Silver Space
A Collaborative Creative Network in St. Louis, MO
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Triangle King

Daniel Burnett is an artist originally from Chicago now living and working (with triangles) in St. Louis, MO

The triangle king

written by marina may

edited by lexi turin

“I love biting off more than I can chew.” 
 
In a hot studio, across from Cherokee Street Beach, Daniel Burnett sits with his back to his latest
painting. Smaller in scale than his usual works, but packed with religious potency and an acute
attention to both geometry and color, the piece appears to glow against the wall upon which it’s
positioned. 
 
“I like to be overly ambitious with a maximalist aesthetic,” he says. With numerous projects
under his belt and a colorful, vivacious style, he approaches both his practice and his life with an
infectious gusto. The work, including his most current piece, is dominated by the principals of
color. This attraction is something he was drawn to as a young graffiti artist in his hometown of
Chicago. 
 
“I got into graffiti when I was thirteen going on fourteen. I was at a big high school with three to
four thousand other kids. One kid I met in gym class, then I saw him in the lunch room and I
latched on. I was like ‘Oh, you guys are drawing? I love to draw.’”  
 
He fell into a crowd populated by artists and was taken under their wing. The leader of the group
gave him a name, Image (which he still carries in his Instagram handle), and a style of writing. 
 
“All those kids became my friends,” he explains. “It started from looking for anyone with a
common interest. [It] was just complete chance that I sat at that lunch table.” 
Burnett is self-taught and transitioned from creating street art exclusively to more traditional
mediums later in his teens and early twenties. 
“I had a really good friend group and made it out of the tunnel of teenage angst. We would post
up and draw and do poetry. A bunch of us were into spoken word poetry—a lot of cross
pollination.”   
The group of friends eventually got an apartment together in Chicago and turned it into a
non-profit. They hosted “rag tag” community art shows and parties, influencing each other both
creatively and intellectually. 
In his mid-twenties, Burnett re-evaluated his life and took a chance by moving to St. Louis, 
where he attended college and studied literature. For a time, he abandoned art-making as a
serious practice, but eventually became involved with the Screwed Arts Collective after a
printmaking professor introduced him to the artistic community in the city. He discovered that art
could be something sustainable for him as he shifted away from the constraints of lettering and
into abstraction. 
“It was a pretty natural progression. I always had the urge to explore styles of mark-making. You
can view it as a letter form, but there is this idea that the letters become arbitrary – you have the
boundaries of letter forms, but it’s super graphic, super flat, super illustrated.” 
His work is dualistic, utilizing his intuition for color schemes and forms picked up on the street
mixed with the influence of contemporary fine artists like Takashi Murakami and Kerry James
Marshall. 
 
 
When he first moved to St. Louis, he experimented with portraiture, focusing on portraying the
writers he studied. He felt particularly drawn to women authors. Making these portraits while
reading their work enhanced his connection to their writing.  
While for a time Burnett removed representation from his work (preferring to explore abstract
geometric forms) he has recently delved back into figuration. This stylistic merger, evidenced in
the painting behind him, allows him to investigate a broader depth and scope of concepts. 
“I am multidisciplinary as an artist. Working with patterns and shapes, an attempt at doing
realism, collage, spoken word… If artwork is about communication—like speaking a
language—the more methods you have, the better you can communicate. [The more] different
tools and styles you have, the more fluently you can communicate and switch between the two, 
depending on your meaning.”  
He describes the piece behind him as transitional and informative of a future body of work. The
background of the hyper-flat composition is a technicolor explosion of sharply defined shapes, 
creating a mandala-like matrix. Tucked within the folds are empty dripping hands, loosely
referencing Hindu deities. Devoid of the traditional objects which normally accompany the
hands, the image reflects the power (or lack thereof) of religious iconography in the
technological age, and raises questions about the role of tradition in the future. 
Burnett has also been practicing collage-making. In both his live mural demonstration in the
Grove over the summer and the stacked sculptures at LouFest, he pasted Day-Glo triangular
paper cut-outs on black surfaces to quickly create explosive and intricate compositions.  In both
instances, he encouraged those passing by to contribute to the work by pasting down bits of
paper themselves. 
Collaboration appears to be an underlying current in the evolution of Burnett’s practice. From the
inclusive nature of his group of friends, to the Screwed Arts Collective, to the organization of
group shows like The Anchors exhibition, Daniel Burnett thrives in his ability to learn from and
contribute to the ongoing artistic dialogue in the community.