Transcribed interview by Visual Collaborative
April 2020 7 min read
Danielle Eckhardt is an American painter primarily known for her paintings on spirituality, and surrealism. She was the first artist to make a mural in the ViBe district in Virginia Beach. She headlined both our Columbia and Hyattsville Maryland events as a speaker and painter. As a feature in our TwentyEightyFour interview series, She talks to us about her background in the arts, life transitions and her foray into the commercial side of the creative industry and entertainment.
(VC) Outside of the arts, what else are you passionate about, in other words, if you were not an artist what would you be?
(Danielle) I guess if I was not doing art, which is very difficult to think about, because being as a creative and artist, this is what I have been doing since I was a little child. I know it would fall along the lines of helping others. My secondary passions usually surrounds humanitarian needs. Most of the art shows I have done have usually included fundraisers or local charities, catering to people in need, battered women shelters, homeless children in the Hampton roads area, Virginia Beach here in the United States.
(VC) What does Self Awareness mean to Danielle Eckhardt?
(Danielle) As an artist, my whole life is focused on being in touch with myself. How am I feeling? what are my emotional responses to the world around me? I am constantly creating this autobiographical narrative visually on display for the whole world to see. I suppose self-awareness to me would have to represent our own kind of isolated perception of reality. We are all different, there is no way I can jump inside your head to see the world and vice versa. We all just kind have to believe each other. It’s like forever meeting at the intersection of self-awareness and alienation. How in-depth does my understanding of self really go? Can I dive deeper? Is there more to learn? I have found from personal experience more often than not, the deeper you go the more struggle there is to try and definite that self-expression to others. As an artist or creative, we are constantly searching to bridge that explanatory gap.
painting by Danielle Eckhardt
(VC) How did you become an artist and what kind of people or places impacted your direction as one?
(Danielle) My birth mother. I was adopted and one of the very few things that I actually know about my birth mother is that she was also an artist. I still have some of the watercolor paintings she made and sent to me in foster care before I was adopted. For me, this is the only way I have some kind of spiritual connection with this woman and its importance because she gave birth to me. It felt so natural after that. But I have also had lots of amazing and inspiring individuals who have helped me pursue that dream throughout my entire life. Starting with my first-grade teacher encouraging me to doodle in class, even if she felt like I was not paying attention. And then other art teachers who encouraged me to pursue art, all the way to high school when I attended the Lab School of Washington in upper Georgetown. I also interned with real working artists in D.C. I also want to remember my grandmother who passed away 5 years ago. She had always been my number one fan and a supporter of mine. I have also been influenced by other artists like Artemisia Gentileschi, Freda Kahlo, Audrey Kawasaki, I mean there are so many amazing female artists who paved the way before I showed up on the scene.
No one is an emergency buying artwork like they are toilet paper. It has been an interesting time to navigate financially through something that is considered a luxury to most people. I am hoping at the end of the pandemic that we see a greater need for the arts
(VC) Your collection of artwork has featured in several of our exhibitions. It was received well by the turnout of attendees, how does it make you feel looking back at the last decade of things you have been a part of?
(Danielle) Honestly, over the last 10 years, it has been the most rewarding. There was a really unfortunate incident in 2011 when the economy took a nosedive. I was laid off my regular day job. From that point forward it was do or die. I had to make money, so I painted non-stop and then it grew from there. I made profits at art shows and got into some galleries. I was the first artist to make a mural in the ViBe district in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The art shows with Visual Collaborative has been amazing as well and have networked with many people through the platform.
(VC) As an artist how has the Coronavirus (Convid-9) pandemic affected your outlook on life as it relates to your own collaborations and art?
(Danielle) I feel like as an artist, I was built for this shit! (Danielle Laughs) You are telling me that I have to stay home for days at home on end and speak to no one and quarantine myself from going outside the house. Yea! I am pretty sure artists were made for this. We have been prepared for this our entire life. Unfortunately, it is affecting some of my friends, it’s affected art sales. No one is an emergency buying artwork like they are toilet paper. It has been an interesting time to navigate financially through something that is considered a luxury to most people. I am hoping at the end of the pandemic that we see a greater need for the arts. Look at Netflix, the Opera, and entertainment.
Danielle Eckhardt speaking at Visual Collaborative Vanity 2015
(VC) Some mention the Renaissance times as an art period they admire. If you can time-warp back to any era, what time would it be and why?
(Danielle) My heart is always forever with 16th century Venetian Italy and it will always will be. I love that era, not what society was standing for in the current sense. But I love how things changed after that. It was the tipping point of what things were to come. It was a very different time, but that period encouraged people and women to stand up. My artistic education surrounded that area, so I constantly look back at the period for inspiration.
There is much to learn from this pandemic by making small changes in some kind of way. I identify with anti-consumerism. I try to fix things before going out to buy new things, not everything is disposable especially artwork
(VC) At this stage of your professional milestones and accomplishments, If you could work with any brand or public figure in business who would it be and why?
(Danielle) I had such a unique, and interesting and powerful and unique experience working on a movie set a couple of years ago Art Show Bingo, available of Amazon Prime, Shameless self-promotion (Danielle Laughs). It was really fun to see how a movie was produced behind the scene. There are so many people who get together for a common cause to create entertainment for the rest of the world. While we all under some kind of quarantine, it’s kind important right now.
Secondarily it would probably be a company organization or a brand that focuses on sustainability. I have always been a strong proponent for less waste, less packaging, basically, everything you see in your room will end up in a landfill. The other thing I would like to focus on is by reducing waste and I now pay to be mindful of the kind of art I create. There is much to learn from this pandemic by making small changes in some kind of way. I identify with anti-consumerism. I try to fix things before going out to buy new things, not everything is disposable especially artwork. I might focus on creating more significant paintings as opposed to large quantity of paintings.
(VC) Is there anything about Danielle that people may not know about?
(Danielle) I love plants, I have always loved plants. When I first started to own and buy plants I killed all of them. It was through hard work and practice that I was only able to nurture plants. I also love yoga, I am a certified yoga instructor and have practiced for the past 15 years.