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Dana Louise Kirkpatrick’s latest show at KM Fine Arts, which opens this Saturday in Los Angeles, attempts to tell the stories often left unheard: stories of the marginalized and voiceless. Using a mixed-media approach to her large-scale artworks, Kirkpatrick’s creations often feature iconographic figures to address contradictions in Western culture. The title of the show, “Zugzwang,” is based on a German chess term, which refers to an unavoidable move that will ultimately weaken a player’s position. In her work, Kirkpatrick renders life’s inescapable and often bleak moments with her signature bold artistic style. Whitewall spoke with the artist to find out more about her sources of inspiration and daily practices.
WHITEWALL: What first led you to the arts field?
DANA LOUISE KIRKPATRICK: I had no intention of entering the “arts field.” I did not choose this. The art world is a necessary evil when you’re possessed with an obsessive drive to create.
WW: Was there a particular artist or event that drew you to the arts?
DLK: A particular artist did not necessarily draw me in. I’m doing the only thing I know how to do, which is responding to a constant drive to produce work. Nothing besides that drew me in, although, a handful of painters and musicians do inspire me.
WW: What is a typical day in the studio like for you?
DLK: I work inside of an empty church. There are two beat-up 1940s leather chairs from Paris thrown over a frayed carpet. I sit there with black coffee and stare until I know what to do. I work for hours at a time without pause, sitting on the floor with a cigarette and music playing loud enough to drown out other noises.
WW: What are some of your primary sources of inspiration for your subject matter?
DLK: When I ride the C train in New York City I am gifted to see enough color, suffering, and grit to paint. When I drive down Sunset Boulevard around dusk, I see the migration of street urchins, tranny hookers, runaway kids, kicked dogs tethered to shopping carts, ATM/LOTTO + Coin laundry signs, and GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS—it is enough to break a person. These things are all a part of a tortured and beautiful collage. What I see is what I paint. I see too much maybe.
WW: And you split your time between New York and Los Angeles?
DLK: When I moved to New York my work got stronger, less dense. The city almost breaks you, then throws a line. I don’t know. My heart is in Los Angeles I suspect, and I surrender to that.
WW: It seems like you draw a lot of inspiration from great art historical figures such as Picasso, de Kooning, and Basquiat.
DLK: I wouldn’t say these artists influence my style, the work by these great artists serves more as a textbook. For example, if you want to learn proportion, memorize DaVinci. I comb art books and rip out pages when they strike a cord; those books and artists are a great comfort.
WW: Are there any particular works you are especially proud of, or any works in this upcoming show you are eager to see displayed to audiences?
DLK: I am proud of this show. I told the truth. I know I got it right. I know next time I’ll do better.
WW: What are some of the dominant themes in this upcoming exhibition, and how does “Zugzwang” differ from your previous shows?
DLK: It is more cohesive and seasoned. I think my work is getting stronger; I am learning.
WW: What do you hope to accomplish through your artwork?
DLK: It is not for any purpose other than a means of expression. The process is holy; even the instances when I work for hours and end up ripping a canvas off of the wall and throwing it out. I hope to accomplish visual balance and unapologetic honesty. I’m not concerned about how they are received. I am painting because it’s the only time I am free, but if someone stands in front of one of my works one day and the hairs on their arm stand up and tears stream down their face—I would know I did what I came here to do. Ideally that person would be one of those runaway kids on Sunset I drove by last night. I guess I’m screaming for all the ones you don’t want to hear. I am honored to take that on. I’m not sorry.
“Zugzwang” is on view at KM Fine Arts in Los Angeles through November 8, 2014–January 17, 2015.