Saturday, July 16, 2016

Artist Spotlight: Daggi Wallace on Walls

Daggi Wallace, In Search of Peace, Pastel on paper, 40 x 60"
I am keenly interested in portraying the human condition and our connection to each other, our similarities, the struggles and joys we all share. Women's and children’s issues are of special interest to me and some of my work has expanded to social commentary. I like to create images that tell a story with multiple layers of meaning to draw in the viewer and elicit a strong emotional response. About a year and a half ago my work took a turn and became much more personal. I wanted to overcome personal fears of exposing myself too much to others by telling more of my own personal story. This work resulted in my current solo exhibition at TAG Gallery titled Wende/Transformation.

I was born in 1962’s West-Berlin, in close proximity to the Berlin Wall and spent my formative years there among a people that in general are very reserved. Within my own family there were walls built up and torn down which shouldn’t have been. I realized walls were a major theme running throughout my life and for the first time I wanted to explore something so personal through my work. Making the resulting paintings public was one way of my breaking down an internal wall I had built up myself. All my life I had erected my own walls of protection and fears but since moving to the wide open spaces of the American Southwest I had been learning to tear them down.

With this continuing series I am using the Berlin Wall as metaphor for all of the walls in our lives. Little did I know when I started this series last year just how politically timely it would be now with the current talk of division and building walls! The paintings examine the endless contradiction and effects of walls. Walls are real and physical, imagined and psychological. They make visible one’s fears, anxieties and insecurities. They separate and yet offer a common purpose. They divide us yet invite us to scale them and tear them down, to come together again. They offer comfort, though false, yet feed hate and fear. They isolate and protect. Walls keep people out AND in. They shelter us and yet make us want to break free. They repel and tempt. They control and we rebel. They are a prison and a freedom. We can choose to erect them or tear them down.
Daggi Wallace, Schutzengel (Guardian Angel), Pastel on paper, 40 x 60"
When I spotted the graffiti of the angel on an actual left over piece of the Berlin wall still standing, I knew it would perfectly illustrate my point of actually having felt protected by this ugly horrible wall as a child. “Schutzengel” literally translates to “protection angel”. Since I lived on the West side I never felt oppressed or locked in as a child in Berlin, but actually saw the wall as protecting us from the Russians. Only when we ventured over into East Germany, either to visit or travel through, did I feel the oppression. The piece had to be very large in scale (40”x60”) and the figure about life size so the viewer might feel the oppression of the wall on one hand and the sense of protection from the large angel on the other.
Daggi Wallace, Home, Pastel on paper, 20 x 20"
The model stands in front of a steel wall (the original was made out of concrete), a memorial to the division of the city from August 13, 1961 to November 9, 1989, erected in commemoration of the victims of Communist tyranny. During the photo shoot the light above the model's head appeared spontaneously and immediately gave me the title for this painting, referring not only to my hometown but our true spiritual home which is always present even in the darkest moments.
Daggi Wallace, Mother, Did It Have To Be So High, Pastel on paper, 40 x 60"
As you can see titles are very important to me. They add yet another layer of meaning and accentuate the content of each piece. Some of these paintings’ titles are inspired by Pink Floyd. Their music (The Wall album of course, but others as well) has always been among my most played in the studio and became instrumental in the creation of these works for obvious reasons.

Daggi Wallace, Daddy, What D'Ya Leave Behind For Me?, Pastel on paper, 40 x 60"
Both paintings and their titles refer not only to the Berlin wall but to my own upbringing. There are several small personal references "hidden in open view" in Daddy…, but the main theme of what our ancestors and families leave behind for us through our personal as well as the world's history is obvious. Personal references such as names and dates are also hidden in other pieces of this series.

The title for the next piece is from Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem which lyrics have had a profound impact on me. Here I used the addition of metal leaf to emphasize them.
Daggi Wallace, There Is a Crack In Everything, That's How the Light Gets In, Pastel and metal leaf on paper, 20 x 30"
Daggi Wallace, Daddy, Borders and Boundaries, Pastel on paper, 28 x 28"
Borders and Boundaries again refers to external political and internal personal restrictions and/or lack of them. By adding text and what I hope are intriguing titles the viewer is invited to venture beyond the obvious realistic image and explore the content of the work further.
Daggi Wallace, Someone To Watch Over Me (Self Portrait At Age Three), Mixed Media on paper, 24 x 24"
Someone To Watch Over Me (Self Portrait At Age Three) is my most personal work yet. While I used models as stand-ins for myself in the previous paintings here I used a reference photo of myself at age three. Wanting to add even more content I used mixed media including collage from old newspaper images depicting the signs and watch towers I used to see along the wall. I used heavily applied red acrylic in the background dripping over an outline of West and East Berlin to emphasize the communist threat around my city. The piece is a reference to my having felt watched all the time but also wishing to have had someone to watch over me MORE at other times.

This series continues on to my figures in water paintings which on the surface appear to be nothing but pretty women in swimming pools but actually tell the story of how my emigration to America helped me step out from behind my walls and dive more freely into the deep end of life.

Daggi's current show, Wende/Transformation, will be at TAG through August 6.
Come meet Daggi tonight (July 16) at the Artists' Reception or in two weeks at an Artist Panel Discussion on Saturday, July 30, 3pm.

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