Artist of the Month: Cherie Dacko
From Polish ancestry, Artist Cherie Dacko has family roots in Chicago, but was raised in Tampa, Florida where she graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Fine Art.
Following college, Cherie joined the El Sama artist co-op in Ybor City, Florida where she continued to paint and exhibit, but it was her "paycheck" job of photo restoration that allowed Cherie to perfect her technique. With 25 plus years in portrait, commercial and antique photo restoration, the artist developed award-winning skills for creating images of the human form. In 2007, after raising her son, she rented studio space in the historic district of Sanford, Florida and began painting full time … including “nice,” realistic portrait commissions.
3 years and 200 paintings later, Cherie's style EVOLVED (did it ever) into a unique and highly personal, Museum-worthy style of portraiture her husband Bill once described as Bent Realism. The subjects are still quite familiar, BUT the Bent distortion will absolutely challenge your comfort level. It is that Bent quality that has raised this Artist’s already advanced technique into an art form worthy of study and museum exhibition.
Cherie Dacko - Over the Moon
A consummate people-watcher, Cherie is most content studying unusual people with expressive bodies and a quirky fashion sense.
"My work eliminates the boundaries of culture and eras, celebrates the imperfect and challenges the viewer to bend their concept of normal behavior and physical beauty,” she says. “Having worked for years as a photographic retoucher, I was under the mistaken impression that one must alter their natural look to be ‘attractive.’ Now I paint in direct opposition to that cultural standard. The human forms in my paintings are somewhere between reality and invention, but each character flaw or mood is universally understood."
Having painted in public for 5 years, Dacko now prefers to work out of the public eye. Her distinctive style has garnered a loyal following and her work is in collections throughout the United States, Canada and France, including that of Stephen Colbert, political satirist.
Recently Cherie was a featured Artist in the A & H Museums – Maitland’s Culture and Cocktails exhibit in Maitland, Florida. This exhibit, complete with themed costumes (of badly-behaved women or men) was the perfect showcase for artists Cherie Dacko, Tracy Burke, and Cake Marques. Cherie’s costume – a cross between Marie Antoinette and Betty Boop – gives us all some insight into the mind that creates her current work.
It’s serious work that makes a completely unique statement … AND IT’S FUN.
In a recent interview, this is what Cherie Dacko had to say about her career … and its evolution.
1. Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started?
As early as I can remember, I was always painting or drawing something. It was my escape, living in a noisy, small house with a large family. My mother brought home art books from the library, and I was introduced to Michelangelo, Andrew Wyeth, Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali. In my teens I began combining elements by studying the work of Gustav Klimpt, Egon Schiele and Robert Rauschenberg. I also had some amazing, supportive and challenging art instructors along the way. They gave me the confidence I needed.
2. Please use your own words to describe your art...
My realist paintings took a hard turn about 3 years ago when I was challenged to do a painting completely out of my head. The result was disquieting, and liberating. I never looked back. In my new work, the facial expressions and body language are exaggerated: boredom, anxiety, confidence, narcissism, pleasure, fear. Clothing, textiles and textures are imbedded into the acrylic paintings, and there are 20 to 30 layers of tinted glazes and paint. My husband, Bill, started calling it “Bent Realism” and the name stuck.
Because I painted in front of the public for nearly 5 years at Gallery on First, I heard comments ranging from “you need to see a psychiatrist,” to “I brought my out-of-town relatives here just so they could see your work!” Artist Cake Marques told me seeing my work kick-started him to begin painting again. That blew me away.
3. What happened to first make you think of yourself as an artist?
In 7th grade, kids would pay me 50 cents to draw their name on a piece of notebook paper in big, puffy letters with designs all over them. They would take them home and color them in. I made enough cash to keep me in “Tiger Beat” magazines and pixie sticks. I thought I had it going on!
4. What inspires you NOW?
Life is inspiring -- faces in a crowd, odd personalities, quirky fashion, and digging through flea markets for old clothes or costume pieces, old books, turn-of-the-century photographs. If it looks used and worn, there is a story behind it. Thomas Edison said “To be creative, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” Now that I am doing sculptures too, I need even more junk.
5. Where is your favorite place to create art?
Artists lust after their own space, whether it’s in an old abandoned coffin factory or a top bunk bed. I have had both, and neither was the ideal! I am extremely lucky to currently have the studio of my dreams, in an historic building that may or may not have a ghost or two, big windows, plenty of paint and piles of stuff for inspiration. Cool AC, a big cup of coffee, and the Black Keys blasting from the speakers. After painting in front of the public for almost 5 years, it feels good to create in private, make a mess, and not be interrupted.
6. Describe the “perfect” YOU painting. Have you achieved it yet?
Well, it’s not me, but close - it’s a painting I did of my son in a very dramatic pose, playing Jacob Marley in a high school play. Chains, long, matted hair, torn, dusty clothes, black background, one light source. I could look at it forever. It kept me company when he was away at college.
7. Painting takes a lot of creative energy. How do you “re-charge” your batteries?
Hanging out with my “tribe” in Sanford. We meet up, eat, drink, dance, laugh, and the next day I can’t get to the studio fast enough. A lot of people think an artist has to be depressed to make work that is on the dark side. For me, painting releases whatever demons I have, so I am a pretty happy person.
8. What’s your fondest hope for the future of your career?
My secret dream is to work at Cirque du Soleil, doing paintings of their characters – paintings from my own photos, my lighting, my posing – and THEN – having the finished work seen around the world. In lieu of that, it would be nice to be represented by 8 or 10 galleries, where I could plug in my stream of work. The most boring, but necessary part of being an artist is the marketing.
9. How can readers find and purchase your art?
My website is cheriedacko.com or you can email me at cherieart[at]cfl.rr.com and make an appointment to visit my Sanford (Florida) studio. I am a participant in Sanford’s Gallery Walk on the 4th Friday of every month. There are sculptures, paintings and giclees available for purchase, and commissions are welcome. I have been participating in 2-day “Pop-up Gallery” shows in vacant storefronts, in conjunction with monthly artwalks. We hope to do more in the near future. Having just done 3 shows, 2 benefits and a sidewalk show, I am hunkering down for the hot summer and will teach classes.
Josh Garrick is the Florida Arts Editor for Wandering Educators