V1 Gallery: How has your art practice been affected by the days of isolation?
Danielle Orchard: My daily studio routine hasn’t changed much. I keep a car in Brooklyn which allows me to commute directly to my studio while respecting social distancing. My studio is in a very quiet building, and even before the pandemic I rarely ran into my neighbors. I’m very lucky to have continued access to my space and materials, but like many artists trying to work today, I’m finding it difficult to concentrate. My second solo show with Jack Hanley Gallery closed shortly before the pandemic took hold in NYC, and I was already in the awkward, confused headspace that follows a big show. That aimlessness and uncertainty is only heightened by the anxiety pervading NYC. I’m using this time to slow down a bit in the studio. I’m drawing and planning more than I’m used to, and using Photoshop to play with compositional ideas, something I haven’t done in the past.
In your works, you often stage intimate interactions between women figures – how do these mise-en-scènes reflect your own life (then vs now)?
Before the pandemic, the intimate or solitary scenes I painted were aspirational depictions of places and situations that I and the viewer might want to inhabit. They stood in distinction to the studio environment, which can be occasionally anxious and nearly always lonely. Now that we’re forced to live and work in isolation, the same scene feels representative of a reality we all hope to escape. That inversion suggests to me the inherent flexibility of these images, and demonstrates how quickly solitude can slip from peacefulness to confinement.
Many of your works also reflect women absorbed in deep self-contemplation, occupied by their own doing by not doing. In the light of the current lockdown situation, do you find new perspectives in your works?
I’ve always thought of the characters in my work as being deeply ambivalent about their situations. They have every reason to feel relaxed but instead appear troubled and remote, unable to rest in environments expressly designed for that purpose. Before the lockdown, I painted this way in an effort to reveal a hidden interiority shared by many women. Now the same work feels like reportage, which makes me uncomfortable – I’m used to an oblique approach. Work pulled from the imagination is now closely aligned with the raw, exposed feelings of people around me, people who are in extreme crisis.
How are you staying in touch with your community, gallery, artist colleagues and relatives?
I don’t feel like I’m doing a great job, if I can be honest. I text like usual, but I don’t love video chatting, and that’s the preferred method these days. I think about my community all the time and I miss them. I hope we get to see each other soon. As a painter, I think it’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you don’t need company. The work requires a lot of concentration and isolation. But loneliness creeps in. I thought I was doing fine, and then I gave a phone interview today in which I over-explained my ideas, maybe over-shared, undoubtedly babbled. Afterward I realized that I’d just really needed to talk to a stranger.
We are pleased to present your upcoming duo exhibition with Nikki Maloof “What did I know of your days.” How did the idea for the exhibition come up?
Nikki and I go all the way back to an intro drawing class at Indiana University! We used to draw together all the time, and wanted to exhibit how we use the medium differently in our respective practices, despite our shared trajectories.
Any art, books, music, films that hav inspired you or changed your life?
I’ve been giving myself a lot of homework. Right now I’m reading Philip Guston’s collected lectures and letters; Other Men’s Daughters by Richard Stern; and Zadie Smith’s Feel Free. There’s no method behind anything I’m reading–just picking up things I said I’d get around to or that sound interesting. I’m also reading about the use of perspective in Italian Renaissance painting (I didn’t pay attention to the lessons on perspective that I had in college), and I’m waiting on a book about parietal art by David Lewis-Williams. Musically I’ve been dedicating full studio days to one band or artist: Yes, Fountains of Wayne, Prince, John Prine, The Fall, anyone I like but don’t know much about.