Talking with Danika Vandersteen

Danika Vandersteen is a Halifax-based visual artist, maker, actor and musician. In Flower District her paintings and objects spin and wheel with folk bright colour, self-styled silliness and unblinking eyes. 

 Danika Vandersteen,  These Noisy Birds Making a Mess During Moment of Self Importance,  watercolour on paper, 9" x 12", 2018

Danika Vandersteen, These Noisy Birds Making a Mess During Moment of Self Importance, watercolour on paper, 9" x 12", 2018

 Danika Vandersteen,  Tribute to View From Orcas Island , watercolour and painted wooden frame, 18" x 24" 2018

Danika Vandersteen, Tribute to View From Orcas Island, watercolour and painted wooden frame, 18" x 24" 2018

PS: Hi Danika. We met a long time ago (2011) at an outdoor arts festival in rural Nova Scotia. I braided bullrushes for a week in front of a bonfire. What did you do?

DV: Hi Penny, we did! I had just finished my BFA at NSCAD and was feeling like I should be using the time to do something performance-based since everyone at NSCAD seems to have their go at performance art. I was challenged for sure lol and so it basically turned into a week of trying to sort out why planning a summer camp activity for the group was my art practice? But I had a lot of fun and the other artists and mentors were really easygoing and supportive of my attempts.

PS: That's right! So zipping forward to today. Your creative energy flows into a lot of different spaces — visual art, crafte, music and more recently, acting. How do choose to direct your creative energies?

DV: It's definitely been a one at a time kinda thing though it would be cool to have a ball rolling in each lane all the time.  

PS: Tell me about your recent work.

DV: My artwork lately has been embracing the simple love and appreciation of beautiful landscapes and ornament through material, colour and style. It’s an attempt to understand what motivates these aesthetic leanings. I've been using repeating figures of people and poodles and birds and more to set lil vignettes that illustrate a deep contemplation of  ideas balanced with the silliness of too much self-reflection.

PS: Silliness, yes. Recent paintings picture a cartoonish bugeyed figure in a kaleidoscope of everyday life (dressing, drinking, climbing stairs, etc). Are these self portraits?

DV: In a lot of cases it is and in some it’s not. I sure know a lot about my own experience so I feel like that's a good starting place to express ideas about identity. Anytime a figure is there to reflect on something like Why would I use this type of ornament, style of decoration, scene from travelling in India or Morocco? then this figure pretty much has to be me. But sometimes the figures make up a crowd or are wearing somethin cool or are a viewer and those people are hopefully anyone.

PS: Tell me about your objects and ceramics. Are they objects in your paintings come to life?  

DV: They totally are. Lately I’ve been having fun bringing elements of the 2D work to 3D realm and vice versa.

PS: What's next for you?

DV:  Just continuing on this trek of making paintings and accompanying objects and keeping my eyes and ears peeled for cool opportunities in this world.

Thanks Danika!

*edited from personal email conversations