In conversation with Danielle Ochard, New York artist based. Inspired by the feminine anatomy, she makes luscious, angular portraits of woman caught up in romantic and mundane rituals. The languid torpor of Ochard’s compositions and her confident use of colours unfold into a deep explanation of woman’s relationship with one another and the art historical canon at large.

[BP] When I interviewed Cecily Brown about her bather paintings she pointed out that our notion of bathers now is worlds apart from how a painter like Cezanne depicted them.

[DO] I’m interested in art historical tropes, so the swimming pool in my work is a stand in for the classical lake or stream. The scene tends to be cropped, with only the suggestion of a pool, with the blue of the water slightly off from the aquamarine you’d see in real life. The positioning of the figures – the languid nature of the poses – is definitely a reference to a 19th century setting which no longer exists; a bather today takes on an almost aspirational feel.

[BP] That’s especially true living in New York City where even a bathtub is seen as a kind of luxury. I wanted to ask you why so many of the women in your paintings have dirty feet? Someone else said that maybe it’s a nod to the famous Caravaggio painting of a Madonna and Child where Mary has dirty feet. 

A clean face, 2021.

[DO] That was not at the forefront of my thinking when I painted the first dirty feet. It’s more of a studio notation. I often walk around my studio barefoot and my feet end up looking disgusting. I see it almost as a penitent gesture, like St Francis taking off his shoes before he prays. The religious connotation is a show of humility. 

[BP] Which is in direct contrast to someone like Matisse who would get dressed up to paint because he believed art-making was an aesthetic experience and so the painter should present themselves to the canvas in attire befitting the occasion.

[DO] Which is still very ritualistic. I like quoting in the paintings unplanned studio habits in the which have now turned into intentional studio rituals. It’s almost a form of superstition. I think a lot of artists are superstitious.

[BP] Give me an example.

[DO] My friend Nikki Maloof and I will sometimes joke that certain stretcher bars are cursed if they’ve had a bad painting on them.

[BP] You have a lot of cigarettes in your paintings. Is that because you miss smoking? I know Dike Blair will have cocktails and cigarettes in his work, almost hoping that if he paints them then he won’t have to consume them in real life. 

[DO] [sapcer] For me, cigarettes and candles are durational, which makes them interesting to paint. We know as viewers where to situate ourselves on a recognizable timeline. Almost like a lit fuse on a bomb—you know how long it’s supposed to last.


Read the full interview on Muse September Issue.

My bed, 2021.
Making moves, 2021.
New red, 2021.




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