Safari in Malibu

Trotta-Bono Contemporary
Jun 29, 2018 6:47AM

‘Safari’ evokes images of exotic wildlife. We conjure up ideas of an expedition – seeking out animals in their natural habitat. Visions of acacia trees, lions and giraffes appear. Khakis, Land Rovers and the untamed bush further the image. But what else can the word reveal? When reducing ‘safari’ to its essence we reveal a basic idea. Safari is an exploration, a journey rooted in curiosity.

A recent collaboration broadened this concept. I was invited to curate an art exhibition at Malibu City Hall – “Safari with Dan Eldon”. When entering through the glass doors of an otherwise unassuming structure we are greeted by a selection of immensely compelling work. It is a feast for the eyes, heart and soul.

Dan Eldon filled journals with vibrant collages of his adventures and thoughts. During his short life, Eldon created 17 journals in total. Inspired by his friendship with Peter Beard, and later his admiration for Basquiat and Rauschenberg, these journals capture a unique individual living fiercely amidst starkly contrasting cultures.

British-American by birth, African by geography, Eldon was a citizen of the world by choice. His friends and acquaintances flowed effortlessly within ivy league classrooms and tribal villages. Eldon embraced everyone and encouraged everything. As seen through the artist’s creative legacy, his work reveals a time growing up in Africa woven seamlessly with cross-cultural influences. Eldon’s travels introduce worldly elements of urban landscapes, pop culture, society and politics. In the pages that fill his overflowing journals, the artist unleashes imagistic insight into his extraordinary perspective on the world. They include snapshots of his life in Kenya, explosive images taken in war-torn Somalia and detailed drawings of life around him. Eldon’s collages blend photographic reality with transient ephemera of the everyday.

Each artwork is dense with imagery and graphics, internal dialogue and poetry. I am deeply drawn to the questions posed and thoughts shared. These musings scratch at the core of life – what it is all about and how we choose to live it. Eldon was a seeker. Just as he went on safari for travel and adventure he clearly went on safari for purpose and meaning. He sought connection, relationships, love, youth, wisdom… Eldon embraced this philosophy so intimately that he coined the phrase “Safari as way of life”.

The world became Eldon’s canvas to explore and question with an open heart. It is evident that as Eldon sought connection he also retreated inwardly finding solace in his journals. With backpack in tow, his journals were ever in reach and his studio was a moment rather than a place. Much like Warhol, we see images repeated over and over, created and recreated. It seems this seriality within his creative reflection brought order to a chaotic world. This translated outwardly as his unique philosophy deconstructed conflict and resistance to reveal an underlying commonality – love.

Eldon’s story as photojournalist and activist, amidst war and famine, has inspired countless people since his untimely death in Somalia in 1993. This tragedy made headlines around the world. Eldon was 22 years old and Reuters youngest photojournalist.

In 1998 Dan’s mother Kathy Eldon and sister, companion traveller Amy Eldon Turteltaub founded Creative Visions, a publicly supported 501 (c) 3 organization aimed at guiding others like Dan to use media and the arts to create meaningful change in the world around them. Over the past ten years, Creative Visions has moved from Kathy’s kitchen table to its headquarters at the Dan Eldon Center for Creative Activism in Malibu, CA. The organization has incubated over 360 creative activist projects in more than 35 countries.

Dan Eldon’s legacy lives on and his art now graces prestigious collections, including those of Diana Rockefeller, Bruce Weber, Madonna, Julia Roberts, Christiane Amanpour and Robert Redford, among many others.

–James Trotta-Bono

“To explore the unknown and the familiar, distant and near, and to record in detail with the eyes of a child, any beauty (of the flesh or otherwise) horror, irony, traces of utopia or hell…” (Dan Eldon)

NYC African Self Portrait | 53" x 34" | edition of 10

Kizungu Zungu | 40" x 30" | edition of 25

Trotta-Bono Contemporary