Danielle Mužina


Artist Statement, 2020

We are vulnerable, permeable beings, affected by our surroundings and histories whether we want to be or not. Both house and body part of a connected system of experiences; it is intermingled with and immersed in its environment, not separate from it. The home space is simultaneously a sanctuary from the chaos in our lives and the battleground for some of our biggest struggles as individuals, as families, and as a microcosm for larger society. Our larger sense of belonging in the world is often correlated with how connected or disconnected we are from our homes, whether in terms of physical proximity or emotional rapport. My figurative paintings are informed by observed bodily rhythms of my family and community members. Through studying real patterns of movement, I ask larger questions about domestic spaces as sites of bottom-up history, where real people live their lives. Questioning, accepting, and embracing our direct experiences of homespace can keep us grounded, critical, and awake. How do complicated human emotions like longing, discomfort, loss, and apathy manifest in our bodily rhythms, as we are seen within and around home, responding to daily responsibilities, external stressors, and still trying to relate to one another? My figurative paintings focus on the intersection of gender with layered, ever-changing relationships to place.

I began my recent Pink Apocalypse series after Dr. Blasey-Ford's testimony against Brett Kavanaugh in 2019, by examining my own experiences, feelings, and dreams as a survivor during the #metoo movement without overthinking the strange, the violent, and the inexplicable. In these paintings, women convene on porches, or at the precipice of the domestic frontier, waiting for an ambiguous happening. The sky is in often in the process of turning an unnatural shade of pink as women interact in the space, preparing for or reacting to an apocalyptic turn of events. Within and between groups, responses to environmental forces vary, creating either tension or solidarity. The women in the paintings are engaged in preparatory projects – whether gathering as groups for rebellion or defense, plotting mysterious forms of vigilante justice, preparing to fight or flee, or even picking up the pieces together after a cataclysm. Some seem to be healing from wounds. Some are curious about the harnessing apocalyptic magic, while others cleave to their homes in panic. Some heed lyricist Mitski’s advice to “Be The Cowboy” and search the land for answers & threats, as others surrender to their new normal, cigarette in hand, as events unfold.

Painting allows me to build a more fluid home, a fragmented whole that is open to both embracing literal and metaphorical patterns and restlessly breaking them apart, to both imagining new futures and admitting the difficulty of abandoning comfortable habits. By creating domestic worlds for my viewers that are both familiar and strange, I want to encourage an introspective dialogue about the complex relationships we all have with the idea of “home.” Susan Fraiman writes in Extreme Domesticity (2019) that “home may be a key site of aesthetic, political, and psychological innovation.” She champions it as an ongoing generative, creative project, especially for those for whom home is a means for self-preservation both physically and psychologically. To me, the process of painting these narratives at the domestic edge is a threshold for exploring personal and collective meaning and responsibility. My immigrant grandmother, reflecting on witnessing national traumas in our home of former Yugoslavia, tells me “to pay attention when the sky’s bleeding even if someone tells you it’s not.” The paintings grapple with the roles figures play actively or inactively, together or divided, in both causing and addressing the crisis at hand. I continue to have faith that the process of painting can serve a threshold for making sense of both our interior worlds and our relationships to exterior forces.