Dana James


website: www.danajames.info

social: @MizJames

city: Brooklyn, New York

Born into a family of established artists, Dana has been engrossed in the creative world for as long as she can remember. An avid reader and writer, she manages to merge all her passions into her pieces. Recently, she decided to study and memorize the symbology of ancient Chinese Art from the book “Chinese Art, Motifs and Visual Imagery... for fun.

Walking into her studio just as the sun was setting and the space was drenched in golden light made her art even more alive. She discussed the journey of each beautiful piece, and most of her watercolors evoked wanderlust in me.

Soft spoken, stately and accomplished at a young age, she shared parts of herself...


I am a painter, born and raised in NYC. I am the child of two artists, who were also art professors at one point in time. My mother, a painter, Lizbeth Mitty, had a studio in the Tribeca loft I grew up in. We basically lived in her studio, and it was all art all the time. I drew and painted from as long as I can remember and that was a very natural thing to do in our household. We had much more art supplies than we did toys.

I create for myself but also to share with others what I think may be beautiful, sharing a moment of beauty is probably one of the most kin moments you can experience with another person. When my father was sick, my family members and I took care of him. Being immersed in tragedy, he was changing so much mentally and psychically, I painted numerous watercolors of his x-rays which we got to preserve as a thing of beauty. This also brought a lot of science into my work.

What is your creative process when beginning a new project

When I need to reset, I try to go on a small trip to clear my head and escape the constant stresses of NYC. I engross myself in the imagery of that place and the feeling of “what if” I lived there or was from somewhere else, I.e. suburbia. I then usually combine lots of symbols or imagery I came across during my time there, such as the diving boards or pool tiles I use, and I slide these into a more abstracted, less personal piece. I’m finished with a piece when I feel a sense of joy towards the piece, rather than a sense of purpose or process.

One of my favorite pieces is “Truth and Myths” which is hanging at Life on Mars Gallery right now. I like it best because it is probably one of the most unusual pieces of art I’ve done, and it combines different aspects of my work with a slight narrative.

Do you recognize yourself in your work

Yes and No. My work is often inspired by other places or lifestyles that are not my own. However, visually they can be soft, feminine, and carry a color scheme that I think fits my aura or general use in clothing, and possessions.


Is there anything specific that drew you to your current studio

The price! It was somewhat more affordable for the space. Also because it is in a building with a lot of other artists. Being around so many other hard working artists in Bushwick and especially in the 1717 Troutman building inspires hard work.


I am born and raised here, in Tribeca, so everything is normal to me... the intensity of gentrification has become a normality and has been taking place since I was a little girl – but that’s probably the thing that gives me culture shock, ironically.  

It is hard to live anywhere else after NY because the sophistication of culture is always superior.

The art community in NY is very strong, people will understand you faster here, and it’s easier to be inspired by one another even if you are not like-minded, you have a sense of artistic life just from being here. I think the community also brings about relationships that you would have never had otherwise, and relationships between the old and the young, mentorship, etc.

If you could be an artist in NY during any era, which would you pick

I am born in the 80's but would have chosen to be an adult in the 80’s when NY was still NY, full of eccentric personalities; there weren’t so many rules, and so many other artists who may not really be artists.

Who is the most New York New Yorker

I’m not sure, but it’s definitely not Taylor Swift, the new global “Ambassador of NYC”.


I have no idea if I am an emerging artist because you could compare in so many ways. In my mind, I’ve been a painter forever. I think sometimes, people think of you as an emerging artist unless you’re in the Gagosian, but I don’t agree. Regardless of my “standing” I have extensive experience in both running a gallery and being an artist and showing work, so I think labels can be erroneous.


I am currently working on a body of work inspired by swimming pools, and other (perfunctory) man-made agents of water or science, such as televisions or bathtubs.

I have a show with Proto Gallery, "We are what the Seas Have Made us", curated by Catherine Haggerty: July 11 - August 23, 2015

Current shows:

Life on Mars summer invitational

Mixtape @ 56 Bogart


BackDrop Gallery

Paintings in Trees

Near the end of his career, Rothko, abandoned all attempts at responding to those who inquired after the meaning and purpose behind his paintings. Finally responding that silence is 'so accurate'.

How would you describe the meaning and purpose behind your work

My work embraces a visceral world that is largely based on memories. I think our strongest memories often take place in or around water. There is an undercurrent of Americana in my work, which is symbolized by agents of science in our everyday homes – bathtubs, televisions, stereos, pools, and the catharsis associated with these objects, and how metaphysics tie in. I want to create something that looks like it could happen just once. In this sense, the scenes I have chosen to create are temporal - taking place in the moment, but perhaps still pertinent to a seemingly drifting history; the viewer is only passing by.  

[June, 2015]