“My artworks speak softly,” says mixed-media artist Dana De Ano. “They don’t shout in your face.” De Ano’s delicate, ethereal pieces—which comprise found fabric and material scraps sewn onto heavyweight printmaking paper, often combined with paint and graphite—are instead intended to give viewers room to breathe.
The artist developed her technique while pursuing her master’s in painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. There she began integrating fabric into her work—so much so that a teacher suggested she go into fiber art. Though De Ano was adamant at the time that painting and drawing were her passions, she eventually found a method that blended her interests.
She begins every piece by considering the specific material she’s decided to work with—be it linens, paint chips, bathing caps or other interesting finds. “I have stacks and stacks of different colored scraps around my studio,” the artist says. “I scout items from places like estate sales, and I have people bring me things. But I also feel like the pieces find me sometimes.” As De Ano decides how to incorporate her chosen material onto the paper (“I try to have a conversation with it,” she muses), she begins sketching. Once she has an idea in mind, she moves on to her printmaking paper. “I start with a blank piece and it’s almost a dialogue between a broken and fixed thing,” she says. “I think of all of us as kind of broken, so my process is a mending or a suturing.” Before attaching the materials to the paper, the artist often “breaks the ground” by adding paint or graphite. “I also burn, rip, tear and crumple the paper to give it more depth and texture,” she adds. Then, De Ano sews on the material with a care and tenderness akin to mending a beloved sweater or soft toy.
De Ano sees her works as abstract landscapes, though admits that’s not always apparent to everyone. “It’s more of a loose reading of a landscape,” she explains. “They’re places that my mind can escape to, and there’s always a degree of turmoil, callousness or turbulence. They’re not always the pretty pictures they appear to be.”
But what viewers see, De Ano notes, is completely up to them. “The work is my responsibility and it’s the viewer’s responsibility to be left wondering,” she says. “They can enter and exit with what they need emotionally—or at least closer to what they need.”