What do you get when you mix a beautiful girl from California with a new life in Spokane? Danielle Hatch.
Raised in the paradisiacal garden land of Santa Barbara, about an hour north of Los Angeles, Hatch was brought up as a visual artist.
She also was a ballerina who performed with the Goleta Civic Ballet in the mid-1990s, in the annual Christmas production of “The Nutcracker.”
Her installation at the Spokane Transit Authority Plaza, “My Childville,” is a giant-sized,Victorian-era, crimson red theatrical gown – constructed like a tent with a bodice top – inspired by and emblematic of the enormous, constructed gown worn by the Mother figure in the “Nutcracker” performance.
It was spun in on wheels by the child ballerinas, each dancer representing a nut which was hiding beneath the giant skirts and petticoats of the Mother. When she lifted her skirts, the nuts twirled and spilled out in abundance.
“My formal training is in architecture and through this I have become interested in how people interact with the built environment. My artwork developed therefore as a means of formally addressing these interactions and relationships.
“The work I create is predominantly site specific and developed as an evaluation of an architectural structure or environment in terms of its history, its uses, and how the past relates to its current state.
“Additionally I often find my work dealing with the passage of time and its effects on the built environment as well as our own bodies and the parallels between the two.
“I seek to draw attention to invisible realities associated with a space and often times my installations can be considered Interventionist in their intent to engender dialogue about these relationships.
“Much of my work has been figurative but this is often not a conscious choice from the outset, it simply results from my analysis of architecture and space in relationship to the body.
“Thus far all of my public projects have been temporary installations due mainly to site restrictions; however I am interested in issues of impermanence in architecture which the temporary nature of these projects addresses.”
The piece was originally created for Hatch’s installation in the University of California, Santa Barbara Art Museum, in May 2007.
“Theatrical and architectural, this giant gown resembles a ? prop of former times and the skirt divides with a tent-like opening … referenc(ing) a period in Santa Barbara history when Lillian Child, a wealthy landowner, allowed a shantytown to be built on her expansive property,” Hatch said.
Child was a widowed philanthropist who offered some of the most beautiful land in California to homeless men who built makeshift encampments on her property near the train tracks.
The shelters were built on a hilltop where the picnic grounds now exist in the center of the city’s zoo, and have astounding, sweeping oceanfront views and an expansive sandy beach below.
“Dubbed Childville, the area solely housed male tenants who lived in shelters fashioned from refuse. Ominous and celebratory, the sculpture suggests the complexity of the Childville effort,” Hatch said.
“It’s sort of benevolent … also bizarre and creepy.”
In her STA installation, Hatch has morphed the original “My Childville” concept with the addition of “Trapped,” an installation of two enormous, golden animal traps, similar to the rat traps in “The Nutcracker.”
Hatch has laid two bear-size animal traps on the floor, painted in textured gold and decked with a white lace curtain surrounding the central axis of what also doubles as a man trap.
An execution cross is seen straight down the middle of the trap, also signifying a trap for a man. It rests atop a crushed red velvet blanket, cut into the shape of a bearskin rug, which appears as a pool of blood.
Hatch then adds the element of sound. Small tape recorders blast out bear growls and moose calls from beneath each cross.
It’s a brilliant use of double entendres and mixed messages, conveying the concept of capturing, holding and killing a suffering animal, man or beast. It also conveys the aid that can be intercepted.
The traps speak of early pioneer fur-trapping settlers in Spokane, and also of the feeling Hatch gets when she is living here after leaving Santa Barbara.
“I’m stuck in this place that I don’t mean to be in,” said Hatch, who’s in Spokane through marriage, referring not only to regional geography but also to the the United States and “the financial turmoil that’s going on … the parallel.
“I want it to be viewed as a precious domestic object, but also slightly sinister.”