A first glance at the work of Dana De Ano may yield it difficult to imagine that collected dish towels, mop heads, tennis balls, and nylon hosiery populate her abstract landscapes, and it is only with closer inspection that household remnants reveal themselves as newly purposed art material.
De Ano uses throwaways to channel her daily experiences of domestic chaos into palatable translations of the rural Midwest. Her drawings host portals to spaces beyond the foremost plane; imagery extends into sutured peepholes, and intertwined fabrics extend delicately beyond the paper. De Ano writes on her website, “Ideas of space, time, land, dioramas, farms, and peek- inside panoramic sugared eggs dance in my head daily.” While De Ano employs a variety of techniques to complete her work, she refers to each as a drawing.
De Ano’s drawings are informed by her Midwest surroundings, where she has been living and working for most of her life. She grew up in Chicago’s Mount Prospect suburb and attended undergraduate at DePaul, where she earned two Smith Scholarships. In 2002, De Ano received her MFA in Painting and Drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she studied with Ray Yoshida, Michiko Itatani, and Judith Geichman. She has twice worked as an artist in residence at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest. Initially, she was represented by the Chicago Art Source Gallery, then represented by Packer Schopf, and now is self-represented.
Though she mostly works at her Evanston studio, she sometimes travels to rural Wisconsin, where she works at her converted one-room schoolhouse cottage. De Ano and her husband have been renovating the cottage for more than 10 years, a working process that has influenced and is reflected in her artistic process. “I am continually pushing and pulling, filling and editing, climbing and descending, revealing and concealing through my work,” she says. The surrounding rural, natural scenery guides De Ano’s careful creation of artificial landscapes during uninterrupted work time. She produced five drawings during her most recent Wisconsin residency—an amount that would have taken her several months at her home studio in Evanston. “The hardest part of my job is never having enough time to do all that I really want to in the studio,” she explains. “Once I have started a piece, I can carry it around with me and plug into it throughout my days. It is then officially a part of me, an extension of sorts, to wonder or be curious about, to resolve or solve, and perhaps hopefully finish.” She keeps a daily record of things that feed into her studies on paper, which is as much a loose, comical play of materials as it is a search for order. “I want my audience to notice the subtleties of my work and look closer,” De Ano explains. “I think it holds a certain type of intrigue, and I am told that often. I think about drawing as telling the audience to come closer and look again, whereas paintings often shout at you. My work is not at all about shouting but about whispering, tiptoeing, and being more soft spoken.”
De Ano plugs items from her home into something that is hers to control, giving them new lives and De Ano the ability to flatten the surrounding domestic chaos. Some of De Ano’s ongoing models include visual artists Judy Pfaff, Christina Ramberg, Sarah Sze, William Kentridge, and Liz Magor.
Though De Ano tries to find momentum and discernment in her Evanston studio, being a mom and working at home enables derailments. Deadlines help De Ano wrap up a drawing, and she recently had two: a solo show in May at The Saw Room Gallery in Evanston, and her drawings mounted in Boltwood Restaurant. Earlier this year, De Ano’s work was featured in Domino Magazine and the renowned Seriously Badass Women blog. As a self-represented artist, De Ano has taken initiative to build relationships with galleries, art consultants, and interior designers, explaining, “I’ve learned to teach myself the business behind being an artist with my dad as my coach. I always want to both expand my audience and take more risks.”
De Ano is taking risks with her current studio practice—her work is growing in scale, and she’s pushing the sculptural quality of her abstract landscapes. She’s featuring new work in a solo show at Lewis University this month. Though aspects of De Ano’s practice are shifting, she understands these shifts as a building process, “For two years, I’ve worked on this body of work, and I don’t feel done with it yet.”
De Ano welcomes studio visits. You can find her drawings at danadeano.com