Dan Townsend

Dan Townsend“As a young boy growing up in the Florida Keys and the Everglades, I watched my grandmother draw, paint, sew and crochet. I listened to my grandfather tell stories. Today, I make things and tell stories about them.

“Working almost exclusively in shell, I replicate designs found at many American Indian sites from the Mississippian period (1000 to 1600 A.D.), including sites at Key Marco in South Florida, Kaufman Island in Central Florida, the Lake Jackson Indian Mounds in North Florida and Cedar Key along Florida’s west coast.

“Decorated and undecorated shells have been found at prehistoric sites all over North America. Shells were trade goods, as well as items to be used more directly. And they were a valued art medium for recording the people’s history and symbolizing their belief system. The richness of the depictions of wildlife and other living things in their art points to a basic understanding that everything has life in it.

“In addition to working traditional iconography into my art, I also create original designs. I interpret the natural beauty of Florida and its inhabitants: the herons, sea turtles, dolphins, dragonflies, butterflies and seahorses. The more I study and practice this kind of art, the more I understand it and the more adept I feel at interpretation. After working with them a long time, you begin to understand that the symbols are really a written language, a medicine language, the breath of the Creator.”

— Dan Townsend

Dan Townsend is based in Tallahassee, Florida. His work is in collections throughout the world. Pieces he has created are in use by a number of tribal communities as instruments in ceremonial teachings. Townsend was among a select number of artists invited to display their work at the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. He is a frequent artist in residence at Moundville Archaeological Park.