Using reclaimed materials as her gateway, Chicago-based visual artist Dana DeAno’s work takes you into a world full of texture and dimension. A graduate of The School of Art Institute of Chicago, DeAno’s artwork is exhibited throughout the US and UK. Recently Gemini had the chance to talk with her about her motivations, inspirations, and a little about life behind the art.

“Rapture I” by Dana DeAno

 Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?   

A: I always wanted to be a nurse when I grew up.  My grandfather was a surgeon and I loved playing with his medical bag and all the medicine bottles inside it.  I still love medical bottle, tinctures, supplements.  Though it may have turned into more of a witch than a nurse – at least that’s what my teenagers refer to me as! 

Q: Tell us a little about what inspires you.   

A: SO MANY things inspire me.  People, places, vast expanses of uninterrupted land, music.  Badass women who march to the beat of their own drum and break barriers always inspire me. 

Q: When you create art do you listen to music or prefer a quiet space?     

A: When I create art I almost  always listen to music.  I am constantly hounding friends to send me new music.  I have even run contests on who can send me the best music mixes prior to going away on week-long residencies to work.   I then trade them for a small drawing.  I listen to KCRWs Morning Becomes Eclectic out of LA a lot as they interview musicians and they parallel visual artists through process.  If I listen to a podcast or something similar it’s usually Buddhist-based as that is my other practice.  And sometimes audiobooks which if it’s the right one can be wonderful.  Because I have the time in my studio I can get through something lengthy like The China Study or Michelle Obamas Becoming in no time.   

Q: What has been the greatest lesson that you have learned on this journey?   

A: I think the greatest lesson I have learned on this journey is that I can be my own boss and call the shots which I love.  Having the freedom to say yes to certain things and no to others brings me great joy.  I know that there cannot be just one formula to do what I’m doing and as a creative, it’s fun to craft it to work for me and my lifestyle.  

“Darling A & B” by Dana DeAno

Q: What are you most proud of?   

A: I have to say I’m the most proud of the work itself.  My work took a major turn about eight years ago and there has been no looking back.  I used to call this a series that I am working on but it’s really just my work.  I feel as though I am still just getting my feet wet after all these years.  Guessing there are about a hundred pieces collectively, though they come and go.    I am also really proud to been accepted into and earned my Master’s in Painting-Drawing at The School of the Art Institute.  I was rejected the first time I applied which only made me want it more and try harder the second go-around.   

 Q: If you could pick one favorite thing about your work, what would it be?   

A: I’d have to say that my favorite thing about my work is the quirkiness and surprise in it.  There are many moments of wonder and where I myself don’t even have the “answers” through the abstract nature of the drawings, and this holds me.       

Q: What has been your hardest lesson learned?   

A: The hardest lesson I have learned is that rejection is just part of the deal.  Right out of graduate school I had one of the head curators from the MCA come for a studio visit for a potential show.  I did not get it.  Looking back I know I was simply not ready but I still think about this from time to time.  We move on and build from these experiences, it is what makes us stronger.  

“Jewel” by Dana DeAno

Q: If you could invite any three people to dinner, who would they be? 

A: THIS IS the hardest Q. as three is way too few.  But off the top of my head, I would say for sure, I would invite my dad to dinner as he was INCREDIBLY supportive of my art.  I would invite Ai Weiwei for his conviction and maybe Sara Sze for her radical vision.  Now,  I am NOT saying that my dad would understand the other two or that this would be a lovefest.  But these people inspire me deeply and aren’t we supposed to surround ourselves with people who inspire us?  This would be a shot in the arm for me for sure. 

Q: Do you have an experience working with Gemini that you’d like to share? 

A: I LOVE Nancy at Gemini.  She is super professional, on top of EVERYTHING and never misses a beat.  I am Type A so this works for me.  I have emailed a number of times just to praise her because it is simply deserved.   

Nancy stays one step ahead of me with my framing.  I have often thought that if I were running a business like Gemini it would be a great blessing to have someone like her there alongside me.  I feel very held by her.


Dana DeAno is available for studio visits. To see more of her work, please visit