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Profiles: Danielle Mailer '79

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Danielle Mailer '79
Artist

I’ve always been a fish out of water,” insists Danielle Mailer ’79. Difficult to believe when spoken by an artist recently featured in The New York Times and ARTnews magazine, and whose paintings have been flying off the walls of her latest show in New York. This is an artist who seems very much in her element. Bold and brightly colored, Danielle’s paintings share a common theme in their non-traditional celebration of the female form: silhouettes of women reclining, dancing, and praying, their outlines filled with colorful designs, all symbols of the artist’s intriguing past.

After Bowdoin, Danielle returned briefly to New York to attend the New York Studio School and the School of Visual Arts. “I went [to the city] thinking I’d be a professional artist, but instead I was a professional waitress,” she jokes. “I didn’t think I would ever have a career as a painter.”

Danielle found her creative freedom in Cornwall, Connecticut, where she accepted a job teaching elementary students at the Montessori school. Removed from the pressures of the city, Danielle “was chafing at the bit to be doing something creative again,” and began experimenting with different media while designing lessons for her students. In art school, Danielle was accustomed to working with traditional materials and producing art that conformed to her teachers’ expectations. “Changing my style was a big thing for me,” she says, “but once I left New York, I never looked back.”

Many of Danielle’s paintings contain objects that are reminiscent of various aspects of her life. Floating trombones are a tribute to her musician husband, Peter McEachern; artichokes symbolize her childhood (her mother loved them); and chili peppers harken back to Danielle’s Latin heritage. Danielle’s 18-year-old daughter, Isabella, is the subject of several paintings as well.

Although elements of her work are autobiographical, Danielle strives to combine her personal narrative with a larger story. “I came from such a colorful family,” she says, “it was a truly bohemian childhood. I want to create work that taps into that whole world.” Her style has been described by some as “magical realism,” a label she enjoys.“I want my work to speak of fun and whimsy but also hint at a darker, more complex set of emotions that are not simply about my own themes but resonate in a broader context.”

Recently, Danielle has opened “The Danielle Mailer Gallery,” and she accepted a full-time job as director of the art department at the Indian Mountain School. Known to many as the daughter of the late Norman Mailer, Danielle has worked hard to achieve success independently, while drawing from the inspiration of her unconventional childhood. To see more of Danielle’s art visit www.daniellemailer.com. 

Originally published Vol. 79, No.2, Winter 2008 Bowdoin Magazine.

Posted February 01, 2008