At the Basement Gallery, street and lowbrow art are king

Daniel Yanez : Photo by Danny Fulgencio
Daniel Yanez : Photo by Danny Fulgencio

After Daniel Yanez graduated from Sunset High School 10 years ago, he enrolled in Mountain View College.

His first time ever stepping into an art gallery was at the community college’s Kiva Gallery, and it changed his life.

“I was oblivious to the art world that’s out here,” he says.

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Yanez, 28, always had been good at drawing, and when it was time to choose a profession, making art was the only thing he wanted to do.

“I’ve had a lot of rejection. It’s my way of creating my own world. It’s a space I can call my own, and I don’t have to worry about anyone else.”

“The first six or seven years was heartache, heartbreak and learning the art world,” he says. “I was finding myself as an artist.”

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Yanez, who is known as Artist DIY, eventually started selling some paintings and showing in galleries, and he received a few commissions. The father of six, married to his high school sweetheart, Cynthia, saved up enough money from working as an artist to start the Basement Gallery two years ago.

The Basement now hosts art shows that give other working artists a hand up, Yanez says.

“I’ve had a lot of rejection,” he says. “It’s my way of creating my own world. It’s a space I can call my own, and I don’t have to worry about anyone else.”

Although he does. Yanez rents small studios to art students and constantly advocates for local artists he believes in.

Edmund Ervin, an art student at El Centro, says he’s still trying to figure out whether he wants to paint or sculpt, and his inexpensive studio space allows him to experiment and collaborate with other artists. He recently curated a show at the Basement, which in this do-it-yourself space, means everything from painting the walls to hanging art to marketing and serving drinks.

“It gives me experience putting on events,” Ervin says.

Artists associated with the gallery also are working on a mural project to improve the neighborhood.

They raised $1,000 for their first mural, on the wall of an old gas station across the street from the gallery. The group is planning to do more murals throughout Oak Cliff as they find the money and time, Yanez says.

The gallery, at 111 S. Beckley, is in the basement of the Oak Cliff Masonic Lodge, built in 1920. The building’s owner, Chris Anderson, has been supportive of the outsider gallery since its inception, Yanez says.

“This place wouldn’t be possible without him,” he says.

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Running a gallery is a totally different experience from working as an artist, Yanez says. He’s had to learn the business of the art world. He has to keep on top of tasks like paying bills and, say, calling about a broken air conditioner. And he balances all that with his duties as the father of a large family. It’s like having three jobs, he says. But it’s worth it as long as he can keep making art for a living, he says.

Part of his mission is to bridge the gap between lowbrow and fine art.

“This is art,” he says. “You don’t have to go out and tag up walls. You don’t have to do that anymore. There’s a place where you can show your art.”

The Basement Gallery’s
annual frozen-treat themed art show, Ice Cream Paint Job, opens at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 26.

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