Dana Hargrove, born in Edinburgh, Scotland, graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee University, Scotland with a Bachelor of Fine Art with Honors in Painting. She continued her education in the USA with a Master of Fine Art from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Hargrove is a Full Professor of Studio Art at Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida where she now resides.
Hargrove concerns herself with ideas that frame our perceptions of the land and our sense of place and space, she employs a range of media from photography, collage, sculpture and installed paintings including large scale site specific works.
Represented by the Bridgette Mayer Gallery in Philadelphia and Snap! in Orlando, she continues to exhibit her work both internationally and nationally. She has recently exhibited her work at: Alt_space Gallery, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Emerged, Glasgow, Scotland and Greatmore Studios, Cape Town.
She has received several awards such as the National Young Painters Competition First Place Award, full artist-in-residence fellowships at Vermont Studio Center, CentralTrak, The University of Texas at Dallas Artists Residency and Greatmore Studios artist in residence in Cape Town, South Africa.
AMM: How did you find your way into a creative life? Can you give us a glimpse of your artistic background?
DH: As a youngster I was impressed (and still am) by my cool artist-uncle. My sister and I would occasionally visit his huge studio for ‘art lessons.’ These lessons consisted of nothing more than him supplying art materials and telling us to do whatever we liked, while he proceeded to throw buckets of paint on a 12-foot canvas. So, from an age of 6 or 7, I knew what it was to be a practicing artist, and that this path in life even existed.
An early, and much-needed, boost in confidence for me as an artist occurred when I won first place in a competition for high-school students. Suddenly, my painting of the Dundee Rail Bridge was in the newspapers, my school was giving me an award, and my peers were looking on approvingly. As a teenager this gave me the courage to follow through and pursue art as a career, which is just as well because it was the only thing I ever wanted to do.
AMM: How would you describe the subject matter of your art and what is your main medium?
DH: I am continually intrigued by manmade interventions on the land, both physical and conceptual. This has become my overarching theme of interest, and has led me to explore many ideas that I have executed in various mediums. As an idea-based artist, who is not too worried about the distinctions of medium, I have employed a variety of approaches in my exhibitions and allowed myself a certain freedom within my practice. Painting will always be the familiar touchstone for my ideas and is the main medium I always come back to.
AMM: Can you explain some of the resources and experiences that helped shape your work?
DH: As a Professor of Art at Rollins College, I have had access to some incredible resources and am thankful for all the support offered by Rollins through the years. One of these resources has been the international-travel grants that enable faculty-led travel experiences. Travel has been such an important factor in my work as it allows me to get outside myself a little and see a bigger picture with fresh eyes. One of these trips took me to the Galapagos Islands where it was fascinating and inspiring to see a land mainly unspoiled by human intervention.
AMM: What was your early work like and how has it evolved as you’ve matured as a person and as an artist?
DH: My work has changed over the years, yet it has always dealt with the landscape as an intriguing and constantly shifting conceptual entity. Within my early work, I felt my job was to simply document the world, but, as I developed as an artist, I felt I needed to help facilitate the drawing of connections and conclusions. In Scotland a lot of my work was site-specific interventions. For example, I would make a painting of a space and then leave it in the space for passers by to notice, or not notice. If they did, they would suddenly become more aware of their surroundings. Feeling displaced, as I emigrated from Scotland to USA in my twenties, was and still is a powerful state of mind that has spurred me into a production of belonging. I am still on the quest for an understanding of my position in space, place, community, nation, and world. My work these days is linked to the connections I make within the landscape that I hope tap into a universal truth.
AMM: Can you explain your process and a typical day in the studio? How important is it for you to have a consistent physical space to work in?
DH: A typical day in the studio involves me playing a bit: some experimentation to begin, but then cracking on with whatever project is in production mode. If I am in the midst of a huge project, I love listening to audio books; in this way I can concentrate for hours at a stretch.
It is important for me to have a studio space to come back to every day as I can easily pick up my work from where I left off. In some measure I feel that I could get by for a stretch without a consistent physical space because my sketchbook has become the main hub for my ideas and experiments, especially while travelling.
AMM: Do you see your work as relating to any current movement or direction in visual art or culture? Which other artists might your work be in conversation with?
DH: I see my work coming out of a long tradition of British Landscape Painters, strongly influenced by the punkyness of the Young British Artist (YBA) movement, finding its theoretical home with Conceptual Art and Post Modernism, and having a visual and cultural affinity to Pop Art.
Early benchmark artists have included Julian Opie, for his hyperreal landscapes; Matisse, for his use of color and design; and Richard Diebenkorn, for his flattening of space and use of landscape in a semi-abstract way.
AMM: What influences outside the visual arts inspire and impact your approach to making work? Are there particular things you are reading, listening to or looking at to fuel your work?
DH: I have a strong interest in Landscape Studies and Human Geography, in particular the writings of Lucy Lippard, W.J.T Mitchell, and J.B Jackson. “Imperial Landscape” by W.J.T Mitchell is an influential essay I have gone back to multiple times. I feel that this quote in particular underpins my practice: “Landscape is a natural scene mediated by culture. It is both a represented scene and a presented space, both a signifier and a signified, both a frame and what the frame contains, both a real place and its simulacrum, both a package and the commodity inside the package.”
AMM: Do you have any suggestions as to how an artist can go about discovering what he/she really wants to say through art?
DH: In the beginning I suggest not being too worried about having a grand, amazing idea, or about being on-trend, or topical; just start a daily art practice and let it naturally develop out of the interests you already have. As you progress you will notice a core sensibility and set of recurring themes. Because it is all coming from you, and you are in a specific time and place, your work will therefore be unique. That being said, your art will be more impactful if you employ critical thinking. Art plays an important role in the evolution of society, and artists act as selective observers that communicate ideas. Locate your own work within the larger context of contemporary art by researching others with the same interests; become informed and never stop challenging your presumptions.
AMM: What are you working on right now? Do you have any upcoming events or exhibitions we should know about?
DH: Right now I am working on developing my ‘Façade’ series, potentially evolving them into relief paintings and three-dimensional forms that lead on from my ‘Absentia’ and ‘Arcadia’ relief towers. These works deal with the commodification of nature and our spaces, and how we now live in a globalized world of simulacra and hyperreality. I am also interested in working more site-specifically again, and, in that vein, have just finished up an interesting series for the ‘Art in Odd Places’ festival. This work consisted of sculptural drawings that were placed in undesirable areas of downtown Orlando, and made a social statement about capitalism and the disenfranchised homeless population.
I am very excited about a couple of artist residencies I have coming up; one in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia, and one in the North of Iceland. And I was just notified that I have been selected for the Juried Biennial at the Art and Culture Center in Hollywood, Florida.
Learn more about Dana Hargrove: www.danahargrove.com