Portraying the human condition
This story was featured in the October 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art October 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story
For California artist Daggi Wallace, every face tells a story. Since Wallace was a youngster growing up in Berlin, Germany, the human countenance has held endless fascination. She recalls that early on she loved to draw portraits of musicians and even American actors, such as James Dean. After recently completing a series of paintings depicting teenage girls that was based on her own daughters’ struggles with self-image, peer pressure, and sexuality, Wallace has now turned the spotlight on herself, creating even more personal works.
Wallace’s latest series evokes her experiences growing up in close proximity to the Berlin Wall and eventually immigrating to the United States as a teenager without her family. One work in the series was on display last month in the Pastel Society of America’s annual exhibition at the National Arts Club in New York City. These new works often employ her trademark contemporary realist style, which incorporates multiple layers of meaning, abstract backgrounds, and text, ranging from graffiti to precisely rendered fonts.
In the new works, which include BORDERS AND BOUNDARIES and SCHUTZENGEL (GUARDIAN ANGEL), Wallace employs the Berlin Wall as a metaphor for the various walls she has torn down during her lifetime, including those that are real, physical, imagined, and psychological. In describing the series’ central metaphor, she says, “Walls 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 can offer comfort, though false, yet they feed hate and fear. They isolate and protect. Walls keep people out and they keep people in. We can choose to erect them or tear them down.”
The Berlin Wall series is now transitioning into a new but related one that deals with Wallace’s personal evolution after moving to the Unites States, where she encountered the vast landscapes of the American Southwest and an open-spirited people. “Focusing mainly on portraying the human condition and our connection to each other, I aim to portray our similarities and to bring attention to the struggles and joys we all share,” Wallace says. “I hope the emotional response I elicit from the viewer opens minds and hearts.” —Bonnie Gangelhoff
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