Fine artist, writer, lecturer: Interview with Uriél Dana

uri by car

Uriél Dana has been honored for her work as a fine artist, writer, and lecturer for more than three decades. Her oils, gouache, and lost wax bronze work has been shown in 12 countries on 4 continents. She is a former U.S. State Department Ambassador to the Arts under the former Arts America Program.

Her oil paintings and drawings are included in dozens of private, corporate, and celebrity art collections. In October 2015 two of her paintings were selected for the Carousel de Louvre exhibition in Paris, and she was included in the catalogue Modern Art Masters in Complex Musée du Louvre.

In addition to her own art career, for 17 years she was known for her painting collaborations with the late Gage Taylor under the name Taylor-Dana. ‬

Her current work is inspired by San Francisco’s nouveau cirque culture.

A few of her honorary mentions include:

  • International Woman of the Year (nominee 4 times)
  • Outstanding People of the 20th Century
    • Outstanding Achievement Awards
    • Outstanding Achievement in the Fine Arts
  • The Twentieth Century Award for Achievement
  • Who’s Who of American Art
  • Who’s Who of American Women
  • Who’s Who in America
  • 2,000 Outstanding Artists and Designers of the 20th century
  • International Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women
  • 2000 Outstanding Women of the Twentieth Century

Websites

www.urieldana.com

www.twitter.com/uridev

www.linkedin.com/in/urieldana

www.instagram.com/uridev

NP:  Your background is rich with the textures of experience and knowledge. What are those things that motivate you to try new things and embark on different paths?

Dana: The Chinese have a saying that we are a house with four rooms (Mental, Spiritual, Physical and Creative) but most people spend their time in only one. I spend time every day in each of those rooms. I learn something new every day, I meditate every day, I paint or write every day, and I exercise every day.

NP:  How would you define your philosophy of life and your work in the areas of fine arts, writing and film directing?

Dana: As the daughter of a Rosicrucian, I was weaned on the mystery schools, the occult, Edgar Cayce, and Atlantis. By adolescence I was on a steady mental diet of the world’s religions, mythologies, and archetypes; washed down with an occasional weekend séance. Add to the menu a lesbian mother who was also a mortician and you have the makings for a child with a sleeping disorder. As a child I suffered parasomic nightmares. I walked in my sleep until I was 23 years old. This has colored every page of my life.

My mother probably found the only Tibetan Monk on the North Side of Chicago. He taught me to navigate through the mysterious nocturnal worlds I found myself swimming in. Learning to remain conscious while in a sleep state and recognize the dream while awake helped me evolve out of a life controlling sleep disorder. You might say it was the first art I mastered. It was the beginning of a 45+ year practice of Tibetan Dream Yoga. Dream Yoga is one of the Buddhist tantric practices. (People think tantra only has to do with sex when in truth, there are 64 tantras and only 6 have anything to do with sex).

As a result, I have always gravitated to the surreal and to those that participate in the world with unique vision. The form isn’t important, everything is a manifestation of that view.

NP:  In the area of film directing how do you approach a project? What things do you look for and what excites your imagination? Do you see an overlap with film, art and the role of Internet?

Dana: Directing film is a recent transition for me but a natural creative progression. As a painter I just see film as “moving paintings”. The few things I have directed I also wrote. All my life I’ve written. In school I was active in journalism and on the school paper. I served as Feature Editor twice and a News Editor for a year. Over the decades I’ve written poems that were published in anthologies, and lectured on many subjects. I’ve edited books, and written mostly art related online articles.

A few years ago I participated in the San Francisco 48 Hour Film Project. Participants are given 48 hours to write, cast, shoot, edit, and score a 5-minute film. You must also produce a trailer. It was life changing. I loved the collaboration and the marriage of the visual and the emotional in film to create a shared group dream. Screenwriting allows multiple genres for people to process an experience. At its core helps people know they are not alone. I’d like to be a part of that.

Recently I was accepted for a year’s tutelage with the Writer’s Guild Foundation in Beverly Hills. The Foundation is attached to the Writers Guild of America, who represent screenwriters & playwrights nationally. I was one of only 50 people selected from thousands of applications that were received all across the US. In May I attended a Writers Guild Boot Camp Weekend with industry giants. The rest of the year I attend weekly & monthly meetings with highly successful mentors.

With the help of the Writers Guild, I’m currently writing an anime premise pilot based on Tibetan Dream Yoga that I will pitch in May of 2017. Anime for me is the perfect medium for the subject because, like dreams, they are not limited by the rules of the waking world.

I am so grateful for being accepted into the program. It is an outreach for veteran writers to offer gratitude for our service to our country. People know me for my art but few realize I was in the Air Force or that I am a Disabled Vietnam era Vet. (My disabilities are not visible. I have some missing internal bits that require medication to stay alive and that compromise my immune system). Unfortunately I also suffer from PTSD. It is Dream Yoga that helps me to function and why I thought my film project would help other veterans.

It’s interesting that you asked me about the Internet’s impact on film and art. It has opened up all kinds of film and television possibilities because of online streaming, with new studio-producer-distributors such as Netflix and Amazon Studios offering original content.

As far as fine art goes, the Internet can be a good research tool. However, I find the emotion you feel off an original painting is stripped out when you view a piece online. It also distorts the color and makes everything more electric. It is not elegant. The Internet has also flooded the market with really bad art. It’s similar to when our phones became our main camera and everyone started believing they were a photographer. A digital painting is an advertising or film tool; it is not fine art.

NPAre there interests you wish to further explore and experiment with?  How do you decide on what to pursue?

Dana:  I follow the love. As a former Ambassador to the Arts, I met artists who created beautiful paintings that did not sell, and artists although lacking in skill their work sold like crazy. Without fail, when I met the artist whose work sold well they were filled with love and joy for what they created. The poor selling artists were angry, bitter, or felt the world owed them a living. “The energy we hold when we create something stays there forever. You can create something perfect but if you were angry when you made it no one will want to be around it, let alone buy it.”