Alumni Spotlight with Stine Danielle

Q&a

Tell us a bit about your most recent work.

My most recent work investigates what it means for me to be a participant in outdoor recreation in North America. Informed by my lived experience, my identity as an immigrant woman of color, and research on the history of outdoor recreational spaces.  I examine outdoor recreation as a forked space between inclusion and exclusion, using writing, installation, and self-portraiture to process the dichotomy of this space: what it is, how it is experienced, and who it is intended for.

Personally speaking, the work began with an essay I’d written weeks before the start of grad school. In it, I navigated my fears, shifting comfortability, and dependency on others. I detailed the ways my behavior was criticized and how I was made painfully aware of how others perceived me: “You – you look like the type.” / “You are so brown now” / “Your fear? It doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense to me”. Putting my outdoor experiences into writing allowed me to recognize not only the physical spaces I inhabited, but their social constructs formed through social interaction, and their historical and cultural specific meanings. 

After this piece of writing, my attention veered back to the landscapes I once lived in. Reflecting on the Sierras of my early twenties, and the Niagara Escarpment of my childhood. I began to think more deeply about the man-made structures I’d come across, like the tent pad. On Google Maps, I gathered screenshots of tent pads located in various parts of Canada and the United States. Interested in the way the tent pad forms a literal boundary, I decided to reconstruct it within the studio space, outside of its original context. I wanted to create a simulation of a space completely of my own. Within this space, I could practice and perform the process of pitching a tent. I could re-embody actions that others have used before me, while bringing into question who is often depicted in these actions. I could create a site of possibility, not only for reconstruction but also representation.

How does this project differ from your past works?

In the past, I’ve worked on two projects: Nothing Happens Here and Rosamyrna. The former was a photo series conceived as a bittersweet love letter to the suburban neighborhood I lived in for 23 years. The latter was a collaborative photo series between my maternal grandmother and I, that documented our relationship leading up to her Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 2019. Though my most recent work involves installation and a heck of a lot of research, it still moves along the same vein as my previous works. They are all informed by my life in some way or other. 

What do you hope to communicate through your work?

Honesty—and the path it takes to get there. 

What influence does nature and plant life have on your practice?

My most recent work is an examination of my participation in outdoor recreation, which is to say that my relationship with nature deeply influences my practice at this time. As for plant life, I  wish I had the ability to name every plant species I come across—though, I’ve recently begun researching plants native to my homeland, the Philippines. Thinking about my own immigration experience, I’m curious about the ways plant life can be displaced and thrive. This has inspired my practice over the past couple of weeks, and I’m excited to see where it will take me.

You spoke about the politics of space and access to outdoor activity, can you speak a little more to your research and the installation piece that came about as a result?

My research on outdoor recreation has pulled me in different directions, including the social construction of wilderness, the racialization of space, and the history of the national park system. The installation I created is the result of the latter. After the tent pad, I became less afraid of working with wood. So, I decided I wanted to reconstruct a message board, another structure found in outdoor recreational spaces. The National Park Service calls this a Visual Information System (VIS). Typically found by trailheads, the message board serves to help visitors with trail directionals, resource protection, and safety information about a particular place. Taking inspiration from my essay, my reconstruction references multiple places: incorporating images from the National Park Service archive, or from my own personal archive, as well as text. This transforms the message board into a personal mindmap, one that allows me to re-perform autobiography, process my own participation, and bring into question the images of these spaces: what is shown, what is hidden, and how these images implicate the space.

What or who inspires you? Why do you create? 

My mother, my grandmother, and my sister. For them and because of them.

Why do you think community is important in the art world and your personal life? 

In my life, community is often brought up in conversation amongst friends and fellow artists I think, in part, because it is difficult to find or belong to one at times. Or, the definition of community changes as you grow older. Or, that you don’t recognize who your community is right away. My experience has been all of this and more. Ultimately, community in the art world is the same as in life. The right community will champion you, challenge you, arm you with new knowledge, and hold a mirror (sometimes forcefully) to your face when you forget who you are, and they are important because they make your practice and your life capital-B Better. 

Where did you picture yourself post-graduation, and does it align with where you are now?

While I was pursuing my undergraduate degree in photography, I knew that I wanted to continue on the path of academia. I was so sure of it that I chose to skip my graduation, apologizing and promising my mother that she wouldn’t have to worry. That she would learn to forgive me. That she would get to see me graduate with my master’s degree instead. Writing this, I’m six weeks away from completing my first year of grad school. It feels like a stretch imagining a cap and gown at this point. But yes, in many ways where I am now is very much in line with where I pictured myself to be. I knew I would someday pursue an MFA. I knew it would be in the United States, too. It took longer than I expected, and I never imagined it would be in Nebraska, but I’m very glad to be here.

What do you envision for the future of your practice?

Collaboration, funding, an artist residency or two, and a dog. 

Career-wise, where do you see yourself in the future?

I see myself continuing my studio practice (with less crying) and working a job that provides me with fulfillment, joy, and a living wage. Though, I don’t know where just yet. Living in the Midwest, I miss the diversity I had living in the Greater Toronto Area, and so the first answer I would want to give is that, I see myself being somewhere diverse. Although—and this was said to me while interviewing for a grad school in the Southern United States—there is something to be said about being somewhere that needs you. So, I think that’s where I see myself in the future…somewhere that needs me.

 Stine Danielle is a Tkaronto and Lincoln-based artist working with photography and installation. She completed her BFA in Photography Studies from X University and is an MFA candidate in Studio Art at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.