On Her First Solo Show in Oakland
By James Dennehy
Original artwork by Dara Lorenzo
I met Dara Lorenzo, an Oakland-based printmaker and artist, at Studio Morey (located at 5500 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland) where her works are currently showing to inquire about her thoughts on art school, Baltimore, and the influences of her unique medium: Mono-type printmaking.
I see that you attended the San Francisco Art Institute for grad school. What are your opinions about the different art schools around the Bay?
Academy of Art is a little bit more corporate, and when I say corporate I mean that there’s a lot of them. I’m very interested in CCA, especially their printmaking program. I see a lot of really good relief prints coming out of that school. They’ve had the same long-term printmaking instructor for a while. San Francisco Art Institute was a really good program for me. I felt it really challenged me.
Do you think college is necessary for someone who wants to be a professional artist?
Taking classes can be really helpful. I went to Towson University for undergrad and West Virginia University for painting, and it was never really a focus, this idea of conceptual art. I just did art and talked about it. I knew what I liked, but once I was asked the questions in grad school, “What are you doing, what is it about this, what is it about you that makes you wanna make these marks?” These were significant questions that I had no answers to! So I feel like grad school, in a sense, challenged me to really think about “why.” I mean we do stuff all the time, but rarely think about why is it important to us or investigate yourself or your process. So it was a good experience for me. It was very challenging.
Was it helpful to have your work critiqued in college?
Critiques can sometimes be quite paralyzing during the process of making art, but they are essential and an important part of making art. People can be harsh, but we push through and take in the things that help us, and omit the parts that don’t help so much. Ultimately it is the artist making their own art and we have to make the decisions about what really matters in our creations. We make the decisions about what we want our work to say.
You grew up in Baltimore but spent your most recent years herein the Bay. In which place do you feel most at home?
I would say that I’ve started to feel that Oakland is my home. Hence this show, I feel like it is really important. Because when I was a teenager in Baltimore, I used to take a lot of photos and it was something about just capturing the city, capturing the people, capturing the interactions. My interactions, my relationship to it in an image of something I walk by every day is really important to me. And then I moved here, and Oakland had a lot of similarities to Baltimore. And so I’ve been here for six years and it’s become a home. I’ve shown in Oakland quite a bit in the last year, and I’ve had solo shows before, but this is my first solo show in Oakland!
Personally, I’ve never seen photo etching before, so I’m wondering about the process and what your influences were for it.
My process started because I was always taking pictures, that’s been a part of my process for a long time. It’s more about what I like and what I want to capture for me to kinda root through later. After that it goes through the whole process of photo etching: there’s a surface and there’s a light source and then the process of transferring the image to the plate and getting the topography on the plate; after that I can play and do whatever I want with it.
The influence came from when I was in undergrad. I started doing printmaking after I was a painting major for a long time (I switched to printmaking because I felt like I had hit a wall with painting). And printmaking is so different, its interdisciplinary so you can paint, you can draw, you can write; it’s all part of the process and there’s a lot of science involved. So, I got really interested in it and in one of my classes the professor showed us photo emulsion. I like taking photographs but I don’t like the photograph to be the art; well it’s part of it, but I don’t like it to be the only layer of what’s going on. For me there’s so much more. So, when I went to grad school, I decided to focus on it. I asked the studio coordinator who to talk to about photo etching and he said Mark Zaffron. So they sent me over there and he was like my mentor and showed me all his stuff. He taught me everything I know about photo etching. He made a photopolymer film called Z-acrylic that I used in my workshops and classes that I taught before he passed away. I used it for a long time, but when he died it was so sudden that he kept all his secrets. He showed me everything and I took what I learned and turned it into my own way of doing things.
What role does the artist have in society?
As an observer and to take those observations and kinda regurgitate it in a way, because I feel like you have to as an artist. Artists need to make art; hence the 30 pieces that are surrounding us, I feel like I’ve got to constantly make work. You take everything that you see and everything that you feel and pull it through yourself and push it out there and show everybody how people can think in a different way.
Dara Lorenzo’s most recent project will be on display at Studio Morey, 5500 MLK Ave., Oakland through December. www.daralorenzo.com