As Dani says herself, you might expect artwork from a native North Carolina girl to be quite “safe” and “homely”, but don’t be fooled. Dani’s illustrations and paintings are anything but, and since she moved to London, they have become even more open and experimental, all boundaries crossed. If you’re easily offended, turn back now. There’s a few safe entries back that way.
If you’re curious about what inspires this Central Saint Martin’s graduate to expose her inner fears and thoughts in such a way that may shock her neighbours back home, read on. She’s taken some time to tell us about why her work is so sexually blunt, how London gives her creative freedom and her plan to move to Oslo later this summer.
LLO: When did you first become interested in illustration and how has your work evolved while you worked toward your BA at Central Saint Martins?
DD: I have always been interested in the arts from what I can remember and especially illustration because it requires so much attention to detail and patience. I wanted to be a medical illustrator at first, I am fascinated with medicine and anatomy and still hope one day I can do something within the medical stratosphere. My time at CSM has definitely given me more self-discipline in regards to my working habits. It has taught me to explore my ideas more thoroughly and to formulate clear, well-executed pieces. I have found a love for painting with oils as well, which is something I was never really that interested in before. My work hasn’t really changed much overall, I have just expanded it into a few more mediums.
LLO: Has coming from the sticks in North Carolina to big city life in London changed the way you approach your art at all?
DD: Art in North Carolina is quite, “homely” and “safe”, well most of it. People seem scared to offend anyone with their work. Coming to London, you see that that safeness doesn’t exist here and you are free to explore and create whatever you like with out fear of community persecution or exclusion. My work is a lot more free now that I’m here, and a lot more chaotic.
LLO: Much of your work is very sexual in nature, very focused on the female body flaws and all. Can you talk a bit about the messages in these images?
DD: We’re our most vulnerable when we’re naked. Being nude changes the way people behave. Some embrace it, some can’t stand it. All of our flaws are visible and accessible to every human eye and every particle floating in the air. Being nude bonds us with our surroundings. When I draw a figure, I see it in my minds eye in total perfection, nude and flawless. But when it comes down onto paper, it becomes all of my insecurities and flaws, all of my pain and resentment for myself. The sexual outlet is the trusting, giving, ‘exposed’ and freed self and something I want to give to my viewers, the ability to bear the scars of their life with out fear. We women hold a lot inside of us, and mask our perceived flaws in many different ways it seems. I want to make work that liberates the body of unnecessary social constraints by bluntly stating their existence and trying to deconstruct the need for us to hide from them.
LLO: It’s also very detailed and a lot of it is quite surreal. You’ve got a great imagination. Tell us a bit about what inspires your work?
DD: My work is usually inspired by events in my life, past and present, the quantum world, or perhaps something that really catches my eye in the media. I go through different phases of what elements I like to use in my work, like certain patterns or styles. My world on a day-to-day basis is quite surreal to be honest, weird things always happen to me, or things I simply cannot understand. I also tend to make up stories in my head about certain people I am surrounded by, or on occasion when I’m walking around I hear harmonies of sounds I suddenly feel like I’m in a musical and that leads to more ideas and the work takes off from there. I also spent a lot of time in hospitals when I was growing up, surrounded by a lot of unique characters. Their world is sometimes completely different from ours and very bizarre at times, these experiences inspired a lot of my work to this day.
LLO: You also do some painting, animation and graphic design. Do you find that changing mediums alters your subjects and style or do you take a similar approach despite the obvious differences?
DD: I definitely take a similar approach when painting, not so much when it comes to graphic design. Graphic design is a sort of ‘sanitary’ medium for me where I like to make more minimalist work, while utilizing a broader range of colours. Painting is just a mess, a mash of liquid pixels and I tend to want to make more abstract works when painting, however I always seem to be lured back to creating an intricate painting inclusive of the human form.
LLO: Which piece of work are you most proud of and why?
DD: I can’t say that I’m particularly proud of any single work I’ve made, I feel satisfied when they are completed, but usually not jumping to show them off. I have a very bad habit of destroying my work long before anyone ever sees it. I am truly resentful of my illustrations and paintings at times and have set alight many of them in the past, tossed them out the window of my car onto the motorway or simply flushed them down the toilet.
LLO: What’s the next step for you in terms of career and how you see yourself moving forward in the next few years? Do you plan to stay in London?
DD: I’m not exactly sure what’s next. I would like to display my work in galleries all over the world, I would like someone to collect my work, I would like to sell my work, but then again what artist doesn’t! I will probably end up working more on the graphic design side of things or doing freelance jobs or perhaps working in a design firm if all else fails while still doing art in my spare time. I’m getting married in August to a one Jan Schjetne, fashion photographer extraordinaire, and will be moving to Oslo, Norway in July to settle amongst the Scandinavians. I am really excited about this and hope to create loads of new work and add some new mediums to my current work.
LLO: Do you have a favourite London gallery or place to see other artists at work?
DD: I get really inspired at the National Portrait gallery, the Barbican and the Haunch of Venison. I love the name “Haunch of Vension” and that’s what first led me to this gallery. It’s an erie sounding name to me and this promises many good things contained within. I also like the White Cube Gallery near Old Street, and the Riflemaker Gallery they always have something good on.
LLO: What other London-based artists do you admire?
DD: I like a lot of the YBA’s, and I love the large fun works of Anish Kapoor.
LLO: Where can we see some more of your work?
DD: I have a website, cargocollective.com/EHFO, I update it fairly regularly. You can also drop me an email on there if you have any questions, or thoughts you want to share: firstname.lastname@example.org.