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  • Writer's pictureTILA Studios

Meet Ariel Dannielle: The Artist behind Reminiscence of Self

In her own words, Ariel Dannielle is a normal Black girl who is doing normal Black girl things. However, she has found a way to transform the ordinary into that which is truly exceptional. Her large-scale acrylic paintings combine everyday experiences, self-reflection, and vulnerability to provide alternative perspectives of Black womanhood.

The Georgia born and raised artist sat down with our Curator, Grace Gardner, to discuss mindfulness, representation in the art world, and her upcoming solo exhibition, “Reminiscence of Self,” which opens at TILA Studios on October 12th.

Grace Gardner: Did you always know you wanted to be an artist? Ariel Dannielle: No I didn’t. Archie comic books and Sailor Moon got me into drawing. I’d try to copy and make them look exactly like they looked in the books. That’s my first memory of drawing and wanting to draw. That was elementary school. [In high school] I took an art class and I really liked it, but I kind of believed the whole stereotype [that artists] don’t find real jobs. Long story short, after I took my first art class [at the University of West Georgia] I realized I really like this. I think I want to do this. It was just drawing 101. I remember how happy I would be after I finished a project and I really liked that feeling so I just dove into that. I started taking more drawing classes and painting classes. GG: Now you’re here creating dope, masterful works of art. AD: Yeah, I remember my dad thought it was so random when I started getting serious about art. He was like, “Where did this come from? I had no idea you could paint or draw.” I was like, “Me neither.” I tried. You gotta just try. Everyone that’s like, “I could never be an artist.” You don’t know that. You could have a hidden talent. How are you going to know unless you try?

GG: You work primarily in acrylic. Do you think you’ll explore other mediums in the future? AD: I want to be multi-faceted. I don’t want to only do acrylic forever. It is my favorite because it works well with the pace that I paint since it dries so fast. I like the saturation of it, but I do still have a love for oil because that’s what really made me. GG: What artists have inspired you and why? AD: There are a couple. Alice Neel got me into loving acrylic and portraiture. Frida Kahlo was a big inspiration. I think everyone loves her because she was so vulnerable in her portraits. [She created] a lot of self-portraits. I still feel like I don’t know a lot of artists who focus on self-portraits. A lot of people are afraid of looking like they’re obsessed with themselves. Having Frida as an inspiration geared me towards knowing that this is a topic that doesn’t have to be looked at as narcissistic. Currently, Kerry James Marshall is up there for me. When I saw his work at the Met I was blown away. It was an experience I’ll never forget. He’s the reason why I started working on unstretched canvas — seeing [his] giant portraits pinned to the walls of a beautiful museum. His subject matter is obviously very inspirational. Lastly, Jordan Casteel. I discovered her recently too.

GG: You are a subject in a lot of your work. Is there a reason for that? AD: It started off with needing models and images. It was just easier to use myself. The more I [posed for my paintings] the more I started thinking about how [my next painting] could relate to me since I would be in it. That’s what started me being more mindful of my feelings and what’s going on in my life. I asked myself, “How am I feeling today and how do I want to portray that feeling in this portrait?” Being my own subject, I really feel like I have a mindset where I’m digging deep and I like that. GG: Your pieces in “Reminiscence of Self” are incredibly large. Is there a particular reason you work on such a large scale? Do larger dimensions allow you to convey more? AD: I think it’s just a personal preference because I love large scale work. I feel like for me being a very visual person, whenever I see something that smacks me in the face and gets my attention — that’s what I like. You can’t walk past [a huge piece] and not see it. The impact that I got from large scale pieces made me realize that I want that experience for people to see my artwork and say, “You can’t ignore this. This is too massive.” Just the impact. You can’t walk past this without giving it a minute if your time.

GG: Why unstretched canvas? AD: There are two reasons: it’s just easier for large scale pieces. Also being able to do something untraditional. I still think unstretched canvas is something that people are unsure about. There isn’t a law that says it has to be stretched.

GG: Where did the inspiration behind Reminiscence of Self come from? AD: I’ve been working on the same subject matter for a long time now — about two years. I knew I wanted to continue telling stories through my portraits. As far as inspiration it was just me wanting to continue on that path of the visual journal that I’m doing.

GG: Can you say more about the visual journal? AD: I used to keep a diary when I was younger. I think for everyone diaries can be different, but for me when the day was done I’d go home and write about [my day] no matter how mundane it was. [Now], instead of rounding out my experience of that day in a journal, I turn it into a painting. Someone may look at a painting and think it’s not that deep, for me this is an experience that I could’ve journaled about. GG: Do you think the memories will still be there once the paintings are sold? AD: I hope so. I think so. I do. I think because I put so much of myself into these paintings I couldn’t forget them even if I wanted to. GG: Do you have a particular audience in mind when you’re creating? AD: I think it would be the younger version of me. I feel like if I saw art like this as a younger adult, it would’ve had a major impact on me. I didn’t discover half of the artists that I love until after I graduated from college because I wasn’t being taught that much about African American artists especially African American women artists. So if I could impact young artists or young girls that would be dope. They could see something that they don’t often see in school.

GG: What does representation mean to you? AD: It just means feeling included — feeling like you’re not by yourself. I didn’t even realize how much I wasn’t learning about myself [in school] until my senior year when I was able to do my own research. Once I had that freedom to learn what I wanted to I started to realize how much I wasn’t learning from my classes and then I was like, “We really don’t have that much representation in the art world.” It’s important to see someone you can relate to in a positive way and not always just seeing historic paintings of slavery all the time in your art history classes. It’s important to see representations of something that you feel you can connect to today. GG: What stories do you attempt to tell within your work? Whose stories? AD: I want to make a narrative of normal life. Just everyday life that’s different from the narratives you usually see when you see a woman of color in art. I want it to be more attainable and more normalized. It can be something very simple. They’re paintings that can be looked at as a normal Black girl doing normal Black girl things.

Ariel's solo exhibition, “Reminiscence of Self,” which opens at TILA Studios on October 12th, 7pm. RSVP, invite your friends and family to enjoy art in our shared gallery space. Bring her flowers when you see her!

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