Gallery 360 is proud to host the illustrative artwork of Dena Ann Adams, currently on view through February 26th.
360: According to your website (Dena-ann-adams.com), you are an avid art journaler. What led you to develop this practice? Do your larger paintings and interactive pieces evolve from journaling or vice-versa?
DAA: Using a sketchbook as a creative problem solving catch-all was one of the better habits that I was encouraged into in school. I try to be consistent about this, with varying degrees of consistency, but that’s fairly normal, I think. The way that my work evolves from this process is non-linear at times: the pages are rarely “studies” in a traditional way that get translated directly to another format. However, they definitely function as a kind of world-building for want of a better word. Layering, both visually, and conceptually, is critical to my work, and finds a natural home in the cut and paste, glue and reconfigure world of my journal.
360: Art journaling is also something you offer classes in, what do you find most rewarding about teaching? Does the experience of sharing your skills also contribute to your work?
360: You use a lot of different materials in your work, what are some of your favorites? What processes do you layer together to create these multi-media pieces?
DAA: I love so many different materials. So many times content has followed nothing but pure material fiddling, for me. The dryness of a plaster or plaster like surface is particularly appealing to me lately. Transparent media like watercolor, especially in acrylic versions that don’t reactivate with water are another latest inquiry. Found objects or cheaply obtained forms, recycled forms – these are things I use as inspiration as well as structure, at times.
360: Many of your pieces are interactive, what would you most like the viewer to take away from the experience of participating in the movement of these works?
DAA: I’m shamelessly angling for smiles and laughs. Hopefully, the engagement doesn’t end at the punchline, but if it does, I’ll defend that. These are toys. They’re toys for adults in a really broken off-kilter world. If twenty seconds pulling on a string can make someone’s emotions lift or cause them to laugh knowingly for twenty seconds, I think that’s a pretty fantastic thing. I’m willing to label that moment magic, going way out on a limb.
360: Much of your imagery has a dream-like quality to it, where do you draw inspiration from in developing your narrative layers?
DAA: Surprisingly, I am one of those people who remembers a dream maybe once or twice a year. The lyrical weirdness of my work is due to a few factors: one is a voracious art historical eye that has latched onto Medieval and folk and craft traditions and lovingly let go of so much Minimalism and sophisticated Abstraction over the last couple of years. I also credit the fact that my inclination is toward collage and remix when I’m just kicking ideas around. I collage and remix things that I scrawl and splatter, and the contradictory information on the page leads to open-ended and opaque places that planning generally will not. When in doubt, juxtapose two things that make no sense, and force a connection, and the connection becomes far more interesting.
360: Is your artwork somewhat autobiographical? Can you share more about the storytelling evident in your work?
DAA: I strive to be self-implicating, self-satirical, and self-non-serious as much as possible, while still doing a kind of personal storytelling that has some cathartic and expressionistic benefit. I’m likely to represent myself as both predator and prey in the same work, both perpetrator and hapless victim, both accident about to happen and the fact that schadenfreude is a real thing.
NB: all of this is evident after the work is completed, or late into its completion. I never sit down with a “this will be about this” kind of mindset or an “I am this character” idea.
There’s a going theory that the subconscious mind doesn’t actually exist, and yet, I’m fairly sure that’s the level on which my stories develop to me, as the reader of them, let alone their author. The growing possibility that they arise purely from a misinformed popular piece of jargon entertains me immensely. Stories, wherever they are from, are like a reflex, you’ll find them where they are needed and you’ll find them where they’re not needed alike.
360: You make small sculptural works as well, with surfaces painted in great detail. Do you prefer to work in two or three dimensions? Can you share more about the process of creating your ‘House of’ series?
DAA: 2-D and 3-D preference changes over time and strikes at different times, and also has its own give-and-take. The entire “House Of” series was actually an altered but 3 dimensional realization of a drawing I made a couple of years ago – a girl with a house for a body. The idea just percolated and fulfilled itself in a new iterative way, that I like quite a bit more.
360: You have also developed a line of print-on-demand products based on your illustrative works. How long has it taken you to create this line of work? What kind of challenges did you encounter in translating your work to these surfaces?
DAA: This kind of commercial work is an ongoing challenge I set out for my own development, and where a lot of my learning curve has been for a while. I have no formal background when it comes to digital media, and I’ve made a lot of strides in terms of comfort level, formatting, and tools necessary to doing clean and relevant work of this nature. It’s something I look forward to doing more of and with even more agility. I’m especially excited by hybrid uses of the digital suite and my work on paper – working around some of my digital knowledge gaps has actually given my work a hand-driven and unique quality that I often return to as I learn best practices.
360: What is unique and unites the body of work you currently have on display at Gallery 360?
DAA: All of these works are about interpersonal relationships, foibles, feelings bestowed and owed, missed opportunities, liberties taken – the messy stuff of the human insides. I hope it resonates, and I hope that some of that, at least, is funny, moving, or fun.
360: What advice would you give to an emerging artist trying to make it in the field today?
DAA: Don’t stop. This may take a while. Figure out how to make that a tolerable reality.
Test everything, rather than not making anything. If you think you MIGHT want to make it, make it.
Expect to end up somewhere you didn’t intend, and accept suitable habitats when you luck out with one.
Hanging out temporarily in a place is educational and sometimes long term beneficial.
You will meet some people who are going to pester you about signature style. Ignore them. Make everything you want to make, curate into collections like you are someone else curating them, and see what works.
Be curious, flexible, agile, willing to try just about anything, but have boundaries. Ethics exist everywhere and you will find yours tested.
You aren’t the first person to have that idea, sorry to break it to you. IP lawsuits are interesting reading, but that’s about it. Just keep on keeping on.
Social media and online outlets are useful, but have their own properties and their own limitations. Learn and adhere to offline etiquette and expectations. Ignore either world to your detriment.
Be generous with your respect to other makers, whatever they’re making, whatever their gig. You will regret every time you were dismissive about someone else’s art, so don’t create regrets now.