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Artist Daina Higgins Captures A Revolt in Progress

Daina Higgins Dismantling The Confederacy Paintings

Daina Higgins has painted a series of works which depict the recent controversial defacing of and/or removal of publicly displayed Confederate Statues. These oil paintings capture memorable moments of 2020 that were seen around the world via television, photojournalism and social media.

Dismantling The Confederacy Paintings

Christopher Columbus, St. Paul, MN, 2020, oil on panel, 20 x 20 inches

Although we’re almost through February of 2021, most of us are still reeling from the events of 2020, a year likely to go down in U.S. history as one of the most eventful, frightening, enlightening and inspiring while simultaneously being remembered for its nonsensical violence, explosive hate, and divisive racial and political ideologies.

John Breckinridge Castleman/House Homeless, Louisville KY, 2021. Oil on panel, 20×16 inches.
John Breckinridge Castleman/House Homeless, Louisville KY, (detail), 2021. Oil on panel, 20×16 inches

Daina Higgins’ paintings are snapshots of the actions instigated by the desire to end systemic racism in this country. Specifically the removal of statues that honored those who stood for or practised oppression, racism and inequality among people. A movement, long overdue, that compelled the members of Black Lives Matter and its supporters to act out and be heard by the hundreds of thousands of tone-deaf Americans suffering from cognitive dissonance.

Charles Didier Dreux/Fuck This Shit, New Orleans, LA, 2020, oil on birch panel, 20 x 20 inches
Charles Didier Dreux/Fuck This Shit, New Orleans, LA, (detail) 2020, oil on birch panel, 20 x 20 inches

The Philadelphia-based artist grew up in Columbus, Ohio and was born to a father whose family ran a trading post and U.S. Post Office on the San Carlos Apache reservation in Globe, Arizona; and a mother who immigrated with her parents from Lithuania, escaping the Soviet Army’s invasion and occupation of that country in 1944.

She has worked in just about every 2D medium you can think of including watercolor, ink, solar etching, lithography, spray paint, oil and gouache – but regardless of the medium her works always depict her own urban surroundings.

Black Power/Frank Rizzo, Philadelphia, PA. 2020, oil on panel, 15 x 30 inches
Black Power/Frank Rizzo, Philadelphia, PA. (detail), 2020

The Artist on the painting above:
“This monument to former police commissioner and then mayor Frank L. Rizzo was installed in 1998 and unveiled by democratic mayor Ed Rendell. The statue has been the target of several works of graffiti including when it was yarn bombed with a pink bikini. Protesters demanded its removal and the sculptor Zenos Frudakis, fearing injury and disaster if the 3000-ton piece was actually toppled, recommended its removal. I am more interested in how something as impermanent as a graffiti tag being applied caused the statue, the very example of permanence itself, to be removed. And so I wanted to fix this in memory. I also consider how the dialectic forces of Apollonian and Dionysian play out in this context.”

Robert E. Lee/George Floyd, Richmond, VA, 2020, oil on birch panel, 15 x 30 inches
Robert E. Lee/George Floyd, Richmond, VA, (detail) 2020, oil on birch panel, 15 x 30 inches
Robert E. Lee/George Floyd, Richmond, VA, (detail) 2020, oil on birch panel, 15 x 30 inches

“As a former graffiti artist, I’m so moved by the reclaiming of these monuments, from pillars marking our colonial, racist, and imperial values, to spaces of revolt. As a young graffiti artist I reclaimed the spaces of economic disinvestment I.e. shuttered factories and burned out buildings of the rust belt. What I felt was transformative was later coined by gentrifiers as “broken windows” and I was treated as the violator, when in fact the corporation who rejected the American middle class was the first and primary violator. It is our duty to place the blame squarely where it belongs, and that is rarely in the lap of the least powerful.”- Daina Higgins

Christopher Columbus Discovers the Wissahickon, 2020. Oil on panel, 20×16 inches.

And it looks like he murdered a bunch of Lenapes in order to do so, note the blood on his hands in the detail below.

Christopher Columbus Discovers the Wissahickon, (detail), 2020. Oil on panel, 20×16 inches.
Jefferson Davis statue, toppled and painted, Monument Ave., Richmond, 2020, oil on panel
Jefferson Davis statue, toppled and painted (detail), 2020

Often capturing the decay of America, previous series of hers include Realism paintings of Used Car lots strung with banners, storefront windows reflecting the locale, graffiti, abandoned buildings, small town streets, empty parking lots and quiet neighborhoods. Below are a few examples of our favorites from her previous work:

Commissary Food Market, Ridge Avenue, 2018, oil on panel, 24 x 48 inches
Oriole St. at Ridge Avenue, 2018, oil on panel, 18 x 18 inches
February 2011, oil on birch panel, 20 x 20 inches
North Philly Memorial, 2018, oil on birch panel, 30 x 45 inches

Daina Higgins – biography from her own website

Daina Higgins was born and raised in the Clintonville neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. Her early art experiences were at the Columbus College of Art and Design, where she attended Saturday morning classes for seven consecutive years. During this time she attended Fort Hayes, an arts alternative high school located in downtown Columbus. In 1997 she received the Silas H. Rhodes Merit Scholarship from the School of Visual Arts in New York. She moved to New York, and graduated in 2001 with her BFA.

Out of a small studio in her Brooklyn apartment, she began making small paintings using a spray paint and stencil technique she dreamt up while looking at Georges Seurat’s drawings. In 2003 the Rebecca Ibel Gallery exhibited these paintings. In 2005 Higgins also joined the Elizabeth Harris Gallery, receiving critical acclaim for her 2006 solo exhibition in the New York Times.

In 2007, Higgins enrolled as an MFA student at Queens College CUNY. During the two years of graduate school, she was included in the Queens International 4, a biennial exhibition at the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing, and in 2009 she won the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant. Higgins also traveled to California to open a two-person show with Liat Yossifor at the University of LaVerne’s Harris Art Gallery.

Numerous publications have documented her paintings, including ArtNews, The New York Sun, The Village Voice, The Columbus Dispatch, and The New York Times. In 2006 Roberta Smith reviewed her exhibition at Elizabeth Harris Gallery, ending her review with “[she]…creates a poetic awareness of the passage of light, moving through the world, bouncing off things and making visual experience fleetingly possible.”

In 2010 Higgins moved to Philadelphia, where she bought a house and studio which she has been renovating. In 2017, Higgins installed four paintings on permanent view in the Pennsylvania Convention Center (outside of Hall E). In the summer of 2020, she was included in a group exhibition “End of Summer” at Contemporary Art Matters in Columbus, Ohio. In December of 2020 she was awarded a second grant from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation.

Charles Didier Dreux/Fuck This Shit, New Orleans, LA, (detail) 2020, oil on birch panel, 20 x 20 inches

See more of her work at https://www.dainahiggins.com/

Follow her on Instagram @dainahiggins_studio

all images courtesy of Daina Higgins

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