Dara Engler
A Pirate’s Guide to Animals and Animus

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 interest in the figure lies in facing these awkward obstacles. My pirate-y anti-hero is full of curiosity and combative reverence for her natural environment. She is tracking animals, skinning squirrels, and learning to tie nets. Despite her adventurous nature, the pirate is subject to an awkward and fumbling learning curve. She approaches tasks in the least efficient way possible. As in any allegory, her trials are emblematic of our daily struggles.

In her book, The Feminine in Fairy Tales, psychologist Marie-Louise von Franz says, “Dreams either compensate for the lopsidedness of our conscious view or complement its lacunae. Fairy tales, because they are also mostly unsophisticated products of the storyteller’s unconscious, do the same. Like dreams, they help to keep our conscious attitude in a healthy balance, and have therefore a healing function.” (p.10) I view my work through a similar lens, as an unapologetically “unsophisticated” product of my unconscious that manifests in this humorous pirate-y alter ego. By painting this character, I prevent myself from becoming her.

The paintings play with flatness, pattern and line juxtaposed with the rendered form. It is unclear whether the figure is outside or whether the background is a theatrical backdrop in an invented space. It is an important part of my process that I build the shelter and tie nets. These objects construct an artificial world as installations and artifacts, while the two-dimensional work serves as snapshots of the pirate in her environment. As with taxidermy and natural history museums, the artifacts blur the line between fact and fiction, causing the work to teeter between real and imagined worlds.

-Dara Engler, 2019