oil painting and assemblage
I paint portraits of endangered species because I am concerned about their survival. My intent is to bring to life an equal being that is present and self-possessed. These are distinct and specific animals, not generic representatives of their kind.
In 2015, I began to meet all the animals I paint. To find them, I travel to zoos. Where possible, I spend days visiting and revisiting the same animals, sitting with them, talking to them, taking pictures, speaking with their keepers. Most regard me in return. Back in my studio, aided by these images and my impressions, I paint the being I met.
The painterliness of the surface is of great interest to me. As a self-taught artist, my most important tools have always been experimentation and observation. I want to pull together the spiritual and the earthly in my work, to get to the essence of my subjects. I am not a photo-realist. My interests lie more in fur-ness than fur and I experiment continually to achieve textural details without specifically painting them, depending on translucent layers and cheap frayed brushes.
Some of this complexity is rendered invisible in representation, making the paintings seem more photographic than they actually are. In reality, all my blacks are all built from colors that appear and disappear in changing light and movement.
10% of the sales of my endangered species paintings and prints are donated in the client’s name to animal conservation in the field.
Dawn Howkinson Siebel was born during a snowstorm in Lake County, Indiana, in 1950. Trained at Carnegie-Mellon, she moved to New York City in 1972 to be an actress, earned a Broadway credit, and quickly lost interest in the theater as a career. A class at the New School introduced her to batik and she fell in love immediately with its complexity and how it let her draw. This lead to 12 years as a dyer, beginning with batik t-shirts sold in craft fairs and ending with one-of-a-kind hand-painted silk clothing. She has a t-shirt in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution from the early days. A dozen years later she sold her collection of silk kimonos to Bergdorf Goodman then embarked on an 18-month trip around the world with a set of watercolors in her backpack. She fell in love with watercolor. For the next seven years, she painted watercolors at night with a day job in publishing. In 1994, she abandoned New York for Boulder, Colorado, and there, in a community of working artists, she finally found the nerve to devote herself fully to art. Oil became her medium of choice in 1998. As an ex-New Yorker, she was moved to create a work of 343 oil paintings of the New York City firefighters who died on 9/11. She partnered with the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation and moved back to the east coast in 2010 to complete the paintings and work on all other aspects of what became a national traveling exhibit. She resettled in Easthampton MA in 2012 and by 2013 was developing a new body of work painting animals of the world’s endangered species. In 2015 she began to meet all the animals she would paint. As a visual artist she is self-taught and always learning.
It was a multi-year art project that brought me back East from Colorado in 2010. I painted all 343 firefighters who died at the WTC in 2001 and in partnership with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, "Better Angels: The Firefighters of 9/11" had an 11-city national tour in 2011 and 2012. The paintings can be viewed at betterangels911.com, and followed on BetterAngels911 on Facebook. For 11 months in 2016 Better Angels was featured at the Springfield Museums in Springfield MA.