Briefly describe the work you do.
My practice is deeply entrenched in history and memory, and I work in a variety of media investigating those interests. I prefer exploring the social conventions and meaning of families, our relationships to the photograph and its inherent emotional ties, and what it is to be a person living in our contemporary world. Additionally, the connection between painting and photography is something I return to regularly, and I have two series exploring that right now. One is enlarging found/abandoned family photos and painting over them in an examination of memory and identity, and the other is realistically painting family photos of mine and my potential father’s (who I’ve never met) as a way to create an alternate, fake timeline of his presence. Generally, my work is emotionally charged and hopefully evokes a response from the audience; moreover, it’s often research-heavy and long-term. I also love connecting with others in not so serious projects, like the illustration blog I have where I draw colloquial Venezuelan sayings and collect this cultural ephemera.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
My somewhat difficult childhood has greatly affected who I am as an artist. I’ve always been interested in storytelling and making up reasons for why people behaved the way they did, or perhaps what happened in the past. Growing up in a single parent household with no knowledge of who my father was, the missing information of my heritage (my father was supposedly Iranian) meant that, subconsciously, I redirected that curiosity to everything that was around me. I read voraciously, anything from history books about far away countries, detective tales, and most especially ghost stories and colloquial mythology. In the film The Devil’s Backbone, a character talks about how ghosts are repeated events in time, which I think perfectly describes how these seemingly disparate interests tie together. Also, my family was very poor economically and health-wise, and that constant instability I think really influenced my attempts to regain some semblance of control through my art-making.
It has been really in the last five years that I’ve understood just how much that upbringing shaped my art and my commitment to social justice; I’ve been focusing more and more on powerlessness and helplessness and trying to make some kind of impact on my local community in one way or another. Another thing that factors into my work as an artist is my health; I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis four years ago. It means that the very act of making, of what I can do, or even my focus has changed. The illness does not define who I am (no MS sufferer first, person second crap), but it may factor into why I’m so attracted to some kind of lack or powerlessness. Likewise, this means that I’m working as hard as I can for as long as I physically am able to do so.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
Until recently, I’d worked from home, trying to navigate the restriction to small spaces and not destroy the apartments I’d lived in. That really resulted in a great deal of isolation, both because I wasn’t surrounded by other artists in a general studio space and because my late hours meant studio visits were hard to schedule. I’m incredibly fortunate and excited to be a new resident artist at RedLine Denver, a fantastic art organization that has artist studios that are open to the public. So while before I worked alone and with little to no interaction, now I have members of the public wander into my studio while I’m working to chat about art, what I’m up to, or anything in between! It’s been a wonderful experience so far, and I’ve found the open door studio concept to be invigorating and prompts me to work even more. I know many artists would find that distracting or balk at showing their process at work, but I actually welcome having those interactions. I deeply believe that art should be meaningful to more than just an elite few, and I enjoy being able to increase arts literacy with the general public by having these conversations or even just letting them have a peek at what I’m doing.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
This is something I frequently think about now: what is the role of art and the artist in society? I like to think that art is an interpretation of our surroundings and contemporary life and the artist is the mediator of this interpretation. When I was younger, my impulse was to create and make work, but I didn’t really understand the larger role of artists as cultural mediators until a few years ago. I like to imagine that artists can bridge various worlds and topics with their work, and that’s something that dawned on me as I matured as an artist.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I am a total night owl, which can be a problem since working 9pm to 3am doesn’t vibe well with others’ schedules! But night is always best, or at the very least, late afternoon at the earliest. Since I’ve had my public studio at Redline, I’ve been trying to track back my working time to be present during business hours, but truthfully, I’m still trying to sort that out. In my mind, art-making is a job, and I am in studio six out of seven days of the week consistently. Even if it’s just to think about a potential piece or clean up, I need to be there and I need to be making something.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
Five years ago, I was doing voyeuristic street photography almost exclusively, and now I’m back into painting, something I’d done for most of my life except that period of time. I also have a sound art project, digital media work, a graphic novel I’m working on…so in the most basic sense, the media I use has exploded and the number of on-going projects I have has as well. Additionally, I’ve gotten more comfortable doing work that is more personal or autobiographical, something I hated until around three years ago. But there are common threads throughout these bodies of work that remain: examining relationships between people and our environment, as well as that voyeurism and construction of false relationships.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Whew, that’s hard to answer because I find inspiration everywhere! I certainly adore the writing of Rebecca Solnit, whose work on history, landscape, politics, gender, philosophy, and so much more is a great reflection of what’s rattling in my brain in a given moment. I tend to read extensively in certain fields: history, true crime in history, life science/behavioral science, human arrogance in nature, and memory-based work, which all inevitably feeds into my thought-process and practice. Having supporting friends and my best friend, my husband Henry, help keep me working when doubt or irritations could derail me. But really, looking at art, other artists, and thinking about the relationship between those and our society is what motivates me most. I adore the work of Marlene Dumas, Sophie Calle, Ellen Gallagher, Nan Goldin, Tracey Emin, Doris Salcedo, who I consider influences in varying ways—and specifically, I’m very much drawn to women and women’s work/experiences historically, within the art world, and now.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
Part of the joy of being an artist is that you can be a dilettante in a variety of fields, which makes the polymath in me very happy. That said, while I’ve always been an artist, I did consider being a history professor as a day job for a long time. If I had to, I’d fall back on that path since there’s something really attractive about understanding and unraveling events in the past.
Originally from Los Angeles, California, Daisy Patton moved back and forth between Oklahoma and California for most of her childhood. She has a BFA in Studio Arts from the University of Oklahoma with minors in History and Art History and an Honors degree. Her MFA is from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Tufts University, a multi-disciplinary program. Patton received the Montague Travel Grant to do research in Dresden, Germany for an upcoming project, and she was also awarded a position as an exchange student at the University of Hertfordshire, UK while an undergraduate. She has been granted residencies at the Anythink Libraries in Colorado and most recently a two-year residency at RedLine, an arts organization in Denver, Colorado. Exhibiting in group and solo shows nationally, she is represented by Michael Warren Contemporary in Denver with an upcoming show in December. Patton resides in Denver, a happy distance away from bears.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.