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Interview :: Danni Shinya Luo – Vanitas 13

Danni Shinya Luo’s Vanitias 13 opens at La Luz de Jesus Gallery on October 4 and is up through October 27.

Image courtesy of LJP –

Image courtesy of LJP –

Shinya Luo’s debut exhibition was a mediation on beauty and psychological tension, while her sophomore outing indulged femininity in visions of figures and wild creatures. In Vanitas 13, she examines fecundity in the guises of mortality and grace. Vanitas represents the concept that every earthly being, beautiful or otherwise, eventually succumbs to change and death. In this show, the artist combines what she does best, the female figure, with her choice of Vanitas symbols.

Danni Shinya Luo was interviewed at her Glendale, CA apartment where her art studio occupies her living room.

Q: You take your creative cues from concepts and thoughts, what might be going through your head at the time. Do your shows then reflect what is going on inside yourself and/or what is happening directly around you, do they reflect your observations and thoughts on life and living, or is it a combination of all?

DSL:  I would say it’s a combination of a reflection of my inner thoughts and elements that inspires me aesthetically.  I want to deliver one or two core messages for every show that I create, one of them always being the concept of femininity.  The last show Chaotic Harmony was all about conflicts, contrasts, and tensions combined with feminine figures.  Part of me has always struggled with a self-conflicting inner voice, so I used that as the core idea for the Chaotic Harmony show.  The current Vanitas 13 show is about mortality, explored through femininity.  I chose this concept because during the two years of developing this show, I have gained more awareness on my own mortality.  Creating a show is my way of express what I’ve felt and how I see it now.


Image courtesy of LJP –

Q: You mentioned that you prefer creating medium sized bodies of work – where is the place you feel best in order convey your show concept, and the point where the amount of work might become overwhelming, or redundant?

DSL:  I think somewhere between 15 to 20 pieces is enough to explore one idea thoroughly for me.  It gives me enough options to present the idea from a few different point of views.  Any number above that I risk redundancy.


Q: Your new book, Un Petit Catalog is a self-published (and beautiful) mixture of paintings and commissions released in time for this year’s Comic Con. What is your personal and professional connection with the event?

DLS:  I love the San Diego Comic Con!  I went from a fan attending the con to an industry professional exhibiting at the con in the last eight years.  It was exciting; it still is exciting for me.  Not only do I get to meet and greet people who enjoy my work, it’s also like an annual re-union for friends and colleagues.  And every year, I meet new colleagues, new fans, and gain new opportunities for great projects. It takes a lot of work to prepare for, but I’m really happy to be able to present my art to everyone out there.


Q: You’ve gone from straight watercolors to adding additional mediums such as acrylic glazing and ink due to the limitations of layering with watercolors. Tell us about your layering techniques – what inspires them and where you are taking them?

DSL:  Watercolor was the first medium I was taught to paint with.  Even though I went through all the art school training of painting with opaque mediums like oil and acrylic, I still prefer the look of watercolor.  To me it’s the aesthetics and the mental discipline of it.  It can be subtle, delicate and whimsical.  You never have full control of it, and it hides nothing.  I really love that, but at the same time I do want to be able to have more elements, details in the paintings.  So layering is the only way to preserve the watercolor look and have more depth.  In the process, I do my usual watercolor paintings, after they dry, I coat them with four layers of sealant so it’s waterproof.  After that I can prep the paper with acrylic medium so I can paint oil or acrylic on top of the watercolor painting.  I use the glazing technique because I don’t want to cover up what’s underneath, just add to it.  I’m using acrylic right now, I would really like to experiment with oil on top in the future, and see what new elements it will bring to the paintings.


Q: What sort of challenges did you face, if any, in moving to the United States from China (note: Shinya’s entire family moved to the United States together)? Was your family supportive of your decision to become a full-time artist? Did you always want to create art or were there other roads you were thinking about taking?

DSL: The biggest challenge was not actually pursuing art, it was because I never felt like I fit in.  Growing up like that, art was my only escape and outlet, it became part of me.  My parents were very supportive of me learning art.  The challenge came after I got into art school and started taking it serious as a career path.  Having absolutely no other artists in the family, they were very concerned about the legitimacy of this occupation.  But I’m fortunate to have very understanding and loving parents, they eventually accepted the idea of me being an artist, and they try to help me in any way they can.  There are a couple of other things I’m really passionate about besides art, which is psychology and yoga, they are more like hobbies.


Image courtesy of LJP –

Danni Shinya Luo “Vanitas 13″
October 4 – 27, 2013
Artist Reception: Friday, October 4th; 8-11 PM
La Luz de Jesus Gallery

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