw muscle cars.
Having lived in Terre Haute all his life, Batchler would like to move on. He describes his hometown as having good qualities as a small quiet city, but doesn’t think it is as open-minded and progressive as places like Bloomington. “You know there’s a wide range of people here, but sometimes you walk into Wal-Mart or the mall and you’re like: Where the hell am I? Who are these people?” Batchler said.
At the time of our interview, a work of Jeff Koons, one of his balloon dog series, had just been auctioned for $58.4 million. When asked his opinion on this, Batchler said, “It actually angers me a little bit. I sit in my room all-day and think of things to create, then I spend weeks perfecting them. This ‘balloon dog’ is something that already exists and didn’t take much creativity in my opinion… or time. He just made it bigger and shiny.”
Of course, some would argue that making this common birthday party item bigger, shiny and in steel instead of latex serves the function of art by transforming the object in a creative way. I suggest that all artists use source material from popular culture or previous works. What about Shepherd Fairey’s use of an Associated Press photograph as a basis for his iconic 2008 election poster for Barack Obama? Isn’t that also an example of using something that already exists?
“He was using it for a reason, though,” Batchler pauses, aware of a seeming contradiction in how he’s looking at the work of Fairey and Koons. “He was making people aware,” he continues. “Molding things into how you see them is art.”