Upon first viewing the work of Fayetteville Underground artist Dana Idlet, it is the striking color choices she uses in her paintings and mixed-media compositions that make the first impression.
Drawn from her experience growing up in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains outside Prairie Grove, Idlet’s palette is inspired by the wild flowers, trees, creeks, ponds, and bluffs from the natural environment of Northwest Arkansas.
On Thursday, Idlet will exibit a new collection of her colorful work, including 4 new paintings inside the Vault Gallery at the Fayetteville Underground during the First Thursday Art Walk on Oct. 1.
The exhibition is called “The Nature of Faces,” and is a mixed-media exploration of the human face as interpreted by Idlet and her unique use of color. The exhibit features several of Dana’s paintings, as well as some of her cardboard constructions in which she paints the cardboard, deconstructs it, and then reconstructs the pieces to create textured figures from the colorful materials.
“The Nature of Faces” opens on Thursday at 5 pm, and will remain open all month.
We got in touch with Dana this week, and she was nice enough to answer some questions for us.
Fayetteville Flyer: What have you been listening to lately?
Dana Idlet: So hard to narrow down, but LOTS of accordion music! Gypsy music, Gogol Bordello, Everything is Illuminated and Amelie soundtracks/scores. I just discovered Hoots & Hellmouth at a festival in Canada and fell in love with their indie/bluegrass/folk sound, they bring a lot of energy and inspiration. Also Regina Spektor’s new album “Far” is great.
FF: Tell us a bit about your show at the Fayetteville Underground next month.
DI: “The Nature of Faces” is exactly where I am right now as an artist. I’ve been building my frames and stretching the canvas, painting with oils and making cardboard collages with a lot of love. My pieces seem to come from thinking about the people and things that are really important to me. I have four new paintings that I’m very excited about and ready to share with everyone. I think I’ve moved up a level with my painting skills, having an “ah ha” moment with a painting of my Dad. Even though I have a BFA in art, I continue to learn as I go.
FF: I’m always interested in an artists’ process. Do you know what you are going to paint before you paint it, or do you just start and see what comes out?
DI: Sometimes I have this grand idea of what I want a painting or collage to look like, but it never turns out that way. Most of the time there is a direction I want to go, so I just start on the canvas and try to get there.
FF: Tell us a bit about your pet portraits. (They’re awesome.)
DI: I painted my dogs a year ago, just for fun, and it’s kind of taken off by word of mouth. I think people respond to the colors I use and the portraits don’t seem too serious or regal. I try to capture the animal’s personality in the painting by talking to the owner and meeting their pet. Lots of people love their pets and it’s too bad we can’t keep them longer. With the portraits they can either remember them or celebrate them and have an original work of art.
FF: Do you feel like you’ve fully developed your style as an artist, or is it something that constantly changes?
DI: I think that style is something that will constantly change. I can see a huge difference from how I was painting in college to a few months ago when I joined the Fayetteville Underground to now. It’s amazing how much ideas and style can evolve. I’m a different painter now, and will be in the future…it’s so exciting to think about that journey.
FF: I was also really impressed with your guitar tattoos. How did you come up with that concept? Are a lot of those custom?
DI: My boyfriend is a musician and he wanted me to draw a tree on his guitar. After I tattooed his guitar some friends and family commissioned me to do work on their instruments. The first person that wanted one, outside of my family, has now become a friend and made me think I could offer this skill to everyone. I think it can really make an instrument stand out. Each tattoo is completely original and unique. I pay attention to the motifs in the instrument, the inlay and shape help me create the design. I use permanent ink that doesn’t harm the instruments finish.
FF: First Thursday has become such a great event, and there are some really cool things happening at ddp and the Fayetteville Underground. How important is First Thursday to the Fayetteville art scene?
DI: First Thursday is very exciting for the Fayetteville Art scene! I think it’s a great way to get people out, and there is such potential to make our downtown come alive. When people come to the galleries they will see that NWA has talented artists. This opening is growing every month, and artists keep getting more exposure, so I think it’s a great thing. Fayetteville needs this, and we’re making it really easy to see great art with ddp gallery right next door to our four galleries. The Fayetteville Underground extends beyond the First Thursday too, they provide affordable studio spaces for artists and as a collective we keep the gallery open four days a week. It’s an instant artist community.
FF: I’d be remissed if I didn’t ask you about your father, Trout Fishing & America’s Ezra Idlet. What’s it like growing up with a grammy-nominated recording artist?
DI: As a traveling musician my dad comes and goes in spurts. Time together is really special. There is always music around the house, and no matter what instrument I want to play he’s there to help. He has a beautiful accordion that I’ve been learning with, and he’s excited and supportive. I don’t know how many parents would tell their children that buying an accordion would be a great investment.
FF: You’re also a pretty mean basketball player, right? (By mean, I mean awesome)
DI: I was good enough in High School to have options on where I wanted to go on scholarship. I chose the University of Tulsa and had the opportunity to make life long friendships, met my sweetie and got a BFA in painting out of the deal. I haven’t played in a while but think I’m going to get involved in my friend Basil’s (artist at the Underground) pick up games on Sundays, I miss just playing for fun.
[If the slideshow doesn’t load, visit the entire set at our Flickr page.]