The word “courage” doesn’t typically come to mind in relation to artists. However, in the case of San Diego painter Dani Dodge, courage appears early in her description.
Contrary to her angelic appearance, Dani was embedded as a newspaper reporter with the First Marine Expeditionary Force during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, where she witnessed first hand the horrors of war. With indelible experience gained in covering military conflict, the San Jose State University journalism graduate later relocated to San Diego as reporter for the Union-Tribune, and was part of a journalistic team that in 2006 won a Pulitzer Prize.
Over time it became clear to Dani that words were not a powerful enough means of expression, so she courageously left her career as an accomplished journalist after nearly two decades in order to focus on telling poignant stories through art. She mused, “As a journalist, I told the stories of others, but as an artist, I tell my own.” Her outstanding professionalism as a journalist has followed her into her successful artistic career.
Dani works primarily by layering different media — acrylic paint, spray paint, ink and collage — to create moving images that weave tales of the human condition, often within crowded cities. She explains, “I paint and draw these people in a raw, abstracted manner to give viewers an opportunity to read in their own stories.”
Although her work has typically been on canvas, she recently began exploring the incorporation of found sculptural elements into her figurative paintings. She states of this courageous new phase of her artwork, “I use the discards of everyday life — a dirty screen door left in the gutter becomes a frame, and a rusty car door becomes a vehicle driving home a new message. By repurposing the trash, I am seeking redemption also for the souls I capture in paint.”
Raw, provoking, yet at the same time sensitively empathetic, this new work seems to tell the story of people discarded by society. “I work to create poignancy by putting this trash together with my paintings — to find the beauty in what we throw away,” Dani says.
Her boldly expressive paintings have won many awards while being selected for an ever-increasing list of national and international juried shows. She has garnered media attention on local television as well as in an impressive number of publications.
Dani’s work can be seen at Pimento Fine Art in Little Italy, as well as at danidodge.com. Additionally, she is scheduled to exhibit at the Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair coming to Balboa Park in September.
A solo exhibit of Dani’s work can be viewed currently at L Street Fine Art, 628 L Street across from the Omni San Diego Hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter through Aug. 15. The public is invited to meet Dani at her opening reception at the L Street gallery June 9 from 6 to 9 p.m.
Kay Colvin is an art consultant and director of the L Street Fine Art Gallery in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. She specializes in promoting emerging and mid-career artists and bringing enrichment programs to elementary schools through The Kid’s College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.