We had the good fortune of connecting with Danielle Branchaud and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Danielle, how do you think about risk?
As a fine artist who specializes in surrealism in a predominantly conservative region, risk is and always has been a big part of how I produce and share my work. There has to be a conscious decision to refuse to compromise one’s vision. This is easier said than done, especially when we are so often told that in order to be successful we should placate our audience. I tried that route once or twice; it only resulted in a sense of falsehood, and works that felt half-measured. Staying true to yourself is vital, not just for own comfort and identity, but for the work itself. The most profound and astonishing artwork I have every created was born from the most honest and genuine places within me. And while at times I worry that it will not be well received, I take the risk anyway. I create the work and I share it with the world. And I’m amazed every time by the responses they garner. At present, I am venturing into yet another leap of faith. As is the case with every major project that is outside of my comfort zone, I’m optimistic that yet again I’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results. At the very least, I’ll remain true to myself, embracing every aspect of my nature and that which inspires me without apology.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
There are a myriad of ways that one can describe my artwork. I’ve heard it referred to as magic realism, dark art, classical with a twist, or just plain strange. But the way I see every painting is an exercise in introspection. I have developed multiple series of works in acrylic during my career thus far, and every one of them explores the nuances of human nature. There is a deeply psycho-spiritual trend in these pieces; they are as much a survey of the human experience as they are of my own personal emotions. When I was young I had no desire to become an artist. I rebelled against the idea, since my mother was an artist and naturally I felt obliged to follow my own path. Yet some things are inevitable. Once I finally relented and started using acrylic paints, I quickly found I had a knack for manipulating them. I’ve since mastered the use of acrylics in my own unique fashion, without use of mediums. My blending tactic has lent remarkably well to the depiction of human figures and flesh, as well as fabric and other textures. I’ve been painting with acrylics for nearly twenty years now, and I’m still learning new ways to create with them. As far as exhibiting work goes, that would not have been possible with the encouragement of peers and mentors. Having talent means nothing without a support system. Most artists struggle to be objective and confident in themselves and the work they produce, and rely heavily on feedback from others. This is even more valid with entering the gallery scene. In a landscape of exclusivity and network-reliant connections, making your work known is a true challenge. I was fortunate to find connections through open-call art exhibitions at local galleries in the beginning of my career. It was years before I had my first solo exhibition at Arts for ACT in Fort Myers, and only after placing my work in several group shows and forming a reputation for myself. I’m lucky that since then I have continued to show my work, with two solo exhibitions in the past five years, and now have a strong reputation with local galleries and patrons. I also published a complete tarot deck that I illustrated myself within the past year, called the Psychopomp Tarot, which was essentially a four year project and a tremendous accomplishment for me on a personal level. Still, it would not have been possible without support from my peers. Presently, while I know I will undoubtedly continue to paint and collaborate, I’m focusing on creating more opportunities for emerging artists to be featured in local galleries. For the past four years I helped to host one of the largest open-call exhibitions in SWFL – Dark Art – at the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center. In those years I’ve learned the immense value in making these shows accessible to artists from all walks of life and experience levels. I haven’t forgotten the 20-something girl I was all those years ago who relied on the edgier themed shows to showcase my unique works. I’m looking forward to potentially creating more of these themed exhibitions that challenge the status-quo, and offer a chance to artists like myself who don’t follow local trends.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The first day I spend with them, I’d take them straight downtown to the Butterfly Estates. This particular nook off of Hough St is a gem, not only for the tour of the butterfly gardens but also for what’s adjacent: DAAS CoOp, Thrifty Garden, and Bullig Coffee and Bites. I’d happily bring them to see the artwork on display at DAAS, then have a decadent waffle brunch at Bullig. On subsequent days I’d take them to Neenie’s House and the Love Your Rebellion Zine Libary at Palm Beach and March Ave. I’d walk them along the downtown area, pop into the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center to enjoy more artwork. Another amazing meal can be had at Masala Mantra in Cape Coral; it’s easily the best curry I have ever eaten. Then Nice Guys Pizza for more good food and atmosphere unlike anywhere else in the Cape. If there’s live music, we will check it out. There is no end to the amount of incredible talent in SWFL.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’m going to dedicate this shoutout to David Acevedo and Xavier Brignoni, the founders of DAAS Gallery in Fort Myers, FL. These remarkable and talented gentlemen were the first to really embrace my work, giving me opportunities to exhibit at their original gallery location over a decade ago when I was still a fledgling emerging artist without any real gallery experience at the time. And they continue to be immensely loving and supportive to this day. I cannot overstate the affection I have for them, or for their continued efforts to bring art and culture to this city.
Jesi Cason Photography