Whole Life Magazine

April / May 2019

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8 wholelifetimes.com Like nature itself, Dani Dodge is a force, creating immersive worlds that are profound, poetic, and beautifully startling. Many of her installations and art creations have used elements of nature or have even transformed natural space into a wilderness gallery: At a residency in Ireland last year, she used luminescent tree stumps and ladders made from broken branches to transform a bleak snow-filled forest into a surreal fairyland. And now, she's working in two California deserts as an artist in residence: the Prime Desert Woodland Preserve in Lancaster, CA, and the Mojave National Preserve in Kelso. "My love of the desert began early, during a summer family vacation, driving through Death Valley on the way to visit relatives," Dodge says. "I must have been 8 or 9 at the time. My dad joked that it was called Death Valley because nothing lived in the desert where temperatures were so hot. I asked my dad to stop the station wagon so I could experience this killer heat. I looked out into the vastness of the desert and noticed the brilliance of the light, the subtle beauty of the color. I was mesmerized.... I looked at the ground and saw it move, but it wasn't the ground, it was a horned lizard. With my art installations, I want to create that same sense of wonder for gallery visitors." She's already begun her immersion in both desert residency locales. The Los Angeles-based artist is a former journalist and war correspondent who is inspired by her time on the battlefield to tell stories about the fragility and wonder of human life and our natural world. Of the Desert Woodland Preserve, she notes, "It was love at first sight. To have a preserve of 130-acres in the middle of a residential area is extraordinary. To have it be so pristine? Unbelievable." Her residency there, sponsored by the Museum of Art and History, includes art activations, a blog, photographs, and concludes with an exhibition. The Mojave National Preserve's Artist- in-Residence program invites artists to discover and interpret the vast landscape of the preserve, providing a deeper understanding and dialogue about the natural and cultural resources of the Preserve. "I spent two weeks at the park in 2018 and will go there at least once every season until my solo show at Kelso Depot Visitors' Center in November/ December 2020," Dodge says. "My artist-in-residence project focuses on the desert's biodiversity. Using sculpture, paint, and video, I'll create an art installation within the center's Desert Light Gallery with the intent of allowing visitors to see and experience the beauty of the adaptations that desert species have developed to survive." Dodge has often used elements of the natural world in stand-alone pieces, such as tree branches or stones. In a 2015 installation, (un)burdened, at the Coos Art Museum in Oregon, she used rocks as her starting point, stuffing fragile vintage bird cages with them, and piling them on the museum floor; visitors, following instructions, picked a rock from a pile and wrote their personal burden on it. When the show ended, Dodge tossed each of these rock burdens into the ocean, recording that experience for the museum's website. She also recreates natural images, as with a piece in last year's Synthetic Shorelines, at DTLA's Durden and Ray. There, her work resembled translucent seashells stranded on a mirrored beach in "The pulse that rose and fell in the abyss." As if abandoned in the pulse of a wave, 500 eyeglass lenses were scattered across a mirror, shaped like the curves left behind in a puddle of sea on sand. In addition to her two residencies focusing on the desert, Dodge has a solo show coming up at DTLA's Shoebox Projects March 31st to April 14th. The show, My ugly/ beautiful friends, will use sculpture, video, and mixed media works to create an installation exploring adaptation and survival, with the Joshua Tree serving as her muse. "It's the first of the three shows exploring what I'm learning from my time in the Mojave National Preserve and the Prime Desert Woodland Preserve," she explains. Like nature itself, Dodge is formidable. For more information about her work, and to follow her residency at the Prime Desert Woodland Preserve, visit https://danidodge.com. By Genie Davis Artist Dani Dodge TAKING ART TO NATURE city of angels Photos: Dani Dodge and Mark Dodge Medlin

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