F & T Questionnaire:
As summer is heaving some of its final, humid breaths, Fink and Theel is so pleased to present our next artist, Danielle Orchard. If historically a Painter was most often a male depicting idealized, docile, lounging women, enter Orchard whose work complicates, subverts, and gloriously deflowers said cultural cliché. Intimacy among bodies is the portal through which she explores tensions between overt sexuality and innocence, maternal affection and parasitism, a fully formed present and thick looming memory. Through an elegant language of abstraction and color, beach goers in triangle bikinis squirt milk from their breasts like fountains, embraces feel full of desire and indifference, and cigarettes and vaginas abound. Though these are not the idyllic mother and child scenes of 19th Century Cassatt, their complex and suggestive nature conflated with the tenderness with which the paint is applied places Orchard as an exciting contemporary voice within the lineage of women painting women and beyond. Read below for Orchard's poetic musings on immense geologic forces and domestic ritual and the importance of posing unanswerable questions.
Describe a place in the world where you have felt most alive:
Florence, Italy, in 2007, when I was 20 (21?). Everything there is beautiful and old, and the light is unnaturally bright but not obtrusive..
Share an image that you return to often:
This is my grandma, Janet Coffey. I think this was taken at a public pool in Cincinnati. This image makes me remember how much I love her, and also causes me to lament the current state of women’s swimwear.
What is the last thing you read that mattered to you? What will you read next?
I’ve recently read one short story, one memoir, and a short novel that stuck with me. All three are distinctive, but deal in some way with memory and a sense of collapsing time (themes that are important to me, and relate to the way I think about painting). 20 Minutes, by James Salter; A Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion; and Desperate Characters, by Paula Fox. In the latter, there’s a sentence that I really love, on page 147, in which one of the main characters, Sophie, remembers falling asleep on her sofa as a child and being pricked by the sofa’s horsehair stuffing: “She put her hand on her cheek and touched the place where the horsehair had pricked, and she gasped at the force of a memory that could, in the space of a breath taken and released, expunge the distance between sleepy child and exhausted adult, as though, she thought, it had taken all these years to climb the stairs to bed.” Next up I’m reading Saul Bellow’s short stories and the book of Haiku I bought after reading Franny and Zooey and then never touched.
Describe an object that intrigues you:
I don’t consciously collect many things, but the mantelpiece over my fireplace is partially covered by stones and wooden shapes that I’ve taken from various places, places that at one point meant something to me. I occasionally pick one up and consider how I’ve completely forgotten where I got it.
What must change?
There’s a beautiful part in Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking where the author compares her girlhood obsession with massive geological forces to her adult love of domestic ritual. Both have occurred for millennia, and both require a degree of objectivity to be fully appreciated. Objective understanding eventually leads one to recognize the futility in refusing to participate, and participation that is unavoidable somehow imbues life with purpose. I love the idea that distance and examination can make one feel simultaneously essential and inconsequential.
How can we heal?
All of us? I haven’t the slightest idea, but I doubt that anything prescriptive could be universally effective. Intuition and a vaguely formed morality tell me that we should fight for free and equal access to higher education, that we should stop trying to quantify everything, and that perhaps we should stop using tradition to disguise selfish interests.
If you could instantly have any skill or ability what would it be?
A talent for rote memorization. Or maybe I’d be a long distance swimmer. That would mean unimaginable bravery coupled with being in great shape. I’d be doing all that work for a very specific end, one that I personally find completely inscrutable, but that to a long distance swimmer must be obvious and compelling.
What makes you laugh until you cry?
Most of my friends, my sister Michelle, Groundhog Day, people who look back accusingly after they trip on a crack in the sidewalk, etc.
As a member of the global community, what is your greatest concern?
My fundamental concern is a staggering lack of empathy that allows for so many of the worst things in the world.
Describe a non-human being you’ve interacted with.
Nan, my 2 month old puppy. She was rescued from a junkyard in the Bronx. Her brain is impressive and she has tiny shark teeth.
What is your mantra?
"I don't know how to answer that."
What can art do?
Ask unanswerable questions.