Danette Landry is an established painter and sculptor currently based in Paris. Her thoughtful forays into abstraction in her paintings and bronze sculptures explore the innate opposites found in nature, and a formal ordering of life’s chaos. Landry most recently exhibited at A.I.R. gallery in New York City and has many of her sculptures displayed as public art in California.
Where and who do you look to for inspiration? How do you handle a temporary lack of inspiration?
Most often, we don’t find what we need or want when we look for it. However, living in Paris is an enormous source of inspiration. Wandering around the city and popping into art galleries, museums or just admiring the architecture puts a bounce in my step. It is a city that embraces artists and allows them to feel understood and accepted. A last minute escape to a foreign country and roaming without a plan in complete liberty always gets me back on track. The problem is that finding inspiration is not precise and not the same each time. Which brings up the subject of time. Time is the perpetual enemy. There is always a way to spark inspiration, ideas, motivation, etc, but, the anxiety of not knowing how long that will take while the clock is ticking is dreadful.
How do you think the role of the artist changes in times of crisis?
I don’t think it is the role that changes as all artists have a common goal which is to express themselves, and they are usually used to solitude. During any type of political crisis, for example, artists speak out, revel and try to influence people according to their convictions. It is their duty to question and challenge current events and protest through their art. The current crisis is a war against an invisible enemy which knows no borders, ethnicity, skin color or religion. Political injustice can incite people to react, and jubilation can give wings to a movement but this lockdown seems to be promoting anxiety. I will be curious to see the art that is produced during this unprecedented time.
How has your background in cultural anthropology affected your work as an artist, and vice versa?
I don’t think my studies in anthropology have specifically affected my work. I am naturally curious about people and any one of my art openings feels like a mini field study; it’s amazing what you learn about people’s knowledge and perceptions of art by the questions they ask and how they interact with the art. This varies enormously from country to country and even city to city. For example, people in New York and California are night and day.
How do you think your paintings coordinate and harmonize with your sculptures? What does each medium allow you to explore that the other can’t?
The similarities between the two are the themes of imperfection, chaos and perseverance. Some of my favorite pieces were accidents meaning that I produced something that I did not originally envision. I enjoy allowing materials to behave according to their properties.
This being said, the processes of painting and sculpting are extremely different on the emotional and psychological level. It is exhausting to prepare to paint and draining when the day is over or when frustration sets in- whichever comes first. Creating casted bronze sculptures is very physical and seemingly an interminable process from the beginning to the end, but it is invigorating.
What type of response do you hope people have from viewing your work?
I would like people to have an emotion that excites them and gives them visual pleasure. People need to leave their preconceptions and esoteric phobias at home. When you see a beautiful woman or a bouquet of flowers, you don’t rip your hair out wondering why you are visually stimulated. Art is supposed to evoke an emotion that is more often than not completely subconscious and therefore it doesn’t have to be analysed. Simply put, visual stimulation in its variety of forms is what I hope for.
How has your practice changed over time?
The motif of my work is still all about symmetry, complementarity, and trying to order chaos. However, my paintings are no longer as rigid and geometric as they were when I began painting. One horizontal line has much more meaning to me today that multiple geometric horizontal lines did 20 years ago.
You recently had your first solo exhibition in New York City at AIR Gallery. Where do you hope to exhibit next and what else do you hope to accomplish in the next few years?
I would like to have representation in NYC with a reputable gallery that has international presence.
What advice would you give to an artist just starting out in the field?
Read art history in general, but especially about the lives and lifestyles of artists in particular. Get to know their contemporaries as much as possible. Receiving a diploma doesn’t necessarily make you an artist or prepare you for the life of an artist; if you are not ready to sacrifice and do not have the capacity and will to find clever ways to surmount unimaginable obstacles then choose another profession. If you are hungry enough to live only to paint, sculpt, write, etc, then go for it and don’t give up. The hours and days of frustration will be forgotten when you experience the few moments of pure joy.