Visionary Veteran An Artist At Heart
Art and artillery usually don’t go together. A man of many talents, Dan Brown, of Dix Hills, is not only a World War II veteran; he is also an internationally acclaimed artist.
Since the late ’40s, Brown has been creating pastel paintings, and then took on the challenge of sculpture-making in 1965. He currently has a solo exhibit titled “Around the World in 90 Years,” featuring landscapes, seascapes, portraits and sculptures, at the Huntington Arts Council’s Main Street Petite Gallery.
As World War II intensified, Brown went into the Navy as a radioman. Shortly after entering, he was sent to a series of schools for officer training. It was there that he learned to read, write, and speak Japanese fluently for the purpose of interrogating prisoners and deciphering documents.
“I was very lucky. I was supposed to go with the invasion of the homeland. But, then Truman dropped the bomb. The war ended in 1945, but I was still in the school. And I continued with the school until June of ‘46. By that time, the war was over, and they retired us and sent us home,” Brown said.
Brown’s adjustment was not difficult once he returned to the States. The GI Bill enabled him to go to New York University and, eventually, Harvard Business School. It was during this time that he discovered a newfound love of art.
“I first started in college. I had an operation, and there were complications. I was hemorrhaging. My cousin brought me pastels to cheer me up,” Brown said.
Once he left the hospital, Brown continued creating pastel pieces of scenery and of people with “interesting faces.” As the ’60s came around, he experimented with sculpting people in motion and found a passion for that as well.
“I started getting serious training in the late ’60s – mostly at the Art League [of Long Island]. There were wonderful teachers… I work in pastels, oil painting, watercolor, mixed media – anything that comes to hand that’s new and a challenge… I’ve sold in catalogues throughout the world,” Brown said.
An avid traveler, Brown noted that his adventures in numerous countries inspire his art pieces. He and his wife have been world travelers since the late 1960s.
“We went to the popular places in America and Europe, but the trips we enjoyed most were in the Third World countries. Sometimes we spent time in people’s homes. We went to Japan twice, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Australia, [and] New Zealand,” Brown said.
Not shy about his international experiences, Brown described staying in areas with headhunters and cannibals, active volcanoes, and severely polluted waterways. A true adventurer, Brown has found all of his travels fascinating and has friends from around the globe.
“When we went to Japan, we went with a group called The Friendship Force. It’s a group formed during the administration of Jimmy Carter to promote peace throughout the world by making friends. The theory is that you spent a week in the home of someone in a foreign country. You meet the family, you learn their customs, you eat their food, they show you around,” Brown said. “And then, in turn, they come and visit your house. It’s a wonderful, wonderful experience, and we learned a lot.”
After years of being an artist, Brown has some words of wisdom for those who wish to create pieces of their own.
“If you have lots and lots of patience, sculpture is very, very fulfilling. Painting is a lot faster, and it’s fun. Paint of your own first, and then, as soon as you can, go to a good school, like the Art League of Long Island. And then you really learn,” he said.
Brown’s solo exhibit is on display until Sept. 30. The Main Street Petite Gallery is located at 213 Main St. in Huntington. For more information, visit www.huntingtonarts.org or call 631-271-8423.