I am an installation artist who creates immersive, interactive environments that incorporate video, paint, and sometimes performance. My work incorporates the elements of the story arc in a visual form.
The installations layer the domestic detritus that informs our interior architecture. Elements such as wallpaper, screen doors, and mattresses are combined with a painted diorama or video that becomes a symbol for exterior possibilities. Eyeglasses and mirrors focus the work back on the viewer. Spurred to acknowledge their secrets, burdens, desires, or fears, participants become a part of the art.
The scenes are novels that are experienced instead of read, with connective lines created from each participant’s individual memories.
My work is influenced by the storytelling of tableau-makers such as Robert Rauschenberg and Edward Kienholz, and inspired by the poetry of Tara Donovan’s material transcendence.
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Dani Dodge lives and works in Los Angeles. A former journalist and war correspondent, she makes art inspired by time on the battlefield, but explores the wars we wage within ourselves. She began painting in 2004 after being embedded with the Marines in Iraq. Dodge was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2006, but she left newspapers two years later to focus on telling stories through art.
Today, her work is included in three museum collections and has been shown across the U.S. She is a member of galleries in Los Angeles, including the Los Angeles Art Association, and New York, including A.I.R. In 2016, she and a handful of other artists founded BLAM, a gallery with locations in Los Angeles and Brooklyn that brings together artists from both coasts.
In 2016, Americans for the Arts named her interactive installation/performance CONFESS one of the outstanding public art projects of the previous year. Also in 2016, she was the Juried Winner of Artslant's 3rd Round competition for New Media and 5th Round competition for Installation. She participated in “The Secret Garden” at A.I.R. Gallery in Brooklyn, curator Rocio Aranda-Alvarado; “Connective Intimations” at HB Punto Experimental in San Diego, curator Hugo Heredia; “Concrete” at BLAM Los Angeles, curator David Spanbock; “Curate This 2” at Gabba Gallery in Los Angeles, curators Phil Santos and Jason Ostro; “Multiple Feeds” at Gallery 825 in Los Angeles, curator Peter Mays; “Flight Patterns” at Art Share L.A.; “MAS Attack 10” at the Fine Arts Complex 1101 in Tempe, Arizona, curator Artra Curatorial; the “Femmes Video Art Festival” and the “(En)Gendered (In)Equity: The Gallery Tally Poster Project,” at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), both curated by Micol Hebron.
In 2015, she had solo shows at the Coos Art Museum in Oregon and LA Artcore, where she built room-sized, site-specific interactive installations. She was commissioned to create installation/performances at the New Museum Los Gatos, West Hollywood’s WeHo Reads Festival and LA Pride. She created site-specific installations for the Inglewood Public Library, the Inland Empire Museum of Art’s inaugural show and the Los Angeles Art Association’s 2015 Open Show at Gallery 825. She created smaller installations for group shows at A.I.R. Gallery, Loft at Liz’s (Los Angeles), and the San Diego Art Institute. She created interactive performances at Perform Chinatown and the Brewery Artwalk. She exhibited mixed-media and video works at Women Made Gallery in Chicago, Central Booking in New York, Prohibition Gallery in Los Angeles, and the Downey Civic Center. She was recognized as a Showcase Winner in ArtSlant’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 6th 2015 Showcases for installation. She was in two MAS Attacks, one-night group shows with as many as 200 artists.
Highlights of 2014 included solo shows at the San Diego Art Institute (SDAI), where she created a site-specific installation, and Pimento Fine Art in San Diego, where she displayed mixed-media works. She created an interactive installation at LA Pride, an installation at Pulse Gallery in San Diego, an interactive performance at Perform Chinatown, and a three-person video installation at Gallery 825, where she also was part of two group shows. She was in several MAS Attacks. She taught at the 17th Annual Henry Fukuhara Workshop, including a demonstration at the Manzanar Interpretive Center in Lone Pine, Calif. She was recognized as a Showcase Winner in ArtSlant’s 2nd 2014 Showcase for installation.
In 2013, she created a public installation at the San Diego International Airport and was a featured artist at The Gallery in Beverly Hills. She won first place in Expressions West at the Coos Art Museum and a silver medal in Art Labology’s International Showcase, and was a Showcase Winner in ArtSlant’s 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th 2013 Showcases for mixed media, painting, and installation.
Highlights in 2012 included solo shows at the San Diego Art Institute, L Street Fine Art in San Diego, and Pimento Fine Art. She also was in a show curated by Peter Frank at Pulse Gallery. In previous years, she had three solo shows at Pimento Fine Art — one in 2011 and two in 2010. She had her first solo show at The Perfect Frame in Carlsbad, Calif., in 2008. Among her awards: first place in “Top 100” (San Diego 2010) and Fallbrook Art Association (2010); a Best of Show at Bonita Museum (2009); a Juror’s Choice at SDAI (2012); and a People’s Choice at the San Diego County Fair (2009).
Dani Dodge — You Are There
By Peter Frank
We presume that an artist’s work is in some manner autobiographical. In fact, art is not about its makers, but about their world. Even a self-portrait is an observation, a look in a mirror, as well as behind it. For the artist, art is not about feeling — that’s the viewer’s job — but about seeing and making. In a sense, artists function as reporters of a kind, serving to focus our attention on the phenomena that grab their interest.
In this respect, Dani Dodge’s experience as a journalist — not least as a war correspondent embedded with the Marines in Iraq at the time of the invasion — was a key part of her training as an artist. Her experiences, in war and domestically, have provided her endless fodder for her artwork. But so has her experience. Time and again, she was given the responsibility of regarding events and situations before and around her and conveying — not just describing, but portraying — them to her readers in a way that brought them to life, if possible, but at least told the story of their happening.
Every artwork tells a story, goes the saying; this may or may not be true, but every story is an artwork, and should be told with convincing eloquence and riveting immediacy. This was one of the main takeaways Dodge brought with her from the newspaper to the canvas — and one of the things that prompted her ultimately to go wide, to expand well beyond the canvas to the arena of the installation. Employing collage and assemblage techniques, Dodge got past the limitations of rendering materials like oil and pastel, giving her depictions a tough, gripping substance dependent as much on physical as on pictorial presence. In this, Dodge readily admits to the influence of tableau-makers such as Robert Rauschenberg and Edward Kienholz. In fact, she tempers Kienholz’s furious witness with Rauschenberg’s poetic melancholy, coming up with an approach — part montage, part architecture, part sensuous materialism — that hews even closer than did theirs to the art and craft of the stage set.
Dani Dodge’s installations suggest stage sets in that, even when barring us from entering them, they require our presence, and/or the projected presence of someone like us, to tell their story. They are about individuals who are the kind of people we are likely to know or at least encounter, whether soldiers or office workers, children or the poor.
If Rauschenberg began with himself and Kienholz began with headlines, Dodge begins with others and with the kinds of imagery we see less on page one than on page 22 or in the middle of magazines. But these “others” are absent, only hinted at, and in a sense when we witness Dodge’s tableaux we are invited to imagine ourselves part of them, to imagine ourselves the others we behold. Her installations are too physically vivid, and yet too pictorially empty, to act as dioramas (which is how at least some of Kienholz’s works function); rather, they act as eternal moments, snapshots of anyone’s life. And you’re the anyone.
Peter Frank is adjunct senior curator at the Riverside Art Museum, art critic for the Huffington Post and associate editor at Fabrik magazine. He has served as editor of THE magazine Los Angeles and Visions Art Quarterly, and as critic for Angeleno magazine and the L.A. Weekly.