Daniel Gerhard Kaniess was born in Appleton, WI on November 9, 1955. The son of an ex-Marine HS teacher and a homemaker, he spent his early days enjoying the adventures nature had to offer in his own backyard, fostering creativity and an independent spirit.
Dan attended a small Lutheran grade school and the local Lutheran high school. Although an art program was not offered, a teacher picked up on his raw, untrained talent and Dan was encouraged to create school spirit work. This encouragement also included the suggestion of becoming an artist as a profession, the first time this thought was introduced in Dan’s life.
Daniel attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and began the path to becoming a commercial artist. This plan was deterred when he didn’t get into some of the classes required for that Major. He decided to take Fine Art courses to fill in his schedule and quickly found that intellectually this was where he truly belonged. The challenge was stimulating and he connected with many professors.
With college out of the way in 1978, Dan’s plan was to move to New York City to launch his art career. However, when housing plans fell through with a former University of Wisconsin classmate in Manhattan, Dan found himself on his own in the Big Apple with too many people in the same situation as him. In NY he saw a somewhat current copy of Art in America with a cover featuring Red Grooms in Minneapolis, MN. Recognizing his own predicament and with bags still packed in NY, Dan realized that he could pick up and begin again in Minneapolis.
Once settled in the Twin Cities, Dan’s next objective was to find a job and quickly. He spotted an ad in the paper for an ‘art instructor’ and decided to follow up on it. Art Instruction Schools, located in Minneapolis, was the same company which advertised with the familiar matchbooks that teased “Draw Winky and win an art scholarship” with the image of a cartoon deer similar to Bambi. The position required the grading of prospective students’ work, but truly was a sales scheme. His morals clashed with the school’s principles and he was eventually laid off.
Next he found work in art galleries while becoming established as a visual artist. The 80’s were a robust time in Daniel’s career. In 1980 he began having professional shows and began seeing a young woman named Sharon. Dan was also involved in the local music scene and the band 2i was conceived in 1981. The band recorded and toured briefly over the next 5 years. Dan married the love of his life Sharon in 1983. In 1984, Dan won 1st place in the Art Center of Minnesota’s juried exhibition. This award solidified Dan’s efforts and provided motivation for continued success.
As life continued, Daniel and Sharon started developing roots with a house purchased in 1987 and their first child Kai, a daughter born in 1989. In 1990, a son Kab was born. With children in the picture, Dan began the most important job of his life as a father. Being a stay at home dad gave him with the opportunity of working on his art as well as developing his children by providing them with a structured yet infinitely creative environment day after day. Home life was not without hardships, as Daniel’s children have his genetic bone condition that brought about frequent pediatric surgeries and hospital stays. However, Dan did not let this inhibit his art career.
The 90’s seemed to be Dan’s most successful decade yet as he won the McKnight Fellowship in 1990 and 1996 and the Bush Fellowship in 1994. He had shows in the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, New York, Rochester MN, Springfield OH, and various college exhibits. His work was displayed frequently at local galleries such as Speedboat, Forum, Thomson, Montgomery Glasoe, and Gus Lucky, sometimes participating with music performances as well. Daniel also established himself on the burgeoning noise scene as “Poet 1955”. A review of Daniel’s art was published in the July,1995 issue of Art in America, the very magazine that had guided his migration to Minneapolis years ago.
By the end of one millennium and beginning of another, Dan had experienced the harshness of the changing economic climate affecting the art world. He began to heavily reflect on art and its meaning, to not just him but to society and the human condition. He continued to wrestle with the notion of the art industry, how it had changed along with the economy and the introduction of such technology as the Internet. These themes are reflected in the inception of his own website: www.madebyhuman.com
In 2006 Daniel received the honor of participating in the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. At this time, Sharon and he were anticipating an “empty nest” parenting stage soon where local music, vinyl collecting and art would play a huge role in their daily life.
On September 27, 2007, Daniel was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. As he faced his own mortality, Daniel was motivated towards reflection. His main objective was to live life as strong and dynamic as he could for as long as he could with his art, music and family. In April 2011, Dan had the happy opportunity to walk his daughter Kai down the aisle. He also had various opportunities throughout 2011 to assist his son Kab with various films. Together they planned on filming a bio of Dan and his lifelong work. It was during this period that Dan also enjoyed fostering a strong relationship with his new son-in-law and his future daughter-in-law.
Dan began to set things in order, but never set aside his art. He worked creatively in some way everyday. He stockpiled supplies, ready to use the moment he felt up to creating art. He had as many ideas as always. Dan became more interested in current events and politics as they would both affect the world left to his children. These elements were a part of his thought process and were evident through his work and the last conversations he had between friends and family.
After only three weeks of hospice care at home, Daniel Kaniess passed away on April 14, 2012 surrounded by his family. He leaves to us a legacy of visual art, music, poetry, thoughts, feelings, and a legacy of smiles and rage.