Legato :: In a manner that is smooth and connected
by Jenny Doh
When Cori Dantini was a student at Washington State University, her classes taught her how much she loves to make things. She eventually graduated in 1992 with a major in painting and a minor in printmaking. In addition to her coursework, Cori worked long hours outside of the classroom, in assorted jobs. "I think in my final year of college I carried 18 credits and worked 30 hours a week as a shop girl and a waitress," she says. "Having to do that taught me that I could do anything. I still believe it." This confidence has helped Cori dive into a career as an artist where she creates exquisite works that sing ... some that are playful, and others that are more somber.
JD :: When I view your work, I see spritely and definite but in some pieces, I also see somber and pensive. Do you think the mood that you are in affects the mood that your works cast?
CD :: That would be a resounding yes. I live in a dichotomy, one where I am unfailingly optimistic, yet ... tormented by a fairly clear vision of what is going on around me (which a lot of the time isn't what I would like it to be). This characteristic of mine makes me pensive and somber (and HIGHLY AWARE of what it is that I am seeing, and not loving) which is why some of my girls are looking off into the distance, as if they are looking past that moment and at something that is taking them away from the now. Maybe a memory or a plan or a distant dream even.
JD :: With all your work, I see exquisite workmanship. And it makes me imagine that it just flows out of your hands like butter without too much angst. Do I have it right?
CD :: What a nice thing to say Jenny, thank you. And yes you do, you have it quite right. The images flow right out of my hand (although on some days, they do much better work than others.)
JD :: The skirts that your girls wear, and the buns that you put their hair in ... I bet that there are many in the viewing audience who want to own skirts like those, and fix their hair into buns like those. How do you react to that?
CD :: I would love to dress like my paper ladies, but in truth I am WAY too practical! I mean for real! I am either in the studio covered in ink and glue OR sitting behind the computer for weeks on end (alone), but in my dream world I want those skirts and buns too! (I also want the tights, boots and the striped shirts.)
JD :: So lots of folks say that faces are the hardest to draw. For this reason, many folks who draw avoid drawing faces. Did you ever avoid drawing faces or did it just come naturally? Or did it come after much practice?
CD :: I wish I could say it came easy, but it all came together with repetition and time (when I think of some of my earlier "faces" I cringe!) So I say right now, and I say it loudly ... anyone can draw a face. It may take 10 years to do it well — but if you care to do it, you can.
JD :: Tell me about when you first fell in love with ledger paper and how that became such an integral part of your works.
CD :: I am not sure I can nail that down. All I know is I have been a collector of old paper and books for years. I bought them originally thinking I would use them in 3-D mixed media pieces (which I never did), and then one day when I was on etsy, I saw a little drawing go by in the live feed that was done on a dictionary page. It was right then that I realized what I should be doing with all that paper of mine! It was a very exciting day. The other thing I really love about using the vintage papers, is the level of background detail that they bring to the table. I love that someone else has held that paper and poured their thoughts out onto it, in their own hand. PLUS I love how random the words appear. I suppose a better way to think of it would be to say, I love what is left over from the original handwriting once my work covers most of it up. Again, I don't really plan this, so it is always a surprise when I look down at the end and realize that there is some fragment of a thought dancing on the page, this (I think) makes my work have more meaning. (Now it doesn't always happen like that, but when it does it is very exciting). PLUS- I love to think of that handwriting as our internal daily background thoughts, you know the lists we make, the math we do- the thoughts we quietly have ALL day long which no one ever knows about. I guess I sort of think of it as our minds white noise
JD :: And tell me about your process ... is it pen to paper, and then watercolors then collage? Do you feed the paper through the printer at all? Do you ever use pencil and eraser?
CD :: It goes a little something like this. I paper the wooden cradle, OR I use papers of my ow creation (the papering process is very organic and I never plan it out). After I have the paper down, I do a little pencil drawing (again no plan). I then ink it in, and add the watercolor. After everything is dry I use calligraphy inks, copic markers, colored pencils ... you name it and I will use it. (No one will ever call me a purist!) At some point during the process I look at the piece as a whole and decide if I need more layers of paper, and if I decide I do, I get out the PVA glue and lay them down. Then (shhhh, don't tell), I finish up with my favorite thing of all: a white power paint sharpie. It is not until the very end, that I look at the piece and see the whole. It is at this point where I start looking for words, and meaning, and somehow (as if by magic) there is often a greater message floating around in the piece. I love this part.
JD :: So today, when you woke up, what did you have for breakfast? Is that what you usually have?
CD :: Coffee, and then some more coffee. Followed by even more coffee (and a homemade oat bran muffin). The coffee part is always true. The eating part is always changing.
JD :: Tomorrow, when you wake up, you discover there is no more paper available. Nowhere. So now what? What materials would you turn to to continue creating your heart's desire?
CD :: I think I would go back to oil painting (it is what I studied in college), and I would work on wood not canvas. Although, I have been collecting doodads for going on 20 years now, so maybe I would bust into making shadow boxes and finally putting all the flotsam and jetsam I have been storing for years and years to a good use.
JD :: Finish this sentence: "Aside from my art, two things that I really enjoy doing are ..."
CD :: ... sitting on a rocky beach, listening to the waves while pouring over all the rocks. I could do this all day and never get bored. I also like trying new things, and when I say new things it could be just about anything from a new painting technique to trying different types of black licorice. (My latest try was really salty, and delicious!) I have also been known to really enjoy a good tour, my latest favorite was a tour of the Derby House at the Salem Maritime National Park, it was fascinating (and I am a geek at heart).
JD :: Who is the person or people who understand you most?
CD :: This is the hardest question for me because I don't think of myself as being a very complicated person. Not to say that I am not ... but you can always count on me to tell it like I see it (for good or bad), and I also tend to share way too much info. So ... in my mind I am a fairly easy person to know.
JD :: Who is the person or people who will probably never understand you?
CD :: Sadly, it is probably my dad. I don't think two people could sit on more opposite sides of everything, and I say that with a sad little sigh ... but it is true. What is also true is that we love each other very much, and because of that, I am okay with not being understood (and not understanding).
JD :: Tell me about how you grew up ... with papers and paints always near you? With creative parents and siblings?
CD :: When I was little I had a big old can of crayons that I LOVED (especially the pink one, which my mom showed me how to rub on my finger and then rub on the paper to make peoples cheeks look blushed). When she taught me how to do this it was a real turning point for me because it was the first time I understood the potential of what a humble supply could do. As for being surrounded by creative people ... I really wasn't.
JD :: I know you are a fan of the concept of standing up for what you believe in, even if it means standing alone. When have you stood alone?
CD :: I am a big truth teller. I believe in saying the hard things and pointing out the uncomfortable ... and that often leaves me standing alone, especially when I talk with my dad about politics!
JD :: Think fast and give me a word or two when I say ...
- David Bowie
JD :: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being pristine clean and 10 being out of control, what number is your studio most of the time?
CD :: It depends on what I am doing. If I am in the studio for real ... painting and making stuff, the studio lives at a 6-8. I don't really ever hit a 9 or 10 because I always know where everything is — and a 10 to me means not knowing where anything is because it is buried (I never ever let it get to that point because it would drive me NUTS)! Otherwise I would say the studio sort of maintains itself at a level 3 or 4, organized and tidy, but not super clean. Super clean lasts for about 5 minutes in my studio.