Dara Engler
A Pirate's Guide to Animals and Animus, Gatewood Gallery installationA Pirate's Guide to Animals and Animus, Gatewood Gallery installationHow to Catch a Fisher CatHow to Catch a DeerHow to Mark TerritoryHow to Protect Your SpoilsHow to Make a Deadfall TrapHow to Catch a GroundhogHow to Catch a Groundhog (detail 1)How to Catch a Groundhog (detail 2)A Pirate's Guide to Survival, Arnot Art Museum installationA Pirate's Guide to Survival, Arnot Art Museum installationA Pirate's Guide to Survival, Arnot Art Museum installationA Pirate's Guide to Survival, Arnot Art Museum installationHow to Track a DeerHow to Track a Deer (detail 1)How to Track a Deer (detail 3)How to Track a Deer (detail 2)How to CamouflageA Pirate's Guide to Heat and Meat, Handwerker Gallery installationA Pirate's Guide to Heat and Meat, Handwerker Gallery installationA Pirate's Guide to Heat and Meat, Handwerker Gallery installationA Pirate's Guide to Heat and Meat, Handwerker Gallery installationPaper Doll Meat Locker, gallery installationPaper Doll Meat Locker, RabbitPaper Doll Meat Locker, Rabbit GutsPaper Doll Meat Locker, DeerPaper Doll Meat Locker, Deer OrgansHow to Tie a NetHow to Build a SnarePirate PortraitHawk Still LifeFish HeadsVole Still Life 2Mouse Still LifeRodent Still LifeHow to Catch a BirdHow to Wattle and DaubNothing Bites but the FrostNothing Bites but the Frost (detail)How to Skin a SquirrelSquirrel Still LifePirate with a SkunkSpearfishing for Sea LampreyFish Still LifeFish Still Life 2Pirate Learns to Tie KnotsUntitled Ship PanoramaShip SeriesShip SeriesShip SeriesShip SeriesGreen StripesPirate at the End of Her RopeMatching Outfits Do Not a Friendship MakePirate Captain PortraitPirate Sails the Seven SeasPin Up PiratePirate Wrestles an AlligatorCuriosity Killed the ArmadilloPirate Pretends to be a LandscapeSaintly Swamp HenSaintly OpossumSaintly Southern ToadSaintly ArmadilloSaintly AlligatorGood Girls Gone FeralUntitledPirate Pretends to be a RockUntitledUntitledGeek LoveStriped TightsOther Pirate AdventuresAfter EgonPirate Doesn't Go SwimmingUntitledUntitledWaterwing PiratePirate Doesn't Go Out for SushiSushi predella (detail)The Pirate of Heartache Doesn't Go to the CircusUntitled Cat PaintingCoffee ParadeCat Lady ZombieControl Top Snow WhiteMermaid Zombie
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