All posts by Dara Engler

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Dara Engler

I grew up in Virginia and now live in Trumansburg, NY.  I’ve been teaching painting and drawing at Ithaca College since 2012.  I received a BFA from the University of New Hampshire and an MFA in Painting from Indiana University, Bloomington.

How to Catch a Fisher Cat, oil on canvas, 36in.x 54in., 2019.

How to Catch a Fisher Cat, oil on canvas, 36in.x 54in., 2019.

As a painter, I have always had an interest in object making.  I love to build props and environments for paintings.  I actually started college in technical theatre, studying scenic art, stage carpentry and properties.  It has had a big effect on how I think about artmaking.  As time has passed, I have begun to integrate three-dimensional objects into exhibitions alongside my paintings.  They are like artifacts and life-sized dioramas, as you might see in taxidermy or natural history museums.

Diorama installation at University of North Carolina, Greensboro’s Gatewood Gallery.

Diorama installation at University of North Carolina, Greensboro’s Gatewood Gallery.

The piece included in the Small Works exhibition takes object making a step further for me.  It’s the beginning of a venture into sculptural felting.

Rabbit, felt on artificial grass, 2019.

Rabbit, felt on artificial grass, 2019.

My palettes: in paint and in felt.  (Photo credit: David McKinley)

My palettes: in paint and in felt. (Photo credit: David McKinley)

My paintings are portraits of an alter ego, often rooted in exaggerations of my own experiences.  Their loose narratives are allegorical, embracing human foible and the humor that comes with it.  My pirate-y anti-hero is full of curiosity and combative reverence for her natural environment.  The animals in the paintings were friends, foe and food.

How to Track a Deer, oil on canvas, 36in.x 158in., 2018.

How to Track a Deer, oil on canvas, 36in.x 158in., 2018.

How to Track a Deer (detail).

How to Track a Deer (detail).

The felt animals, organs and guts have sprung out these paintings.  It’s been really fun learning a new skill and I’m excited to see where this work will lead and if it will fit in with my previous body of work or become a separate body (pun intended).

Deer Organs, felt on artificial grass, 2019.

Deer Organs, felt on artificial grass, 2019.

Chipmunk in progress…only thousands of needle pokes to go.  (Photo credit: David McKinley)

Chipmunk in progress…only thousands of needle pokes to go. (Photo credit: David McKinley)

My work is influenced by a lot of external sources: other artists, fiction, psychology, my environment.  But what’s been most interesting is how my work has influenced me.  In researching for paintings and learning my character I have become a more active person. I’ll always be an “indoor kid” but my character has prompted me to take an animal tracking course, learn to make twine from plants, get a fishing license and to learn to gut and scale fish.

Gutting my first trout.  (Photo credit: Nina Hien)

Gutting my first trout. (Photo credit: Nina Hien)

You can see more of my work at: www.daraengler.com


Dara Engler is one of 112 artists included in the 6th annual Small Works exhibition at Main Street Arts, a national juried exhibition of work 12 inches or less. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop. Small Works runs through January 3, 2020.