Dara Vance is a native Floridian and a proud southern woman. Vance believes that preserving and enlivening southern arts, especially handcrafts such as quilting, embroidery and knitting, creates a literal tie to the past.
While working on an MFA in Fashion at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Ms. Vance became enamored with the history of the south, specifically women and textiles as a barometer of social conditions. Her current body of work combines her interest in textiles, sewing and quilting with her true calling as a painter.
To hone her research realm, Vance is pursuing a Master of Arts at USF St. Petersburg in their unique Florida Studies program. It is here that she is developing a series of work that charts the formative impact of women in the state of Florida. Vance believes that by synthesizing the knowledge and traditions of the past with the technology and knowledge we value in the present, Southern artists continue to produce significant works of cultural importance.
Vance is a full time art instructor at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School, from which she graduated. She earned her BFA in painting from Eckerd College and an MA in Educational Leadership from Argosy University. She lives in Safety Harbor with her fiancé and spends her free time traveling the back roads of the Sunshine State, visiting and photographing ghost towns through out Florida.
Within control and strength there is a subtle and delicate existence, and conversely within fragility there can be tremendous power. The heartland of Florida, anchored by undulating shoreline and populated with anonymous pioneering women, embodies a delicate power that is enduring and elusive. This series of quilted paintings explores Florida’s pioneer existence as a reflection of a history of conquests, beauty, exploitation and celebration. Waves like lace, women like pillars, cranes like embroidered birds, and doilies like worried fetishes create a glimpse into the domestication and rebellion of landscape and lifestyle.
Traveling through the Sunshine State researching ghost towns, I am fascinated by the grandeur of Florida’s sky, and the subtle persistence of color in the land and sea. In homage to Florida’s Highwaymen painters, the intensely colored landscape quilts are painted with acrylic on masonite boards, while the borders are sewn with both hand and machine techniques. The use of sewing is a literal tie to my southern heritage in which women learned to sew not as a mere hobby, but as a necessity. Combining the male dominated Highwaymen’s style with highly domesticated quilting celebrates the exception to society’s rules often found in Florida, harkening back to a time in which environment, weather and circumstance often necessitated that convention and limitation were dispensed with in order to survive and thrive.
The larger embellished paintings explore the identity of Florida’s mid 19t century woman caught between prescribed domestic duties and requisite brutal living in the untamed wilds of palm scrubs and wandering swamps. As I research Florida’s treasured history held within countless ghost towns, I find a living history among the women who settled in Florida long before modern convenience and protection. I establish symbolism and meaning by contrasting the lace-like appearance of waves with the relenting strength of tidal flow. Additionally, lace is a literal representation of hidden strength in which lace appears delicate yet is actually comprised of a series of knotted thread. Combined with images of women bravely commanding their homesteads, and Florida environment succumbing to the domination of industry, these works question “What is strength and endurance?”
Email Dara Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click images for a larger gallery.