New York - After having opened her first solo show in New York at Bellwether Gallery, Dana Frankfort took time from her busy schedule to chat with Keith Miller about her work, process and influences. Frankfort's show will be on view from September 8 - October 6, 2007.
For more about Dana Frankfort, see her Artist Profile (here).
Keith Miller: In many ways, your formal vocabulary seems to come from the painters of the New York School, the abstract expressionists. How do you see yourself in relation to their work?
Dana Frankfort: I have certainly learned a lot from looking at their paintings. I have been influenced by them and I challenge their hegemony, as well as play with their visual language and style. I am interested in the personalization of the abstract expressionist tradition.
KM: How do you find the words or phrases that you end up using in your paintings?
DF: Music lyrics, literature, conversations with friends. Signs, names of stores. I carry around a notebook and write stuff down that I encounter throughout the day. Like word meditation. The words and phrases that are 'right' sort of surface to the top and stay there. I have a whole system.
KM: Why would you choose not to include a phrase or word?
DF: Most words and phrases don't get included. The question is really why SHOULD I paint a word...
KM: Can you discuss the relationship between the concrete definitions of the words and the abstract images of the finished works?
DF: I'm interested in abstraction re-enforcing the meaning of the word. Like when a painting of the word LINES reads as the word, but also looks like just a bunch of lines. Or when a painting has the word STUFF or A LOT OF STUFF, and there's a lot of other things going on in the painting. It's not too complicated.
KM: Very often it seems that without the title one would not be certain which words or phrases are being used. Can you discuss that?
DF: That's true. What the words say or mean matters only if you want it to. The fact that they end up abstract just happens. I'm not trying to hide the words. I'm always surprised that people need the title to decipher the word. To me, reading the word is easy, but also irrelevant. It is easy because I can always read it, irrelevant because I don't think it matters, ultimately, if you can't. If I want a word to be readable, then I'll paint it that way.
KM: Language as a formal element has been in play in the visual arts since at least the Pop artists, specifically one might think of Ed Ruscha’s word and phrase canvases. How important is the linguistic element of a work as opposed to its aesthetic or formalist properties?
DF: It's all important.
KM: In some of your pieces you use the star of David. Is this an intent to charge the content beyond the definition of words or to assert an identity through a defined symbol?
DF: No. It's about using the star as a structure, or symbol in a similar way as a word or phrase. Much like Jasper Johns used a target. A star can break apart into lines (like a word) or come together into a symbol with meaning (like a word). Just like a word, a star is never a copy of an original - it is always what it is (there is no original STAR, draw one on a pad of paper -- that star is as original as any other star you will encounter) -- just like a word. These things are all symbols, they are not representations of an original, they are the thing itself. Does that make sense?
KM: Can you discuss your working method? How do you begin a painting? How do you work through it?
DF: I paint on a lot of panels at once. I sand them down when they get too thick. Every painting is a study of every other painting. I begin a painting with fields of color. Sometimes I begin by painting a word. I flip the paintings upside down and start over a lot. My work day varies, sometimes thru the night, sometimes 2 hours and then I leave for 3 days. I loosen up by looking at my paintings for a few hours before I start to work. I'm extremely technical, but I have come up with my own techniques.
KM: Putting aside any of the claims and counter claims about the life or death of painting, how do you see your work in relation to the larger forces of media today (such as TV or movies)?
DF: My job and interest is to go into my studio and paint outside of these forces.
KM: Who are some artists whose work most challenge and excite you, both historically and currently?
DF: Josh Smith, Justin Lieberman, Mary Heilmann, Morris Louis, Marsden Hartley, Jackie Gendel and Chie Fueki.
ArtSlant would like to thank Dana Frankfort for her assistance in making this interview possible.
- Keith Miller