The first time we came across fnnch was two years ago when we found a wood plank fence on Lucky Alley in the Mission District covered with charming small birds and turtles with wonderful white flowers cascading down over the top of the fence. In 2015 we met him when we was busy
There is currently a mural on Clarion Alley in San Francisco painted by Danielle O’Malley. The mural has a childlike innocence painted in a light pastel palette with saguaros, mythical creatures romping on hills and cupcake like houses. Yet a vagina face dominates the center of the piece with long spindle legs wearing pointy black shoes and the saguaros have breasts.
We met up with Danielle to discuss her art.
Danielle is originally from Detroit and came to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend art college then stayed. There is a budding art community in Detroit so we asked her why she stayed here and if she is connected with the art community in Detroit?
i stayed in Oakland for a lot of reasons. i have lived in the same house for almost seven years so i feel particularly nested and have grown roots in Oakland. Detroit has always had some of the most beautiful, creative people to me. However, the burgeoning, more mainstream art scene feels really corporate. You have Dan Gilbert, CEO of quicken loans, paying graffiti artist thousands to paint murals. Red Bull owns one of the biggest galleries in Detroit. It’s no secret that the arts are stepping-stones to gentrification. Consequently the more mainstream art scene feels so calculated, like it has an alternate agenda to filter the raw creative energy of the underground scenes through a hip, marketable pitch to bring back in suburban metro Detroiters and create a safe, white washed economic center.
But then there are also many people doing great stuff in the underground. There has always been so much cheap or free space in the city that creative movements have been able to thrive. There are people turning abandoned houses into art pieces, squatted bike shops, old churches turned into DIY punk venues. It makes me so happy.
You create art in multiple mediums using different tools. What are they and why did you happen to branch out into them? Are you primarily an illustrator that everything springs from? What is your color palette and favorite paint? Any reason why you chose those colors?
i use a lot of house paint for my colors. My dad is a house painter and he got me into that. i just love how specific the colors are, how temperamental they are. if you have a shade of green, that shade of green looks different depending on the colors you pair it with.
i also like using found objects, like cut outs from old children’s books or found letters. My dad also gets jobs sometimes cleaning out abandoned houses, so he would bring me all these old letters, books and random objects. Interweaving a strangers personal objects through your pieces, its like you’re collaborating with a ghost. And you’re weaving layers of forgotten history through your personal piece.
There are three central illustrations in much of your art. One is a long legged creature that sometimes resembles a witch with knobby knees frequently with chicken feet and a house head. The other two are houses and hands. What is the inspiration for them?
The chicken feet come from Slavic folklore called Baba Yaga. She’s a witch who lives in a hut with chicken feet. i was raised by my great grandmother, whose family was from the Ukraine. The Baba Yaga reminds me of her spirit.
i started drawing the house heads when i was in Buffalo, NY. My friends have a punk house there that they bought for a dollar or something. Someone had made curtains for the windows and put eyes in them, so it looked like the house was anthropomorphic. i started drawing that, then combined the long Baba Yaga legs, and it has evolved to whatever it is now.
What art/artist influenced you in formative years? Are there any now?
Yes the first artist i loved was Mark Ryden. He did some illustrations for a riot grrrl band i used to listen to when i was in middle school. And i really wanted to create art because i loved his so much.
Throughout my 20’s, i’ve mostly loved Margaret Kilgallen. Not only for her work, but also her lifestyle. The things she held dear. She is just kind of a role model for how i want to live my life.
Where do you currently get your inspiration?
Travels, folklore, children’s books, hand painted signs.
Is there a specific message you are trying to get across with your art? How does woman’s fertility play into your art like the Clarion Alley mural?
It varies from piece to piece, but the one in Clarion Alley definitely has a political message. Often as women, our bodies are either exploitatively sexualized, or shamed and hidden. We rarely see images of our sexuality existing in any other form. The narratives of our sexuality and bodies are controlled by others.
But this vagina is unapologetically taking up space in its own power. It just stares at you, and i hope it pushes itself into a new perspective. She is a take on ancient matriarchal Mother religions, where cycles of birth, death, rebirth and female sexuality were considered sacred.
You enjoy creating art in public spaces, yet we have seen very little of your art on the streets in SF Bay Area. Can you tell us where your art can be found? Given your use of different mediums is your public art painted murals, installations or other forms of art and how they come about?
The only mural i have in SF is the one in Clarion. i have painted two murals in West Oakland, but they’ve since been gone over. Although i am based out of Oakland, i travel a lot. So i feel like i am more active in painting when I’m on the road. i guess sometimes you just get stuck in comfort ruts in your home city.
But one thing i have to say is i have let myself unfortunately get discouraged. First off, art in the streets, whether it be graffiti or murals, is very very male dominated. Sometimes, taking up public space as a female, you open yourself up to a lot of scrutiny. Sometimes, it is such a boys club you don’t even know how to break in.
Another issue is sexual harassment. i painted a mural at East Bay Liberation Radio about 4 years ago. i was being hit on by some dude, and told him i was working and to leave me alone. He was with a friend, they cornered me and told me they could rape me right now if they wanted to, then walked away. This was during the daytime, and i went home for the day after that. i eventually finished the mural, but with a different feeling towards it. It was rushed. It was scared. And i didn’t paint another mural in Oakland for three years.
i am talking about these things, because there’s often attitudes that prevent a lot of women from participating in these scenes. That keep them from taking up space in this world. A lot of people don’t fully understand how different reality can be for someone born into a different body than theirs. Women are intimidated out of the public realm every day.
Do you create art when you travel?
yes i love to.
Do you have an upcoming project you want people to know about?
i am creating a pop up zine about a trip down the baja coast i took with a friend in the fall. I was in Mexico City for several months and found some places to paint.
While in Mexico City, staying at a friends apartment. i painted a few murals. One was in the house of my friend Josué. I painted the decapitated my little pony head and he painted the hairy horse body. His work can be found at mezcalito
i painted a mural in my friends shower in Coyocan. i also attended a zine fest in Guadalajara called Zin Futuro and painted another mural in the library of a collective space out there called La Madriguera.
Finally i painted a mural at a space in DF called the Che. (i dont have very good pictures of it) The Che is a squat in the auditorium of the university, that has been around since the late 90’s. Activist began occupying the building during a strike for free education in the late 90’s and have been occupying it ever since. The police and other various groups have tried to violently break up the occupation for years, but people still fight for the space, and the space still stands.
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