Name: Danielle Cole
Location: Toronto, Canada
Job: Collage artist and high school art teacher
What’s your first memory connected to art?
Any opportunity to make art in grade school lit me up. I had a teacher in grade 5 that would dedicate half a day to art projects every Friday, it made everything about school better.
I came from a family where no one could draw. My mother found art classes for me to take and my grandfather and grandmother became patrons of my art education, offering me books and art materials that were often beyond my existing abilities.
Who or what made you become an artist?
My father used to say that he got me from gypsies in exchange for box of orange flavoured popsicles.
This being a modern version of my great grandfather’s story that my high-spirited grandmother arrived by way of the gypsies, traded for a crate of oranges. It was the opening statement that began to define my life as an artists living among pragmatists.
The artist part of me was always there- the drive to become an artist has been fuelled by fine teachers, a supportive mom and a world full of books and galleries that I have had the privilege to explore.
How was your style born? What was its evolution over time?
It took me years to give in to being a full-time collage artist.
The work leading up to the decision was often mixed media, textured painted backgrounds integrated with cut imagery.
I had so much I wanted to say about everything and I used found imagery to offset all the things I couldn’t realistically, draw or paint or communicate.
My current style was officially born in 2014 with the show: “Girls and dinosaurs”, an entire body of work combining 80s fashion, 1960’s domesticity and dinosaurs in lieu of men.
Over the last 3 years I have gone on to create two new bodies of work as well as several standalone pieces in this using the same humour and clean cut combination of collage elements.
What are the subjects that most inspire your art?
My work often explores the absurdity of domestic roles and the need for material goods.
What about your artistic process and the techniques and mediums you use?
I am an analogue collage artist. Which makes me a high functioning hoarder.
Michelangelo said of his art “every block of stone has a statue inside and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it”.
This quote holds true for the construction of the collages, where you sort through hundreds of images, until that magical moment when you get to say: that vacuum belongs in that dinosaur’s hand.
My most recent show: “The course of an Empire”, took four years of collecting materials to build the large-scale pieces.
My techniques involve scissors, a Xacto knife and never glue sticks! I have a secret technique for evenly applying craft glue so the work doesn’t fall apart as it ages and the paper doesn’t curl and get bumpy.
I teach my adult students how to do it when I run collage workshops.
What is the ideal situation to create? A special moment of the day? A place ? A song?
A well lit place. A large table or surface to spread out materials. Early day works better for me than late day as it’s hard to do precision cutting when I’m tired or unfocused. Having said that when I’m working or when I travel I carve out time where ever I can find it.
What is the aim of your Art?
I populate my work with human substitutes in the form of birds and dinosaurs and other objects in order to use humour to engage the viewer in a dialogue about social issues.
My art is part of an on-going conversation I’m having with the world.
What is the distinctive trait of your personality and how it is reflected in your art?
My sense of humour and my desire to tell stories with that highlight social issues are threads that run through all my work.
I often use titles to drive home the humour and messages in my art.
Using titles such as Midlife crisis in describing a pile of sexy cool old cars or “Old boys club”, for a 2015 collage featuring owls comfortably perched in a luxurious and masculine library.
What are you working on?
I have just completed over 27 pieces for my show “The Course of an Empire”, which is just wrapping up its time on the walls of a local Toronto gallery.
I created a book to accompany the work highlighting individual images of cars with legs.
My current work is to find a new opportunity to show the work outside of Toronto.
I dream of showing them at a Tesla dealership or somewhere where the car people go to fantasize.
What about your future projects?
I’m continuing to work on my “Pile on”, series featuring cars and legs in ever changing configurations and seeking new spaces to show the work.
I’m also gathering materials to work on a series called “The Dark Ages”, as a response to the current political climate (in the neighbouring USA) which values guns over all things and is clawing back women’s rights at an alarming rate.
I’m gathering 1950s and 60s housewife imagery, cowboy drawings and an aircraft carrier worth of gun and rifle photos to start.
Danielle, what is ART for you?
It is all the things I want to say to say about the world in a visual essay I will be writing for the rest of my life.