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Dan Herschlein Looks Inside

June 12, 2019

One of five new films from Art21’s spring/summer 2019 programming

Can horror also comfort us? Returning to his childhood home in Bayville, New York, on Long Island, Dan Herschlein works on a series of four plaster reliefs, titled “Night Pictures,” for a show at JTT Gallery in Manhattan. Herschlein’s unsettling sculptures of headless figures, backlit windows, and lonely suburban tableaus evoke darkness and fear as a means toward emotional understanding. Herschlein recalls the feelings of aloneness and alienation that growing up in his hometown evoked, channeling those emotions into the work and explaining his interest in the voyeur as “somebody who feels outside of the equation.”

Temporarily working in his parents’ den, Herschlein makes molds of parts of his body and sculpts headless, scarecrow-like figures in white plaster. Mounted on wood and then painted black, the figures are partially lit by single flashlight beams, inspired by Herschlein’s childhood practice of illuminating cutout images in his bedroom window. The resulting reliefs are eerie and uncanny yet surprisingly tender: figures lined up against a fence grasp each others’ hands as they peer into a home; an upside-down torso is peeled open to reveal a room and a window with drapes. The headless figures become metaphors for self-reflection. “A big mission of mine is re-evaluating maleness and masculinity,” Herschlein explains. “The ability of men to bury their emotions to the point where they can’t even find them is unparalleled. If I can look at that at face value, maybe it’s fine to be scared or sad or anxious; it’s not such a threat.”

More information and credits


“New York Close Up” Series Producer: Nick Ravich. Producer: Erik Spink. Director & Camera: Amitabh Joshi. Editor: Amitabh Joshi. Location Sound: Erik Spink. Color Correction: Chris Ramey. Sound Mix: Adam Boese. Design & Graphics: Chips. Artwork Courtesy: Dan Herschlein. Thanks: Francessca Altamura, Natalie Bell, Marie Catalano, Cut + Measure, Chuck Herschlein, Lynn Herschlein, JTT Gallery, Alex Laviola, Joe Lutz, Lynn Minicozzi, New Museum, Jasmin Tsou, & Vacant Light.

“New York Close Up” is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; and by individual contributors.

Translated subtitles generously contributed by volunteers from the Art21 Translation Project community: Elena Fernández Cano (Spanish); Victor Lucindo (Portuguese, Brazilian); and Gaelle Monin (French).

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Dan Herschlein

Dan Herschlein was born in 1989 in Bayville, New York. He lives and works in Brooklyn, New York, and received his BFA from New York University. Working in sculpture, drawing, and performance, Herschlein uses images of the body and horror tropes to explore the human desire for comfort and emotional understanding.

“What people deem to be creepy, categorize as horror, that’s the language, or the genre that I’m working within.”

Dan Hershclein