Lara Dann, Eclectix Interview 31

Lara Dann

Born in Rochester, New York – Lara Dann has moved all over the US and various parts of California. A product of divorced parents and a struggling, single mother she experienced a good bit of uprooted change and transition. When Lara turned 12 years old, her mother remarried and she acquired a loving and supportive step-father that was influential in raising her to adulthood. About a move from California to Vermont she says- 
“Huge culture shock. It was 1985-86 and I was a part of the Madonna craze. I showed up to school with jelly shoes, arm full of black rubber bangles, shirt off the shoulder. The works. I was used to being the new girl, but this look was too much for the kids with flannel shirts and high tops. I was ridiculed by the girls and stared at by the boys, so making friends was always a challenge. I kept to myself and was very shy because I didn’t want conflict- but that just came off as bitchy.”
After finishing high school, Lara (now back in New York),  went into advertising design- a field she worked in for about 6 years before becoming disenchanted with the competitive nature of the work environment.
“I did a 180 and went to school full time to become a LMT (licensed massage therapist) and that experience has really enriched my life both creatively and personally.”
After 9/11 and the ensuing economic downturn in New York, a failed business venture and a short stint in Baltimore – Lara and her family got a job offer in Knoxville TN. They have been there for about 5 years, a small and safe place to raise a family. Lara is also introducing advertising back into her life as well as maintaining her therapist skills.
Eclectix first noticed Lara’s pretty and fashionable art a number of years ago and lately we’ve been impressed and excited by the direction it has taken. Her stronger imagery and style consists of  beautiful woven tapestries- gracefully layered with subtle hints – mixing fairy tale colors and darker mysteries. Decorative motifs and lacy patterns weave in and out, clouds of softly hued haze surround and swirl within the subjects. Victorian hair, trance-like,  emotive faces and mystic symbolism – all weave together to produce astounding dreamlike visions. There is a serene and hypnotic calm reflected in the eyes of her subjects, calling to us from the netherlands of the spiritual world.
My favorite art memory from my childhood is…  I was about 8 years old when I re-drew the menu from a Farrell’s Ice Cream parlor picture of a couple sharing a fountain soda with acute accuracy. A random couple saw it and offered me 20 dollars for it and told me I was going be someone special in art to watch one day, and they wanted my first artwork. That was the moment that I realized that drawing pictures wasn’t just for me. They don’t know it- but that gesture of payment made a huge impact on my outlook on art and it’s potential for me.
 My interest in art/painting started …  My interest in art started as a young child, except I didn’t see it as “art” until I was much older. For me, it was what I did to pacify and soothe myself. I didn’t have any interest in watching TV. I spent most of my time outdoors, exploring for hours, most of the time independently, but when I was indoors, I was always drawing. I can remember that it started around 3 years old, when my parents divorced.
I am often inspired and motivated by…. Vintage items, nostalgia. I pull most of my inspiration from nature, although I don’t paint or draw landscapes. Insects and human anatomy is very inspiring also, not just muscle and bone, but the neurology and physiology of our makeup and that of entomology. I draw a lot of inspiration from personal heartache, childhood experiences, and desire. None of these examples are ever “in your face” but I weave that energy and imagery into my work and I think subtle impressions of those things emerge.
If I could spend the day with any artist (dead or alive) it would be…
If it’s ANY artist- I would choose Ludwig Van Beethtoven. He was such a complex and intense individual. And we would…  I would love to just soak up some of the terror he experienced as an artist, and as a person, and observe how he translated that pain into something beautiful. That would take more than a day I suppose. Andy Warhol would be a choice as well. He was so influential, creative and prolific. I am not a musician, or a pop artist, but I am not interested in watching tutorials about how they created their work, I am interested in how they lived their life, and what defined them as artists through their own personal lens.
The tip or art technique (a specific tidbit of craft, advice or mechanical expertise) that has helped me the most is …. The most important advice I have- is to do whatever it is you want to develop- for at least 20 min everyday. No matter what. I really think the thing that helped me the most is experimenting. Just making a mess- and NOT creating for a finished result or product. When you take away all expectation, you have the freedom to get to know yourself through your imagery. Use uncommon objects in uncommon ways and paint, draw, or photograph it. You don’t make anything that makes any sense, and you don’t make anything you will show anyone, but you engage your creative brain, and become intimate with your process and your materials and eventually you create your own language through it.
If I could own one piece of art, out of the world’s collections, it would be …
I do appreciate and am able to distinguish fine, quality craftsmanship. However, I fear I don’t know enough about the world’s collections to answer this objectively- I mean- what if I say something like Klimt whom I adore- and then I’ve missed out on that ONE famous black velvet painting. Every piece has it’s place. I appreciate such a wide range of artwork that I cannot place a degree of importance on something on display in a museum, vs. something my own child created. If I were forced to choose one over the other, I would choose to be surrounded by my children’s creations.
My favorite piece of my own art is… (below), because…
Well, I am a bit partial of the drawing I did when I was 6 years old because it is so honest, innocent and unabashed. It’s a drawing I did after my mother explained where babies came from. I wanted to know exactly. Every detail and because she never lied to me, and was a bit too honest, she told me quite literally, how and where they came from. And then I drew it. Every detail. I showed it to her, and she giggled, as an appreciative mother would I suppose to such a drawing, and I immediately felt embarrassed, so I tried to scratch my name off of it. It still makes me laugh to this day. Of my current works, I would say “Dangerous Garden” (detail at top of post, entire image at bottom of post). Because it was about a dream I had that was very intense.

Lara's childhood drawing

 My ultimate project or fantasy is …  There are a few artists that I would like to collaborate with. There have been discussions, but it’s hard to get on the same page, especially with distance between you and projects that are so spontaneous on both ends, working out a time line, etc. Hopefully that will be something that can happen in the near future. A fantasy would be to become published, or a pro surfer. One can dream.
The last song I choose to listen to was…  I’m on a Rolling Stones kick lately. I’ll listen to that until my ears bleed, over and over until I can’t listen to it again for years. That’s like with everything I do. I do it to the extreme- and then move on.
The last book I couldn’t put down was …. “The Anatomy of Evil”  by Michael H. Stone, MD. For a bit of research on a project.
My favorite word is … I can’t think of a favorite word, as much as I can think of words I can’t stand to hear: “slacks” and “meal”. Shivers, right?
I can’t live without …  My children and my husband/partner, Todd. But bottled spring water is really up there on the list!
It’s not hip, but I really love ….  board games.
My favorite motto (or quote)  is….   “Fuck em if they can’t take a joke”
Your works have a foggy, mysterious dreamy style… do you work from a detailed rough?  Or do you improvise and let the image evolve as you paint? 
Thank you. Both. Until recently – I didn’t do a lot of pre-sketching or detailed roughs. I just went head on into it, and adjusted as I went. That suited a very good purpose when I was developing my style, but as I am fine tuning and defining it, I am becoming more disciplined about laying out my ideas beforehand. I became frustrated with getting too far along with a piece and it being too late to add something that I really wanted there, and since I work in visible layers, this is very important to hammer out in the beginning. However, I do allow myself to improvise, especially if I feel I’ve ruined a piece during stages. Often I let mistakes take center stage and adjust to them and I am always fascinated with the process of taking a back seat to the painting process, observing what emerges from it and not controlling it too much.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?  Have you ever been somewhere that causes you to get a physical reaction? It’s similar to the feeling you get from being attracted to someone. You feel like the cells in your body are lining up, your heart beats a bit faster, your mind and senses open just a little more and you are rejuvenated. That is what I felt when I landed in London. I felt like I was home, but it was the first time I had been there. I would like to live in England. But, another place that I fell in love with is Kauai, an island of Hawaii. There is something raw and magical about that place. I would enjoy either of those, and for different reasons.
Upcoming shows:
June – group show at XL Gallery in Florida
In the fall –  the moon goddess show curated by Aunia Kahn,
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