Dana Dal Bo

The artist is in
Fibres student explores the mindset of sexuality

Dana Dal Bo l Photo: ARHphoto Dana Dal Bo l Photo: ARHphoto

Walking into Dana Dal Bo's studio is like walking onto the set of a movie about the early days of psychoanalysis. From the patterned wallpaper to the chaise longue, from the ornate mirror to the wall-mounted display case of thimbles, she wants to recreate the kind of consulting room Sigmund Freud might have had.

"I'm really interested in the architecture of psychoanalysis - the way these rooms were crafted and why," says the MFA student in Fibres, who has a background in psychology and once thought her path lay in art therapy.

Entirely inhabiting the studio she was assigned as an MFA student parallels the way she immerses herself in her projects, literally getting into character by casting herself as the model. 

One image in the studio that is definitely not her - and one that Freud would likely not have allowed - is that of a naked woman that looks like it was taken about a century ago. Untitled Anonymous may be the porn of yesteryear but there's nothing old-fashioned about the way she glows in the dark. Using a jacquard loom Dal Bo wove the body using retro reflective fibre, causing the image to reflect light like a safety sign at night.

Like this image, sexuality is the main thread that runs through the work of the Guelph, Ontario native. It's a focus she traces to the time she modelled bridal wear at the age of 12. "It definitely had an impact on my attitude towards marriage and gender," she says. Further experiences made her question what is appropriate and inappropriate in revealing one's body and to whom, and how that disclosure is defined.

Curious to explore how labels affect people's perceptions, Dal Bo made a one-minute video featuring a woman - with herself as the model - sprawling in the contorted poses once affiliated with women being treated for hysteria. She posted the same footage on an amateur porn site under two different titles: Disoriented Whore Trapped in Closet and Leggy Barely Legal Goddess. Whore got four times the hits Goddess did and elicited comments from viewers, whereas Goddess had none.

"I question how yesterday's pornography might be today's erotica, and the idea that what was considered aberrant behaviour [hysteria] a hundred years ago is no longer thought of as such," says Dal Bo. "It raises questions about gender expectations and expectations about how we should behave."

A hand in everything

Dal Bo moved to Montreal to attend Concordia when she was 17, earning a BFA in Studio Arts and Art History. While she'd been entranced by fabrics as a child, she didn't take a fibres class until her last term - and discovered a new passion. She liked what the Faculty of Fine Arts offered so much she stayed for a second BFA.

The faculty liked what they saw in her, too. Dal Bo became a research assistant for Fibres professor Ingrid Bachmann at the Institute of Everyday Life, a research lab at the Hexagram-Concordia Centre for Research-Creation in Media Arts and Technologies. In that capacity over the past few years, among other things Dal Bo has researched textiles, set up exhibitions and helped make some of the pieces for various exhibitions.

Dal Bo's also been busy working across a range of disciplines, including installation art, film and miniature handiwork, as well as in a number of long-term partnerships. With MaryAnne Petrella  she launched the eco-chic label Misssoka, for which they create jewelry from discarded materials.

Untitled Anonymous, cotton, resin and glass (2011). Image courtesy Dana Dal Bo Untitled Anonymous, cotton, resin and glass (2011). Image courtesy Dana Dal Bo

Then there is Alexandre-Nicolas Soubiran, with whom she felt immediate, twin-like connection; their collaboration, a long-term project called ANADAMA, is about relationships and family.

Now entering the second year of her MFA, Dal Bo finds herself at a seminal moment in her artistic evolution. She's just at the end of a three-year solo project in which she explored the sexuality of several female fictitious characters, including Alice (in Wonderland), Persephone and Ophelia, by "inhabiting" them in turn. The final cycle ended with her cutting off her hair with rusty scissors in summer 2012.

It sounds like something Sigmund Freud would be very interested in hearing all about.


Dana Dal Bo's work will be shown as part of the Democroscope exhibition at the Joyce Yahouda Gallery from Oct. 13 to Nov. 3, 2012.

Story by Liz Crompton. Posted on Oct. 9, 2012

Back to top

© Concordia University