artist interview #4 : danielle orchard

Danielle Orchard is a figurative artist from the United States. If you're familiar with her work, you'll know it's ultimately the embodiment of art history synthesised with modernism. Now combine that with her fascination with the female body and you get a Danielle Orchard masterpiece (to put it in simplest terms). And personally, I see a trace of Picasso embedded within her work. Don't you? 

It's evident that intimacy is iterated within her work. Orchard constantly explores the personalities behind her figures and the relationships they share with one another, and I absolutely love that. 

She is currently paving the way for herself in the art world with the simple formula of hard work and mastering the art of just being a good person in such a tough industry. Social media led me to find Danielle and I knew I had to have her on my blog as soon as I started this feature. It was my pleasure to interview such a talent, and I'm so excited to finally share this special piece.  

Breakfast by Danielle Orchard

How did you get into painting? Did you always know you wanted to become an artist?

Yes, I think I always knew! I was good at it, and talent garners attention, which for a child can be an incredible reinforcement. I drew all the time. I didn't start using oil paint until college, where there was what felt like a very dramatic audition process to be accepted to the BFA Painting program. I responded well to that competitive environment and the intensity of the program and I immediately loved the physical properties of oil paint. The smell, in particular.  

Who are the artists that inspire you?

Right away, it was the Dutch Masters, Pablo Picasso, Max Beckmann, Ludwig Kirchner, and David Park (all men, of course). In time, I learned about Pierre Bonnard, Amy Sillman, Henri Matisse, Milton Avery, Giorgio Morandi, Joan Brown, Georgia O'Keefe, Jacob Lawrence, Marsden Hartley, Joan Mitchell, Marlene Dumas, Chantal Joffe, and Romare Bearden. I'm inspired now by almost any kind of painting or sculpture. I would say that I am drawn most consistently and potently to figurative painting that pulls from Modernism. 

Girl with book by Daniella Orchard

How would you describe your style?

It is definitely an amalgam of various influences that has only recently gained the distance necessary to feel like its own entity. To me, it looks like assembled planes of color, like Analytical Cubism, if Analytical Cubism were mainly concerned with the psychological experience of having a female body. 

What questions/ideas/themes occur and reoccur in your work?

I'm certainly interested in the intersection of shame, humor, and sexuality. Most of the spaces I suggest are domestic or manicured natural spaces, like parks and backyards. I hope to represent a coiled energy that contradicts the languid poses taken by my figures. I read this great thing that Philip Guston said or maybe wrote about the decision to shift from abstraction to figuration–at some point, he couldn't stomach the sense that every night he was leaving behind in the studio a bunch of inert shapes, and wanted instead to leave behind people who would continue to live and grow and keep each other company in his absence. That is of course an impoverished view of abstraction, but I love the idea of imagining a cast of recurring actors that might spring from you, but continue to develop in the physical world. 

What an interesting approach. I love that!

What is your creative process like? Is there a certain routine you follow to get the creative juices flowing and stay inspired? 

I'm extremely unmethodical, which poses problems. My paints and brushes, for instance, are horribly abused. I do work compulsively, and I've never had an issue with finding subject matter or the will to work. That's not always a good thing, because distance and a measured approach can be imperative to making good things. That, sadly, just isn't who I am, and I prefer to edit and reengineer failed paintings, rather than step back and plan predictably successful ones. I really just can't imagine a painting until I'm painting it. 

As an artist, how do you respond to the debate on traditional art mediums becoming obsolete in the digital age?

I think art history is full of conversations that sprang from dramatic shifts in politics or industry, or were the product of insular conflicts over the best or purist approach to art making. With the passing of time, those conversations might not prove to be perennial or essential to human experience, but they are still fascinating as historical testaments to what artists were grappling with during a given epoch. I think the question of the role of traditional media in the digital age might end up as one of those historical testaments. 

I actually stumbled upon your work on Instagram. Living in the era of technology and social media, which has revolutionized the art industry, especially for artists trying to get recognized. How do you advise up-and-coming artists to make the most out of today’s platforms?

Instagram has been enormously helpful for me! "Try to Smoke It", a group show I was in this spring, was curated by Holly Coulis, who found my work online. I've connected with various artists that way, yourself included. There used to be enormous social pressure to attend every opening, to pitch oneself to prominent artists and curators. That unsustainable humiliation has been alleviated by the immediacy and democracy of online platforms. I think it's a wonderful tool that should be taken seriously. I don't really have any helpful advice–just make lots of work and post the best stuff! 

What goals are you working on achieving through your work? Where do you want your art to take you? In 10 years for example?

One thing you begin to realize is that the ideas we inherit about the best trajectory for an artist are really discouraging myths designed to mask the privileges that landed most artists their place in history. Wealthy, white, and male were the salient characteristics of successful artists, not hard working or uncompromising, although those qualities were often present, as well. The only goals I set for myself are to work as much as possible, apply to everything, support other artists, and just generally try to be a good person. 

What is one of your proudest accomplishments, career-wise?

I think being chosen for the Dedalus Foundation MFA Fellowship is absolutely the craziest thing that's ever happened to me, career-wise. I was elated. I screamed with joy. I didn't think people did that in real life. It felt like winning the lottery, but also that I'd somehow earned the recognition, a contradiction that sums up what it feels like to be an artist–"I can't believe they're actually paying attention to me...but it's about damned time." It's a cycle of disappointment and narcissism, and I try not to get too caught up in it. 

If you had to pick 3 artists (dead or alive) to invite for a dinner, who would you choose?

What a good question! I would definitely want 3 heavy drinkers, and I would want them to have an interest in costumes. Maybe Picasso, Albers, O'Keefe? I don't know if any of those artists drank, but they did like costumes. I don't know, that's so hard to answer! 

If you could own one work of art what would it be?

I would say Gian Lorenzo Bernini's "Rape of Persephone", but I'd have to keep it in my yard, which would never work. I guess I'd take Rogier van der Weyden's "Descent from the Cross". 

How can one acquire your work?

Through me personally on my website.


Joy of Life by Danielle Orchard

Show this incredible artist some support, visit her website here and to stay up to date with her work, follow her instagram page.

What did you think of the interview? Are there any more questions you'd like to ask?

Comment your thoughts!

All Images courtesy of Danielle Orchard.