I was recently introduced to the work of artist Dana Louise Kirkpatrick and immediately drawn to her large-scale artwork. Kirkpatrick’s mix-media pieces sample literature, Modern Art, street art, and German neoexpressionism. She grapples with the dichotomies and contradictions embedded in contemporary Western culture, religion, and humanity, using forceful iconography and a highly expressive technique. Her work and confessional visual language, inspired and influenced by confessional artists Louise Bourgeois and Tracey Emin, grows from her fascination with, and empathy for, the constant existential duel between the isolated individual and the shared awareness of the group. Avoiding sentimentality, the work of Dana Louise Kirkpatrick seeks to establish an intimate connection with viewers while engaging them with the unrestricted exploration of universal emotions. With connection is what led to a selection of Kirkpatrick’s critically acclaimed work will be featured during Art Basel and I was the first to get the scoop on this honor.
Choupette Social Girl: What does it mean to you to be featured at Art Basel?
Dana Louise Kirkpatrick: This is a kick and the truth. I was renting a studio flat in Hollywood, California in 2010 and the sum due monthly was $600, give or take. I could barely cover that and the apartment boasted a tiny white enamel narrow semi working stove that I could touch with the tip of my toes from a mattress on the floor in the opposite corner. It was maybe 300 square feet. A shit hole, but beautiful French doors and a Spanish tile floor. I slept on Harvard street with my dog on the same block as a rent by the hour motel. The folks who looked out for me were junkies and whores. Street angels. Huge sheets of paper flanked every wall – floor to ceiling in size. I worked and slept there with a folding chair pushed against the door. Flash forward a few years and the Director of the gallery who picked me up was Ana Hollinger. It pays to have the very same 90″ tall drawings framed because she takes them to Miami in 2014 and you should know, we went head to head on this point – I was green, self-righteous and entirely antiestablishment. Certain the works were not strong enough and certain I could do better, but she took them anyway. During the VIP preview of the fair, opening night, Jorge Perez (Perez Museum) walks in wearing a blue ball cap and he buys the largest work with little fanfare. Ana Hollinger proceeds to sell every single piece. I had been flown down to Miami and put up in a hotel. I spent the majority of my 72 hours in Miami watching the pretty stiletto crowd from a curb across the street. Chain smoking American Spirits wedged invisibly between two black cars – completely in shock. Except not. Smoking will kill you- I quit last year. Sitting there drag after drag, homeless at this point and with a dealer I barely knew inside the massive white tent selling high six figures worth of my work. I tripped out and flew back to New York. I couldn’t process the shift.
This was December 2014. So in short the fairs, Jerry Saltz, beloved New York critique has the best synopsis, but I guess they are a necessary evil and a potential huge win for an unknown artist. For me being there changed my life. Sonia Kashuk first saw my work there and later hired me to partner on a campaign for Target. She has also became a trusted friend.
To succinctly answer your question, ‘What does it mean to you to be featured at Art Basel?’ It means everything. It’s a fair shot. It’s a world class heavy hitting platform. All the players are in one room, drinking free champagne. The best collectors can see what’s real. Your art speaks for itself there. The fair is loud and overwhelming. It’s the business of art. My landlord from the Harvard Street wrote a nice typed letter when I split, siting that “it looks like you did some painting and consequently I am unable to return your deposit”. I wish I still had that letter.
CSG: Why did you select the pieces you did for Art Basel?
DLK: Typically it’s the newest, strongest works from the year that make it to Miami. The gallery and I don’t always agree here, but this year we did. There is no specific formula other than quality.
CSG: How is your work socially relevant?
DLK: I am not sure how best to answer this because it was not a conscious choice to make socially relevant art, but I seem to be consistently creating works that make people uneasy. I am inspired by struggle and by the down trodden outsider. I want to shine light where there is none. I want to tell the truth. To take the gruesome and make it revered. Holy somehow. People look away from and deny so much injustice, they insulate with material possessions and agency power and they look away from what is actually transpiring in the world. They are numb. If the unfair and the atrocious are translated into beauty, well then people get tricked into examination of social reality and of self. Tricked is the wrong word – led is better. When people see things change occurs. I can’t watch the news, but I can’t see another story about an unarmed person of color getting shot by a scared cop. Or a bullied kid going on a shooting rampage and offing his classmates. So I paint it. I create art reflecting the historically disenfranchised, misunderstood and marginalized – the victims become deities- losers become heroes. The dead live again. The oppressed become equal. Whether it is Icarus or Medger Evers. I’m saying pay attention. Look again. Own this truth. Take responsibility. In the hope that somehow, this is a quiet scream for justice.
CSG: What is your artistic process?
DLK: Hot coffee, my hair is up and in the winter I have a black knit Supreme hat on. I’m barefoot or clad in battered converse high tops with the la es secured in dirty knots. I have headphones pressed over my ears with the volume as high as it goes. I sit on a chair or the floor and stare at a blank space until I can see it filled. This comes in a fast flash and vanishes. Then I work backwards piecing a wild puzzle together, tearing out pages from art books or the New York Times. Borrowing from old masters, incorporating text from classic literature or the logo on a cereal box. Starting almost always with a simple line drawing. Building layer upon layer. Until it looks like what I saw. Until it’s right. Then I start over on the next one.
CSG: What other artists are you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Art Basel? Have any of these fellow artists inspired your work?
DLK: Every artist creating from an authentic place inspires my work. I smiled seeing BANKSY’s pile of concrete ruble being explained to prospective blue blood buyers last year. I stood within ear shot and listened to the suited up dealer hustle. It was vile, tragic and alluring. I appreciate the nature and hi jinx of Banky’s work. Thomas Houseago makes gruesome exquisite art that formidable, primitive and precise sculptures. There are usually William De Kooning paintings being flipped and those are undeniable despite the sanitized environment. The secondary market Basquiat drawings that may or may not be fake, the real ones vibrate and Grayson Perry’s pots are straight up in your face poetic genius. Urs Fischer does witty soulful deconstruction like no one else. Kara Walker is brilliant and I smile seeing Marquis (RETNA) and my friend Bernie Taupin. He will be there thank god as well as Alison (Mosshart) we are mates and I love her drawings. Mostly I am a loaner. The magnitude of the fairs overwhelm me. The light feels institutional and my head spins. Sometimes it starts feeling so vampiric that I can’t breathe. Sensory overload sort of. I show up, leave quietly and then go draw in my hotel room. The Grammy Foundation is receiving a leather jacket for their Person of the Year benefit honoring Tom Petty. I’ll have my photograph taken and then go back to my room to work on that with my hair up and headphones on. I stay close to what’s real.