Danielle Dean


Artist Statement:
An Island can be a refuge. Evoking feelings of escape and solitude, beauty and abundance. For eleven years, I lived and worked on San Juan Island, a seven mile stretch of land in the Salish Sea. In creation myths, islands portray the beginnings of consciousness. On San Juan Island the native tribe, the Coast Salish, believed that Mitchell Bay, located in the northwest part of the island, was their Garden of Eden. It is a thin place - a Celtic description of a place where the veil between heaven and earth seems thinner.
An Island can also serve as a canary in a coal mine. Life is directly tied to nature on an immediate measurable scale. Changing tides erode the land. Ocean acidification shifts a delicate balance, affecting food sources for all. Most residents know the current head count of the megafauna, celebrating births and mourning deaths. It is a sense of place directly connected to events in nature, a form of immersion, a language and culture of the earth. I use to swim in the sea. I would get suited up for long periods in the cold waters. I would set my eyes directly on the water line; the ocean expanding below and the sky stretching above. The two elements blending in harmonies of blue.
The land where I lived was once an orchard. Two of the oldest King Apple trees in the county still produce apples so large that you understand the name. Our home faced North and was made of weathered cedar shake. Three large windows face east framing a tall spruce and offering a glimpse of Griffin Bay and the Cascade Mountains. In the winter Orion rises through those windows just as the sun disappears. Around the winter solstice the sun lies so low in the south that sunrise bleeds into sunset. When loss disassembled my world, I used the view out those windows to orient myself, a grounding view, a view that demands seeing.
I want my work to inhabit the threshold between vastness and intimacy. I am interested in working with the dimensional space of photography in new ways by combining traditional photographic techniques with painting, printmaking, and small sculptures. My images begin with black and white film exposed through antiquated lenses. The old optics allow the light and atmosphere to impress themselves on the silver of the film. With the steel and lead sculptures, I am working in collaboration with the sea and earth of the island to patina the objects. The work is about light, the elements, the alchemy of nature and chance.

And so the pain; above all, the hard
work of living: the long experience of love
those purely unspeakable things. But later
under the stars, what then?
That’s better left unsaid.
-Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies