Interview by Catherine Haggarty, East Coast Contributor
Danielle Orchard lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She is represented by Jack Hanley Gallery in New York City.
Catherine Haggarty (CH): In your painting Rejection Season, you paint a glimpse into a level of exhaustion shared by most New York City artists—can you explain your desire to tell this story and how you feel in general about rejection?
Danielle Orchard (DO): The idea for those paintings grew from a longstanding interest in depicting different forms of shared experience—scenes from everyday life that have the potential to hold a degree of intensity and drama that belies their familiarity. The artist’s response to institutional rejection can be melodramatic, even performed. No one expects to get anything handed to them, given the level of competition, but those emails still elicit strong, if fleeting, reactions. The gesture I used—head back, arm extended, a letter presumably carrying bad news—as meant to be a reference to Jacques-Louis David’s The Death of Marat. I would say that I, like most artists I know, am well acquainted and comfortable with rejection, and consider it just another tedious necessity.
CH: In your studio, we spoke a great deal about habits and psychology—so much of your painting jumps from the everyday habits and patterns we find ourselves in. Can you elaborate on your interest in these scenes as vehicles for your paintings?
DO: My attachment to habits and patterns of behavior relates to the convenience of parameters—a familiar setting or action limits gesture, space, and color, allowing for concentrated formal exploration. But I’m also interested in interiority, and what might be going on in a character’s mind as she’s distracted. I find the hidden tension in depictions of stoic women. And again, these everyday scenes have interesting art historical precedent. I love the repetition of Vermeer’s women seated at tables, Bonnard’s bathers, etc.
CH: On a personal level—I know sometimes my painting practice can be affected either positively or negatively by joy or trauma—do you feel you are affected by your personal life in your studio or is your studio sort of a place of necessity that operates almost separate from your personal life?
DO: My studio life is definitely influenced by my personal life. Not in terms of productivity—I’m always working pretty steadily. But I can definitely see stress and emotional fluctuations reflected in the work. That isn’t always a negative—at times, stress can result in interesting formal decisions that I couldn’t predict or predetermine. I’m not sure I believe that a division between personal and studio life is possible, let alone useful.
CH: Cigarettes are often a character in your paintings - sometimes floating in a reflection or being smoked by a female figure—why is this a recurring form in your work?
DO: The cigarettes operate on a few levels. You pointed out during our visit that they’re a kind of Minimalist shorthand—a Barnett Newman-esque strip of tan, white, and red. I love that kind of painting joke or cue. I’m also interested in the phallic interpretation. These are scenes about women, and it’s funny to symbolize masculinity with an object so small and short-lived. Cigarettes also denote a specific duration, and competing impulses to join or retreat from a group. I’m also a light smoker, and so they represent my own bad decisions.
CH: I know we spoke a bit about the balance of studio life and professional obligations in our studio visit—can you share some of your thoughts on your current ability to be balanced with the demands of work for shows and maintaining a vibrant and forward-thinking studio practice?
DO: I honestly don’t know that I’m managing it all that well! Or what proper management would be like, or if there’s an effective, prescriptive approach to achieving such balance. I do find that reading other painters’ thoughts on their studio practice is helpful and almost therapeutic. For instance, I read recently that Richard Diebenkorn, who is one of my heroes, struggled in his early years as a painter to understand his need to revise and rework a canvas. He thought this restlessness and resistance to planning signified a lack of clarity or deliberation. He eventually came to appreciate that he needed and loved the approach, that it was native and immovable. Professional obligations can certainly up the pressure and make one question the efficiency of one’s approach; I think it’s important to isolate and stay loyal to the things that you love to do in the studio.
CH: Favorite studio snack/vice?
DO: Tons and tons of coffee, almonds, wine or tall boys of beer, and Instagram.
CH: What do you listen to in the studio?
DO: I usually cycle through news and political or cultural podcasts first. I really like Fresh Air, On the Media, We the People, WTF with Marc Maron, and Sound and Vision. After that, I like to listen to hours of the same artist. The last time I was in the studio, it was Willie Nelson.
CH: What was the first ‘art thing’ you did growing up?
DO: One of my teachers in elementary school “nominated” me for an after-school art program for kids at a nearby private college. It took place over just a few days, but it was set in the undergraduate art rooms, and it felt very serious and important. The rooms smelled like oil paint and the sinks were crusted over and I remember being really excited and happy to be in that environment. I made a shitty papier-mâché ice cream cone and buried it deep in a trash can before my mom picked me up. I made up a story about the instructor asking to keep it.
CH: What do you think the art world is missing and why?
DO: I’m feeling very optimistic about the art world, at least my very limited experience of it. I do think that artists in New York City are facing a serious studio crisis. It’s just absolutely out of control. I can’t imagine that the tide will turn without some sort of governmental intervention.
CH: Do you have any projects and or shows coming up that you’d like to share?
DO: I have work in a group show at V1 Gallery in Copenhagen. That (show) opened at the end of May. I also have a solo exhibition next March (2019), at Andrew Rafacz in Chicago. I’m very excited about a lithography residency at the Tamarind Institute in New Mexico next winter. I’ve never seen the desert, and I haven’t attempted litho since my freshman year of college.
New "Bad" Painting
Curated Group Exhibition
May 24 - July 7, 2018
DK 1711 Copenhagen