Artist interview: Camilla Marie Dahl

Four You Gallery
September 30, 2020

FYG: What’s your background?
CMD: I grew up in the rural town of Cornwall, Connecticut. Art has always been a part of my life—my grandmother was a potter, and my father is a sculptor, so I never questioned the viability of becoming an artist.
I moved to Denmark in 2011 to study oil painting at the Kunst Hojskolen i Holbaek, and then returned to the states to attend undergraduate school at Skidmore College. It wasn’t until my third year at Skidmore that I began sculpting, and it was there that I discovered bronze casting and the lost-wax process.
I worked independently for two years following my time at Skidmore—I maintained my painting practice between Barcelona and New York, and built a personal foundry in Cornwall, so that I could continue to cast bronze and work with metal.
Then, in 2018, I began my MFA at the New York Academy of Art, where I pursued painting and sculpture concurrently. After two transformative years, I’ve completed my degree, and look forward to continuing my art practice in Brooklyn.

FYG: What does art mean to you?
CMD: Art, for me, touches on all aspects of life—it’s an avenue for expression and self reflection, it’s a career, it’s physically engaging, it’s inspiration, passion, and motivation, it encourages problem solving and exploration, it’s a community, and it’s forever a lesson in humility, as it builds up and breaks down my ego every single day.

FYG: Who are your biggest influences?
CMD: Some of my biggest influences include Monet, Munch, De Chirico, and Hopper, as well as Giacometti, Rodin, Gormley, and Brancusi. I’m also, of course, forever influenced by the artists in my life, including my grandmother and father, and the friends, teachers, and mentors that make up my artistic community.

FYG: How do you interpret the meaning of your work?
CMD: To me, my work reflects on the importance of humility, the pervasiveness of isolation, and the passage of time. Through hyperbolic landscapes and unheroic figures, it mocks the ways in which we seek to contain, control and optimize the natural, and suggests that we are not in fact champions of the world, but characters within it.

FYG: Why are you drawn to this subject?
CMD: I’ve always been drawn to the figure because of its capacity for storytelling. The figures in these works are unheroic—pathetic, even. They tell the story of humility, of fruitless efforts, and of self-surrender. The divers are inspired by my observations over many years as a lifeguard—few things are more humbling than standing stripped down at the edge of dock in old age, and I wanted to capture that admission of vulnerability.
With many of these works, I’ve allowed the figure to fall to the background, or have left it out entirely. With the figure absent, the object becomes the character with the story to tell.
The hay roll, in particular, has held my attention for the last several months. It has always struck me as a strange and beautiful form to find stationed out in a field—foreign, monumental, and surreally still. Organic matter bound within a manmade form, these hay rolls interrupt and transform the landscape into something otherworldly.

Camilla Marie Dahl Brooklyn’s studio

FYG: What technique and material do you use?
CMD: I paint on highly textural surfaces comprised of lightweight materials like pumice stones, perlite, and coconut husk fiber. I begin with acrylic, which allows me to quickly adjust composition and color palette. While working with acrylic, I also have the freedom to add more texture through the addition of pumice stones or other materials to areas of the painting that I want to feel more sculptural. Once the composition is set, I switch to oils. With oil paints, I am able to achieve fluid transitions of color and value in some areas, and thick impasto in others.
I create my bronze sculptures mainly through the lost wax process. I sculpt my figures in clay, create molds of these figures, cast them in wax, and then have the waxes rough cast in bronze. I then weld and chase the figures, and build the base structures with bronze plate. Once the pieces are built and the figures are attached via welding or a bolting system, I sandblast or polish the bronzes, and patinate them using a hot patina process. Finally, I seal the patinas using wax or lacquer.

FYG: How is your personality reflected in your work?
CMD: I think that the overall tenor of my work is in tune with my personality. I, like my work, am equal parts cynic and romantic, and I, too, am quick to defer to humor. I feel that there’s also a sense of commitment and solidity in my work. I want each piece to feel sure of itself—unwavering. This is perhaps reflective of my own attachment to commitment, and my stubborn need to follow through and fully realize my ideas.

FYG: How does your work comment on current social issues?
CMD: My work comments on our collective privileging of efficiency and progress above all, and how we’ve come to equate the two. It also criticizes our societal tendency to reward hubris, and disparage humility, and calls to question our hierarchical understanding of the world, where we place humans at the top and see the world as something at our disposal.

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