Artist of the Week: Dani Orchard

Dani Orchard grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She received a BFA in Painting from Indiana University in 2009, and studied abroad in Florence, Italy. She received an MFA in Painting from Hunter College in 2013. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? After finishing my MFA at Hunter College this past May, I was awarded a generous  grant and a year-long residency through The Dedalus Foundation. I have access to a beautiful studio at Industry City in Sunset Park, Brooklyn until next July. I’m hoping to travel to Istanbul next spring, to spend a month or so painting and exploring. I currently have work in a group show in New York at Galerie Protege, with three great artists.

What are you currently watching on Netflix/what’s on your Netflix queue? I tend to binge-watch TV shows on Netflix and then lament doing so because I have nothing left to watch.

What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other artists are struggling with these days and -how do you see it developing? I was truly lucky to land this studio at Industry City right out of graduate school, but I’m of course aware of the enormous financial difficulties facing artists living in New York City. Studio rent is prohibitively expensive. I know of people moving to nearby cities like Beacon to find large and affordable studios, which to me sounds great, but surely presents a host of new problems. I can’t help feeling that the situation here is dismal, but I try to keep in mind that communities emerge from shared misery.

If you had one wish what would it be? I have a recurring daydream that involves being put in a situation that would require tremendous bravery on my part. It takes place in beautiful but inhospitable natural surroundings, and results in a great spiritual revelation. Usually, I’m saving the life of my sister’s Basset Hound, Bernie, in the frigid tundra after a fiery plane crash. For some reason, afterward someone awards me with millions of dollars. Basically I want to win the lottery, but somehow feel that I deserve it.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I’m fairly traditional in terms of materials. I try to use only nice oil paints and brushes. My medium is linseed or poppy oil, Gamsol and cold wax medium. I do experiment with supports, using various gessoes and linen weaves to arrive at new textures. My work is rooted in drawing. I use rudimentary printmaking processes and hardly plan anything. I draw all the time, and run a weekend figure drawing session at Hunter College. I work very quickly. I’m still not sure how to reconcile my love of fast gestural abstraction with my need to preciously dissect and design a canvas. Maybe that irreconcilability is what’s interesting about my work.

What artists are you interested in right now? I love Nicole Eisenman for her humor and amazing range, and for the playful way she borrows from art history. Recently I’ve been looking at a lot of sculptors, namely Huma Bhabha and Rachel Harrison. I really want to try some three dimensional work. Picasso’s ceramics are so charming and unrehearsed. He seemed to follow any impulse and allowed the shape of the vessel to dictate a composition. I’d like a new challenge, a new constraint. My paintings are largely unplanned and are informed by material. Often a response to an accidental surface texture will motivate an entire painting. I’m interested in trying to incorporate new media that could encourage unexpected responses.

How has your work developed within the past year? The figure has always been present in my work, but before my thesis semester, it wasn’t clear what the figures were doing or why they inhabited a space together. From January to May, I took up the theme of mother and child. I come from a large family and this domestic relationship was both dear to me and related to paintings from art history that I hoped to bring into the present. By introducing a clear relationship between the figures, I could explore formal painting ideas while remaining anchored and focused. I discovered that my interest in frailty and intimacy as well as painting history could all be evoked by a single symbol. Instead of being stifling, this theme proved very fruitful. I also allowed the importance of drawing to be more evident in the work, allowing areas of blank canvas and charcoal to show through.

What’s your favorite thing about your city? The Met. And the food here. You can eat well very cheaply.  I also really love driving and biking over bridges. I’m terrible at math and it fascinates me that humans can conceive and execute such enormous and structurally sound things.

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? The Magritte show at MOMA. I couldn’t believe how clear and confident they seem, and so quirky. There are a few larger works, but I left feeling amazed by the appeal of grouping such small, intimate paintings. I went with a couple of friends and we picked out different paintings that we want to “cover”. I feel the most inspired by work when I’m frantic to emulate it.

What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? I try not to keep snacks around when I’m working because I turn gluttonous and eat absentmindedly. I do use food as an incentive to work. I’ll award myself with tacos if I finish stretching canvases.