In 1993, artist and photojournalist Dan Eldon was covering the famine and unrest in Somalia for Reuters News Agency when UN forces bombed the residence of warlord Aidid. Enraged loyalist supporters violently retaliated, murdering Eldon and three other western journalists.
Although his life was short, Eldon lived his years with voracious passion, leading an aid mission across Africa, working as a graphic designer for Mademoiselle Magazine, publishing a book, directing a short film and creating 17 extraordinarily powerful volumes of art work, all before the age of 22.
In the pages that fill the bulging journals, Eldon reveals imagistic insight into his extraordinary perspective on the world. Filled with snapshots of his life growing up as a young expatriate in Kenya, explosive images taken in war-torn Somalia and detailed drawings of the world around him, the journal works blend the photographic reality with the transient ephemera of his everyday to create a vivid blueprint of Eldon’s imagination.
The works’ multi-layered complexity recalls the photo collages of early 20th century artists such as Hannah Höch and John Heartfield. While both tell of worlds submerged in chaos, Eldon’s works seek to find equilibrium within the madness. From page to page, Eldon’s style and rhythm shift and evolve, reflecting his exploration of the world and his place within it.
The ingenuous, raw paintings and multi-layered sub textual arrangements could be said to evoke the spirit of Basquiat and contextual complexity of Rauschenberg. But Eldon’s own Caulfieldesque disdain for affected pretense countermands any such canonical comparisons.
While the aesthetic beauty and sophisticated lexicon of the journal pages elevate the works to a reverential artistic level, the artist’s eye never strays from its place of unrelenting sincerity, reminding the viewer of Eldon’s uncanny ability to capture the present moment.
Dan Eldon’s legacy continues to grow through his words and images, inspiring others to realize their dreams through his spirit of “creative activism.” His artwork has been featured in countless newspapers and magazines around the world, including a NY Times feature in 2007, and exhibited in prestigious collections and in major institutions.
Alicia Dougherty is the collection’s curator.
Creative Visions Foundation
Dan Eldon Center for Creative Activism
18820 Topanga Beach Drive
Malibu, CA 90265