Dana Kotler is a Ukrainian-born artist whose family moved to the United States 10 years ago. She earned her art degrees in New York, but a particular series of events brought her to the Northeastern Pennsylvania art scene.
Kotler’s exhibition, “A Few Uncertainties,” opened at the Wyoming Valley Art League’s Circle Center for the Arts, 130 S. Franklin St., Aug. 19, and the selection of works is on display until Sept. 30. The 26-year-old artist produces vibrant, detailed works that act as visual representations of the her life experiences.
“The reason I make it in the first place is to make my way through various experiences,” Kotler said. “It’s a way of figuring things out. Sometimes, I might see something happening or sometimes something happens to me, and I can’t understand it, and I gradually try to attribute visual images to make sense of these experiences.”
Kotler’s family moved around Ukraine, Moldova and Israel before moving to the U.S., and she began her college education as an undergraduate at Binghamton University before moving on to her master’s work at the New York Academy of Art in Lower Manhattan.
Her relationship, she said, is what brought her to live in Pittston.
“My boyfriend, who I met in Binghamton, got a job in the Scranton area,” Kotler said. “After I finished studying, I moved in with him and stayed for almost a year.”
Kotler secured a grant after earning her master’s degree, and she was able to focus on her painting while living in NEPA.
“I painted a lot,” Kotler said. “I painted four pieces, three of which are in the exhibition, and they were quite a departure from what I used to make. Over the past two years, the work has been changing into something I’m a lot happier with.”
The work, Kotler said, is derived from still life, but is an expression of abstract ideas that are often difficult for her to transfer into something visual.
“Usually it’s just a few fragments of (the idea) that are visual to me, and I can pick out those few fragments out of the whole idea, and that’s what I start with.”
Kotler said she’ll find certain objects or materials that speak to specific visual aspects she’s identified.
“It might speak to (the idea) in terms of a related form of color or texture or maybe in terms of what it’s made of,” Kotler said. “Maybe it’s made of plastic, and plastic has all these implications, or maybe it’s an object that belonged to somebody I know, so I would have personal history with that object.”
Once Kotler has painted this still life fragment, she begins visualizing the following steps, she said.
“Before I put that down, I wouldn’t have known what it would look like, and it looks different than I imagined,” Kotler said. “It always changes, so it alters and progresses the idea at the same time.”
The results are paintings that are vividly real in certain details but don’t subscribe to the laws of physics or logic.
Kotler has moved on to Boston, Mass. to take a job as an instructor at a community college, but her work stays in Wilkes-Barre until the end of September, and Kotler said she appreciated her experience in NEPA.
“Being in this area gave me a chance to really develop the work, because I had so much time and space,” Kotler said. “I was trying to seek out what was going on in this community, and I met some really exciting people in this area.”