Artist Statement

Carla Danes

Santa Monica, CA

Born 12/29/1945


As for many artists, my studio is a library. I have a personal vocabulary of shapes and materials that I revisit and replenish as I go. Glass bottles and clear plastic containers are moved around on open shelves, some of them for years. They need to be clear because if I don’t see parts, I can’t process then. If I respond to something, I bring it home like a magpie because I have learned that if I like it, if I don’t use it now, I will later. The parts I choose to make a piece, especially at the beginning, pushes form and content. Some materials are machine made, some I make myself, and some are parts of plants from our backyard. I glue, paint, and juxtapose them on various substrates until the mixture makes visual sense. The work is abstract but relates to nature; organic materials can look manmade and visa versa. It can be a visual game when looking at my work to figure out what was once what. Understanding what is true and what might be propaganda or false advertising can be critical.

The colors look like the colors seen in a hardware store or at Walmart. There is an emphasis on surface and I play with texture and transparency.  

Movement as seen or experienced in nature is an element in my work because everything in the world is constantly in motion. In ancient times, we saw movement in weather patterns, animal migrations and star constellations. Seeing movement, they knew change would follow. They responded the way their parents would have. Change is happening so fast because of technology, and we are especially anxious now. By depicting movement visually, I hope to link movement to the idea of change.

My work is sometimes described as “decorative”. Nature uses beauty to serve a purpose, such as attracting a mate or catching a meal. I think about beauty, but I back away from the sublime. I like to surprise the viewer.

Objects, shapes and colors change in relation to each other. They change when they are put together to make something new, and hopefully transformative. Sometimes what happens is surprising, even to me. It’s fun to invent things, as children do when they make art. This is not the same as making art that is “childlike”.

There are other ideas that show up in my work. I am interested in how technology and fashion and culture influence the way things look. This is why we study “Art History”. Artists also study “Philosophy”. I like to soften the boundaries of manmade categories. The playfulness of my work is a kind of rebellion against what I call “intellectual hierarchy”, but I do expect to find layers of meaning in work that I admire.

Gender influences most of what we do and since I am a woman in a time when we are trying to define ourselves in new ways, I am not afraid to explore signs of femininity. For instance, women have traditionally been “homemakers”. We have always used what is found around us to express ourselves when we make things, and I do the same. Usually the colors I choose mimic toys or fashion or packaging. I question the idea of “taste”. What is high end and sophisticated? What is gauche? What is art that people can always relate to, even in the future? When is it a commodity to decorate living and workspaces or used as an investment, or seen as a status symbol? These are ideas that women are familiar with.

It seems the more we embrace technology, the further away we get from materials and colors found in nature. Plastic and synthetic color is the stuff of our everyday lives. I enjoy them, as we all do, but I respond in a larger way to what is found in nature. I juxtapose both in my artwork.



Night Catchers, 2015