We had the good fortune of connecting with Daniela Barbani and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Daniela, how does your business help the community or world?
My current body of artwork serves as an educational tool, as well as a celebration of urban wildlife in Los Angeles, specifically the local mountain lion population. More importantly, it is about those that lost the fight. Printing on found materials, such as road barricades and street signs, this work merges the natural and the man-made in order to increase awareness of the plight of urban mountain lions. By creating artwork that can live outside of the gallery experience, I am able to reach a broader audience and increase accessibility, not only to viewing art, but on how to take steps to help urban wildlife. Not only does the artwork help bring attention to an ongoing environment issue, it also provides educational materials to help. I volunteer with Citizens For Los Angeles Wildlife (CLAW), where I have donated my pieces for charity. By partnering with CLAW, I am able to continue researching for my artistic practice, all while lending a hand to an organization making a difference. Having an art practice that is socially engaged means doing work with various organizations that are working hard to make a change. It is through partnerships like these, that my artwork can then begin to help the community by raising awareness and creating educational opportunities.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My artistic practice involves using methods of relief printmaking to create images on found materials. Since I am exploring topics of urban wildlife that have been impacted by human interference, I began collecting used and discarded construction materials, like road barricades, street signs, housing wrap, galvanized steel pieces, etc., to print on. These materials are radically different from the traditional substrates that prints are usually created on. By printing on these materials, I am forcing together two things that don’t belong: the hand-carved, organic image of an animal, with the cold, rigid, slick, and unyielding surface of a street sign. This resistance of materials mimics the forcing together of wild animals and people, two groups that are not meant to exist in the same spaces at the same time. Because of the ever expanding development of the city, animals are now forced into human-occupied spaces. These spaces are diminishing and animal habitats are being destroyed. I first became interested in this topic when I would see wildlife roaming the hills of my backyard. Deer, coyote, skunks, owls, raccoons, snakes, and hawks were just a few of the animals I would see on a daily basis, thanks to the critter-cam my dad installed in the backyard. After doing some research, I realized that this was bigger than my own backyard. I could not believe that a city as busy as Los Angeles is actually a massive biodiversity hotspot. These areas are rich with different types of life, but are at high risks of destruction. After learning this, I knew there were many more animals to learn about. The most surprising was the mountain lion population of LA. Thus began my journey of making socially-engaged conservation art. Relief printmaking allows for the possibility of the multiple. One carved image can be printed over and over again on many different surfaces. For example, my largest artwork, Dead End, is a series of 80 aluminum street signs that I relief printed the same mountain lion portrait on. This project was about they dying mountain lion population in LA. Each lion that is tracked by biologists gets a GPS collar and a tag number in chronological order. For example: P-1, P-2, P-3, etc. The ‘P’ stands for Puma. With Dead End, each sign represents a collared mountain lion that has died due to human interferences. This includes death by crossing freeways and roads, consuming rodenticides (rat poison), poaching, interspecies conflicts (due to lack of habitat space), etc. Every time news broke of the death of one of these lions, I printed a Dead End sign, memorializing it. Eventually, all signs will be printed. This work is a call to action to create change before it’s too late. I have a body of work of mountain lions that are relief printed on orange road barricade pieces. I then put these pieces together and created my own version of a barricade. Instead of it being something that alerts and diverts humans, they have become barricades for the animals to be wary of humans. There have been many challenges throughout this journey. I am breaking the bounds of the traditional printmaking methods, and that alone has raised some questions from traditional printmakers. While relief printmaking dates back as early as 500 BC, forms of printing are still used widely and commercially today. I am very intrigued by the hand-carved method of relief and the time it takes to create each image. Trying to make this work with modern day materials has opened up a whole new avenue of possibilities. I am acknowledging the history of the past and bringing it into the present, creating a push and pull, both physically and conceptually. Often times, news stories, articles, and other calls to action to help these animals are widely ignored. My hope is to create a visually interesting body of work that hooks the viewer in, and ultimately begins to inform and open their eyes to this ongoing struggle. After viewing the work, if the only takeaway is a new piece of knowledge, then I have done my part. I do not expect everyone to want to take steps to help these animals, but at least I can say I helped spread awareness and created an opportunity for change.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Some of the most fun places I like to visit and things I like to do include The Natural History Museum LA, shopping and eating in Down Town Long Beach, the Long Beach Aquarium, Griffith Park, hiking at Lake Hollywood, grabbing a bite and a drink at Modern Times DTLA, bike riding and rollerblading in Belmont Shore, and visiting Rancho Wildlife Sanctuary.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My family have been my biggest supporters of my artistic career, and without them, this body of work would not be possible. Citizens For Los Angeles Wildlife has played a crucial role in developing and guiding my love of urban wildlife, and has provided opportunities for me to go out into the world to help make a change.
Images and Artwork belong to Daniela Barbani.