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METAMORPH an artist’s journey DANIELLE HORAK


Metamorph: An Artist’s Journey

I did not become an artist all at once. My artistic development happened gradually, bubbling up in childhood and coming to a rolling boil right after college. However, I can point to one period in my life when I began to really think of myself as an artist. In the years after I graduated with a BA in Studio Art, from 2012 to 2013, I was surrounded by a wonderful, encouraging community of artists. In their company I formed a safe chrysalis in which I sorted out an artistic identity that would take wing when it was more fully developed. In this paper I will trace that transformational growth and provide a glimpse into the mysterious inner workings of my social chrysalis.

Discovering a Community

I attribute much of my artistic development to the environment created by a supportive arts community. In this section I will discuss how I found this community and how having opportunities to show artwork greatly increased my production of artwork. Graduation Day When I graduated with my BA in Studio Art, I was unsure to say the least. I did well in my studio classes, but I had never managed to develop a unique voice. Every piece of art I made looked completely different from the rest. I was not sure that I could have a career in the arts. While my classmates were taking pictures in their caps and gowns, I was packing everything I owned into my car and driving south.


My destination was a small framing shop on the Space Coast that was owned and operated by my aunt. I had planned to work in the shop, paint on the side, and teach art lessons to pay the bills. Instead, I quickly found a niche and, more surprisingly, employment as a visual and performance artist.

shows, spoken word, drums circles, improv workshops, garage bands, installations, yoga, etc. I gave Derek a proposal for a performance art piece that involved fashioning a chrysalis for myself out of bed sheets and hanging from a tree in the park next to his gallery. His eyes lit up at the idea, and I was thrilled to have found a new friend who did not think I was insane.

The EGAD! Art Lab In search of work, I brought my portfolio and proposals for performance art pieces to all the art galleries in the area. That is how I discovered the EGAD! Art Lab, an art gallery, or, as the owner Derek Gores would put it, an experimental space. The Art Lab’s calendar was an eclectic blur of art

“Dressing in the Dark”. 2012. Eau Gallie, Florida.


After performing this piece, I rapidly formed relationships in the local arts community. This sped up my production of visual artwork and performance pieces because there was always a show coming up to prepare for. In this two year span, I created and performed over twenty performance art pieces, exhibited visual artwork alongside my performance works, attended by first international juried show, and put on my first solo art show. Artistic Influences My work is heavily influenced by artists Marina Abramovic and Janine Antoni. I identify with them because they are both shy women who dwell in rich inner worlds. I can remember the first time I encountered Janine Antoni’s piece “Moor” (Anotoni, 2001), a rope made from objects contributed by her family. I felt so fortunate that she chose to be an artist and

share her perspectives with the world, and I wanted to do that too. Janine Anotoni. “Moor”. 2001.

Metamorphosis of the Artwork

The artwork that I made during this period was very responsive to changes in my own life and my relationships. In this section I will trace my development as an artist and show how it was reflected in the work I was making.


“Dressing in the Dark�. 2012. Eau Gallie, Florida.

Dressing in the Dark This was my first performance art piece, and it was well within my comfort zone. I am an introverted, introspective person, so wrapping myself up and hiding from my viewers’ gaze was a very safe starting point. I found that performance

art suited me because it required me to be present, yet allowed me to remain hidden. I enjoyed the quiet strangeness and the unexpected privacy of the medium, so I decided to try another one.


“Lipstick and Good Intentions”. 2012. Eau Gallie, Florida.

Lipstick and Good Intentions My next piece was executed in an art gallery during the opening of a show. This one was more personal and more public. Having recently moved away from a small Southern town, I could still hear colloquial phrases echoing in my mind, usually in my grandmother’s voice. I could hear her say, “The path to hell is paved with good intentions,” and, “Wouldn’t you feel better with a little lipstick on?” The combination of these phrases conjured a scene of traditional domestic bliss gone wrong. I created a whitewashed 1950’s living room that was plastered with vintage kissing tips and tricks to keep your husband happy. A clock counted down to his six o’clock arrival. While keeping house I would encounter the kissing instructions, apply lipstick, and practice my kissing on whatever inanimate object was closest. By the time six o'clock came, the white,

pristine living room had become a manic mess of red lipstick. I used this artwork to challenge the gender roles that my hometown and upbringing had impressed upon me. This time I was very close to my viewers and could hear their commentary on what I was doing as I was doing it. This required extra bravery and focus, but allowing myself to be vulnerable instilled more confidence.


“Kissing Booth”. 2013. Orlando, Florida.

The Kissing Booth A year after my first performance art piece in the chrysalis, I was ready to emerge with a fully developed artistic voice. I attended my first international juried art show, Nude Nite in Orlando, Florida. Though I did not perform nude, the piece I brought was challenging and elicited a greater reaction from my audience than I anticipated.

This piece and many of my earlier pieces such as “Shiny Nose” explore the role of cosmetics as both a lure and a barrier. In “The Kissing Booth” I stood in a box wrapped in thin, translucent film. As viewers passed by, I kissed the film in their direction. Soon viewers began coming up to the booth and kissed me back through the film. My lipstick, and sometimes theirs, obscured our views of each other, and the plastic begged the question of whether or not we had really kissed.

“Kissing Booth”. 2013. Orlando, Florida.


“Shiny Nose”. 2012. EGAD! Art Lab in Eau Gallie Florida.


Paint Big! After completing “The Kissing Booth”, I felt free to explore lighter, more playful subject matter. I created a series of interactive artworks that were designed to engage strangers in fun activities. My favorite was “Paint Big!”, a way to play and paint on a large scale with bowling balls a la kindergarten marble paintings. “Paint Big!”. 2013. Alexandria, Louisiana.

Metamorphosis of the Soul Looking over the artwork that I made in this two year period helps me to see how I was developing as a social creature. At first I was unsure, timid, and hidden. This was demonstrated in the chrysalis. As I gained support and confidence, I became braver and more open to


engaging with others like I did in “Lipstick and Good Intentions”. Then I reached a point where I was able to confront others and make my own voice heard as I did in “The Kissing Booth”. Finally, I settled into a place where my primary desire was to have fun and enjoy the company of others like I did in “Paint Big!”. I believe it was my intense journey through performance art helped me reach this place in my life. My Personal Theory of Artistic Development In my own artistic development, I have discovered a relationship between art and play much like the one described by Dissanayake (1974) in which art making evolves from playful activity and vice versa. I have used performance art as a way to engage in sociocultural dialogue (Ivashkevich, 2009) that allowed me to challenge traditional ideas about identity

and gender roles. I have also engaged in “connective aesthetics” (Gablik, 1992) by influencing others with my artwork and by allowing the work of others to influence me. This encourages me to strive toward a “pedagogy of corporeal generosity” (Springgay, 2009) in which I generously give of myself and accept the gifts of others freely in order to develop as an artist and an educator.


References Antoni, J. (2016). Moor. Retrieved from http://www.luhringaugustine.com/artists/janineantoni/artworks/sculptures-andinstallations?view=slider#32 Dissanayake, E. (1974). A Hypothesis of the Evolution of Art from Play. Leonardo, 7(3), 211-217. Retrieved August 11, 2016, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/1572893?ref =searchgateway:6cfa02e6bdc9fe4cd075e13113b93ed1 Gablik, S. (1992). Connective Aesthetics. American

Art, 6(2), 2-7. doi:10.1086/424147

IvIIvashkevich, O. (2009). Children's Drawing as a Sociocultural Practice: Remaking Gender and Popular Culture. Studies in Art Education, 51(1), 50-63. Retrieved August 11, 2016, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/40650400?re f=searchgateway:e756770ed147b287f5b288606b07a26d S Springgay, S. (2009). Cookies for Peace and a Pedagogy of Corporeal Generosity. Review of

Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 31(1), 74-93. doi:10.1080/10714410802629268

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