In his own words, Danny Scheible tiptoes the line between poverty and integrity.
The Sacramento artist created the art form "tapigami," which began essentially as origami with tape. He since has branded Tapigami as his business.
"As an artist, everything I create has social relevance and meaning and has a place," he said. "So I have to make sure that in trying to make a living off my work, it doesn't lose its cultural relevance, meaning and context in the process of selling it."
He said he tries to make sure that he doesn't create something for the sake of making money off it. He questions his work every day every day for seven years, which is how long Scheible has been an artist by profession.
"When I found out you could do this for a living, it was pretty obvious that that's what I want and should be doing," he said. "There was absolutely no questioning or second-guessing or worrying or supposing that I should do anything else."
Scheible creates art using versatile materials that could be found anywhere, primarily various kinds of tape (i.e. masking, duct). He said everything he makes is part of one ever-expanding sculpture, which has components such as "TapeCity," the "Tree of Knowledge" (interchangeably "The Tree of Life"), "Leviathan" and tape creatures and flowers.
"A lot of the components are modular," said Scheible's business partner, Tre Borden. "For example, the creatures go in and out of the city."
For each event where he is invited to display his work, his exhibit looks different.
Scheible now has an installation at the California Museum, where he showcases "TapeCity," the "Tree of Knowledge," parts of "Leviathan" and other features of his work. This exhibition is set to run through Oct. 21.
"Since Danny's never had an exhibit in a museum before, we were thrilled to offer him an opportunity," said Brenna Hamilton, California Museum's communications director.
"We've always been a showcase for the California Dream, and we'd also like to focus on people with stories you don't see anywhere else."
Because of the size of his work, it arrived at the museum in pieces. Even the tree was split into sections, which he said was necessary for mobility. Other structures were packed into boxes organized by shape and size.
Scheible has to reconstruct his work at each installation, often with the help of his friends and volunteers. This installation was no different. He set up from scratch, fitting tape buildings together on a plastic sheet. Scales of "Leviathan," made from recycled fabric and wire hangers, were attached together to decorate the ceiling. The tree had to be put together, and creatures were placed throughout the gallery.
"The art's designed to be able to be taken apart and put back together and taken apart and reused and remade," he said. "It's actually part of the design to force itself to be remade all the time so you don't get stuck with the same idea of yourself."
So each finished exhibit is unique: Buildings are placed in different spots, the scales don't create "Leviathan" but a patterned color ambiance instead, and the tree includes a new branch that sticks out.
"Every time I set it up, it's kind of different," said Scheible. "It depends on the time and the space requirements. Each time, it has new elements built into it."
For this exhibition, the new element is terrain. Scheible built stands of different heights to hold up the plastic sheet that serves as the ground of the city.
"As fun as it is to do something new, it can be a little nerve-wracking," he said. "You always want to push the envelope, but you always rely on a lot of your skills that were built up. If I had tried to put on this show with all these elements just out of the blue I wouldn't be able to do it."
Constantly making his art, Scheible had reached the 10,000-hour threshold years ago. And it shows.
While he was casually chatting, Scheible's hands deftly ripped off a length of masking tape and rolled it into a narrow tube. As he finished his thought, his fingers crafted the tube into a small rectangular building. It took him about 10 seconds.
"If I'm just making the boxes, I don't pay attention at all," he said. "I can do it blindfolded behind my back." He said a flower petal takes him about six seconds to make, and he now needs less than a minute to sew fabric onto a wire hanger by using a sewing machine.
"I make so much volume that I make things in batches," he said.
Like a one-man assembly line, Scheible would make creatures for a few days out of excess material and then move onto another component.
While his hands are the machinery that churn out the specific components, Scheible spends a lot of time planning the overall impact and idea of his work.
"When you're making art that's conscious of itself, you're not just doing whatever you want," he said. "It's like, 'Oh, I want to make this thing and have it have this impact, so I have to make all these boxes, or I have to make all these wire hangers with fabric.' " To this purpose, he is self-disciplined to work a set number of hours a day, averaging eight a regular workday.
"It's a job as much as anyone else's job is," he said. "Waking up and making allows me to understand and interpret my feelings and the world I'm in and what I need to do with my life. I can focus on myself through my process of interacting with the world."
Scheible's art is not just about himself he consciously includes his audience in his work, in particular the "TapeCity" aspect.
"He considers 'TapeCity' to be an expanding social sculpture," said Borden, who has known Scheible since second grade. "He incorporates pieces of tape sculpture that other people made."
Scheible enjoys the social and public aspect of his work, even offering workshops during the California Museum installation. There is also a room next to the gallery with instructions and tape to allow people to try out his craft. He said it's why he chose to use such commonplace material.
"If you come to the show and you're inspired, and you want to make it, you know you can go into your junk drawer or your closet," he said. "Art is all around you, and there's no limitation.
"It's very freeing and opening to realizing that all the material here has been around you your whole life."
CALIFORNIA CREATES: TAPIGAMI
Where: The California Museum, 1020 O St., Sacramento
When: Through Oct. 21, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Mondays.
Cost: $8.50 adults, $7 college students and seniors, $6 youths ages 6-17, free kids 5 and under.
Information: (916) 653-7524, californiamuseum.org