A conversation with the artist: Denali Lowder

A conversation with the artist: Denali Lowder

Gallery Committee member Bridget Conway spent some time with artist Denali Lowder to chat about her exhibition Tree of Heaven, up now in the Holland Gallery through the end of July. Check out their conversation below!

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B: Can you speak a little about the name of your show (Tree of Heaven), what it means, why you chose it, how it relates to the work?

D: Yes, I love those trees! They originally came to my focus because a bunch of people talked to me about them around the same time. They’re these super invasive trees that pop up anywhere and everywhere. I thought they were kinda cool, and I first started to notice them when they were growing in my front yard and I was like Jesus Christ, these trees! They’re full grown in six months! And the more you notice them, the more interesting they are-if you cut them back, they grow three times as much, and they grow best when you don’t do anything to them, which is super weird to me. It was really interesting to me that this tree grew super well under pretty bad circumstances and without a lot of attention-overwatering them and giving them too much attention is like the one thing that kills them. I always thought it was interesting to base a show off of how one thing makes you feel—and not the entire concept of the whole show, but each individual picture relates to how you feel about each individual idea and situation.

B: You use these really interesting darkroom techniques in your pieces that make for really captivating and unique photos. What’s that like? What’s the trajectory for your pieces—how much is concept, and how much is the actual process of printing them yourself? Do things every happen accidentally?

D: The process is the most fun part to me, and I think the way it came about is when I tried to make it more expressive…like, to me, just taking photos isn’t enough to express yourself in the way you want, at least for me. So by experimenting with this stuff made it so that I could layer on, and it just made it more interesting and expressive to me. It felt like I was really doing something that I liked doing. As for making things accidentally, it was really fun because it totally changed the way I took photos. I would find myself taking photos with a plan in mind, and I have a million notes in my phone for composition, but it does change in the finial product. One of the pieces in the show has dried fixer on it, and I found that because I used it in an earlier piece, but it turned out that the fixer kind of bleached it out o be orangey-pink.

B: So that’s the actual process, but what about the original photos themselves?

D: A lot of the photos I took I took for this show, but it also gave me a chance to use old negatives. There are a few photos with negatives that are a few years old, and there’s one negative that’s more than a few years old that I kind of repurposed for this show. I was looking through my book, and when you’re using some of these darkroom techniques, you can use old negatives and they take on this whole new meaning. And none of them turned out how I thought they would, which is kind of cool.

B: Is there a reason you can speak to as to why all your photos are black and white?

D: I mostly do that stuff because I can do it all by myself—I can rely on myself to print it and use these techniques to print it how I want it to look, where with color you usually need someone else to print the work, and I do like printing it myself.

B: DIY!

D: DIY till I die!

B: How has your work evolved since you started taking photos?

D: Gosh, I don’t know…it was the first type of artwork I’ve done in a long time where it just grabbed me. It’s taken me a really long time—almost a decade—but I feel like I can make stuff in this way I can connect with. It’s taken me a really long time, and I’m sure it takes everyone a really long time but I feel like it’s something I can be really proud of and I can emotionally express myself with. I think I just started doing stuff like this to make it more interesting to me, and I think it just went from there. I just like doing it!

B: Is there anything else you want people to notice about your show?

D: Yeah, actually, there’s something—in a lot of the photos with masking tape on them, you can see my fingerprints on the tape, so I thought that was kinda cool. Like I was leaving my actual, literal fingerprints on these pieces. That’s it!