GOLDEN BOY PRESS Interview #110
We talked to Daphne about her most recent work, The Distillation Project, and her feelings that have come hand in hand with her artistic process.
Could you introduce yourself?
My name is Daphne Noel, and I am a Greek-American artist from Chicago. I’m 19 and currently studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
How has The Distillation Project changed how you view the world?
This is a really great question that nobody has really asked me before. I think more than anything, it has made me capable of deconstructing things to their essential parts. This has become central to my work and my life. In my work, I try to understand what the most fundamental parts of a place, space, or human are. What makes something unique, yet preserves its allegiance to what it is at its core? This is why I tend to favor raw materials and minimal manipulation of them. The Project has helped me learn to understand this about geography, built space, and even the human body. Everything is unique. Everything has unique parts, traits, functions, and behaviors; but everything is essentially the same. Let me give you an example. We could consider two different beaches. Let’s say both in Greece, one on the Ionian Sea and one on the Aegean. If you were to bottle up water from each of those seas, you have two different types of water. If you were to preserve part of the earth from each shore, you might have rock and pebbles from the Ionian, and fine-grained light colored sand from the Aegean. These are the unique features of what make up each beach. Now, if you were to separate the salt from the water in each case, we are left with three things. Water, salt, and earth; each unique to where they came from, but essentially the same in their properties.
How did the project begin?
Unintentionally. Totally unintentionally. I was doing a lot of work that manifested itself on canvas, through which I was focusing on the action of graffiti in the form of tagging, used as a signature or mark of territory. I was completing a piece, and a professor of mine suggested that I take a look at the late works of Willem de Kooning. Not so much for aesthetic purposes, but for what they represented. Because of deteriorating mental state, de Kooning’s late paintings became only a remnant of the essence of what he used to be. They were a distillation of the essence of his person, and no longer representative of him. This was a really crucial realization for me. This, then, is what a tag became to me. In my mind, the more times it got repeated, it ironically became simply the distillation of a person, barely representing anything at all. I wanted to move beyond that though, and figure out other ways to distill proof of human existence. And so began The Distillation Project.
Can you tell us, in-depth, your thoughts about the human body, and how that influences your work?
I use the human body in a couple different ways. One thing that is fascinating to me about the human body is something that commands its presence. The first piece of The Distillation Project employs the bodily dimensions of the average person in the United States. Standing at 5’ 7”, with a width of about 21”, the concrete block in Distillation of the Essence Of (I) commands a presence very similar to that of a human body. I like to use this to emphasize a physical relationship between a piece—whether it be on canvas or sculptural—and the viewer. The Distillation Project aims to highlight a candid existence of, and through the human experience. Another thing that is fascinating to me about the human body, is our ability to experience through sensory faculties. This allows each and every one of us to engage in a tangible experience, however differently. Because of the human sensorium, I feel like my work is only effective if the faculties are engaged to a point where a physical relationship is confirmed. Also, I think that in many ways, the human body can be treated like we treated the components of the beaches. As bodies, we are the same, composed of the same material. On a biological level, our bodies function the same, though we as individuals utilize each function differently to create a behavior.
How has your style developed over the years?
Up until about a year ago I had always explored through painting. I would say that the most dramatic thing for me was taking the leap from being solely a 2D artist to incorporating sculpture into my practice.
How do your works on canvas influence your sculpture work, and vice versa?
My sculptural work was basically a child of my work on canvas. Now, I try to explore an idea both two-dimensionally and sculpturally, because I feel that each medium has a specific quality to offer. Some things don’t work on canvas, some things don’t work sculpturally. I kind of just do what I think needs to be done.
Do you tend to multitask when you work on your art, or complete focus? What’s your process?
A lot of my work is very physical, because of size or material. I mix my own concrete, and my works on canvas are typically very large. With pieces that are particularly physical, I find that I work until I’m too tired to continue for the day. I often find that I have works on canvas going on simultaneously to sculptural works. Alternating between the different mediums allows me to think on different platforms, which encourages me to make discoveries in each medium that might enhance the other.
Do you have any gallery shows this year?
Not at the moment. I have a couple of things underway. I am currently working on new additions to The Distillation Project, and hope to be showing in some galleries in Chicago in the coming months. If you’d like any updates, give my Facebook page a like (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Daphne-Noel/596340490400588?ref=hl), and visit my website (www.daphnenoel.com)!
What makes you happy?
Great friends and my wonderful family. People who believe in themselves and in other people. People who are fountains, not people who are drains. Sharing good energy. Going places, and doing things. Just life, actually. Life makes me really happy. Good food, of course. Oh, and when the Blackhawks win.
Any closing comments?
I really appreciate the opportunity! Thanks for reading! I would love to hear from you guys, so drop me a line! (http://www.daphnenoel.com/contact/)
Life is a continuum, and you are where you are supposed to be.
Interviewed by POI