Artist Danielle Draik photographed by Katherine Abbott Photography

I do believe that the examination of the negative and the working through the negative is a process of understanding, which in itself is a positive act and manifests positivity.

Danielle Draik

Danielle Draik is a mixed media dark artist whose work focuses on cryptic entities such as demons and aliens and their relationship to humans.

The expression of our ancient human fears of lifeforms with powers and abilities we don’t have, and questions about whether those lifeforms are real or symbolic gives Danielle’s work powerful resonance.

Adding another layer, the interdimensional beings Danielle manifests are generally more sorrowful and curious-seeming than malignant. Peering out of the mirrored surfaces they’re held in, they shimmer with possibilities.

When Danielle pointed out to me the simlarities between the ideas of abduction and possession, I started to think about how a virus could be viewed as a possession too. Living and working in Queens, New York, Danielle has a valuable insight into the havoc being wreaked by the unseen force, Covid-19.

I corresponded with Danielle about what making art in the epicenter of the pandemic looks like.

You create art from your apartment in Queens, New York. How has your daily life changed since the spread of Covid-19?

It doesn’t feel real; Queens, New York is the epicenter of the outbreak for the country so the entire day is peppered with sirens and helicopters. When they stop, the city is almost completely silent.

Growing up in Queens, it is definitely unnerving to not hear the sounds of the city at night.

I am isolating with my roommate, who is also an artist, and the apartment has become a giant workspace (which it already kind of was, but now it is in full swing).

Conglomerate by Danielle Draik, Acrylic and Glass on Mirror, 7.5 inches in diameter with frame, 2020

Recent news stated that a Brooklyn pier filled with refrigerated trucks has been converted into a makeshift disaster morgue as funeral homes struggle to keep up with the deceased victims of covid 19. New York City has been hit especially hard by the spread of the virus. What is your perception of how things are being handled? Do you feel safe?

More should have been done to curtail this from the get-go.

I have had to go through the process to accept the fact that people I care about might die from this. I know people who have died from this.

I am infuriated by how out of hand this has all gotten and afraid for how the city and country are going to look afterward.

In my opinion, we are nowhere close to even starting the four-phase plan New York has planned for reopening, and thankfully it doesn’t seem like the city is pushing for that to happen.

I’ve noticed here that people are starting to take social distancing and quarantine less and less seriously, so I’m anticipating a second wave to hit us relatively soon.

It is the other states that are concerning me greatly – the aggressive, violent push to get things to reopen.

I deeply empathize with people with small businesses who are suffering, but I cannot understand people who just want to “get a haircut” or “go out and enjoy themselves.” We all do. I don’t want pressure for that to happen here.

In the past you’ve frequented zine and comic book conventions. Did you have any planned appearances that have been postponed or cancelled? Do you have any thoughts about what conventions might look like in the future? What would it take to make you feel safe to attend one again?

I was set to table at MoCCAfest, NYC’s largest illustration convention, in the beginning of April. I had also put my name in to attend/vend at other, smaller out of state events. As of now, all of these are canceled for the year.

There are a number of online conventions and vending events happening right now via different social media platforms. I would like to check these out eventually, but I am very accustomed to person-to-person contact.

Meeting other creators in person through conventions is a real pleasure, so it is hard to see how successful the little guy would be at a large online event.

I should be set for MoCCA 2021 if this blows over by then.

Conventions are notorious germ pits – there’s even a term called “con crud” for whatever you pick up after a convention weekend.

I think a vaccine would alleviate my concerns but we also don’t know how this is going to mutate. Everything is really touch and go at this point.

Sainted Visitor (offset) by Danielle Draik, linocut and ink on stock, 5 x 7 inches, 2020

You’ve created public art pieces including White Sentinel and The Mouthpiece. Now that so many public spaces are closed, and even when they reopen people may avoid gatherings, does the importance of public art change?

Public/outdoor art is a testament to humankind’s ability to change the environment around itself. With any size, it is monumental in its inherent ability to make itself present and a part of everyday life.

Perhaps public art will be considered more valuable and precious during this time, as something more “uncommon” looking and less functional will be regarded as a break from the anxieties of the day to day.

Functional public art (playscapes, fountains, etc) will probably be out-of-use and can be observed fully as standalone designed objects.

I also dig the idea of having some of my sculptures in barren, desolate spaces, but that’s just me.

What role (if any) does art and the artist have at a time of crisis?

The artist has no role right now, just the task to survive. Anyone working in “entertainment” will be the last to receive benefits from the government (many freelancers receiving nothing at all) and in the last phase of openings if they are around when we reopen.

That being said, people have the time now to consume art and are looking to their local craftsmen for services (masks, other goods, video craft classes, etc). The artist has a little more demand now and that is a silver lining.

There are no “rules” right now as to how to go about things, so for those who really shine in a DIY/off the cuff setting, it is here.

What purpose do dark images serve in a dark time? Do you feel that your role as the artist has shifted or taken on a different level of importance?

The favorability of “dark art” has come in waves over history. Expressionistic, darkly themed work has had its emergence in cultures during and after periods of destitution and war.

People dig within themselves to gain control over their environments as much as possible, especially when a lot of things seem out of their realm of manipulation.

I’ve had a lot of experiences that I have never thought I would gain from posting my work online: I sometimes wake up to messages of people telling me very personal experiences that they’ve had with the paranormal and the occult and are completely candid about how helpless they feel.

I guess baring yourself in such a complex fashion (i.e. spending a lot of time making deeply personal artwork) makes people comfortable to open up to you. People look for understanding, so it is normal. I like hearing their stories.

The Grey is Safe (and neither good nor bad) by Danielle Draik, mixed media on board, 28 1/4 x 40 1/4 inches, 2020

Has your creative process been affected during this time? Are you making art? If you are making art, what have you been working on? Are you creating any new zines?

It has, since I don’t have access to the space and materials I usually have.

In some ways, the limitations are kind of nice. I have always wanted to make plaster/concrete slabs and make them into these sculptural surfaces I can paint on. I am working on those with the plaster I have and pouring them into laminated cardboard boxes. When this is over, I’ll make wooden cradles for them.

I’ve been painting a lot more and nailing out a few of the more tedious little sculptures I’ve pushed to the side.

I’ve taken a step back from a zine I was working on for MoCCA (a linocut zine about trauma and ghosts) and I am doing a photo-a-day of the same building near my apartment, kind of a view of the epicenter from quarantine.

A great deal of your work focuses on demon entities. According to a 2019 YouGov poll, 45% of Americans surveyed believe that demons definitely or probably exist. Are you among the believers? What are you trying to convey through your demon art?

I believe there are things that we do not understand and that are out of our current realm of understanding.

The belief of other intelligent, nonhuman entities has prevailed throughout folklore and human history.

I believe there are people who are convinced they have been possessed by unseen forces and have felt completely powerless and at some thing’s mercy. Anyone’s trauma, whether ridiculous sounding to you or not, should not be dismissed and should be worked on in order to be alleviated.

Through each figure of mine, I’m trying to convey an intelligence that can either be related to or be viewed as an intelligent “other.” Their colors and shapes are all basic and relatable – they’re things that boil down to basic design elements and sort of develop to be a little more complex as the piece gets more complex.

Of Acknowledgement and Fatigued Reaction by Danielle Draik, mixed media on mirror, 17 3/4 x 14 3/4 inches, 2018

You have a habit of painting entities in acrylic paint on mirrors. In magic and witchcraft mirrors can be portals. They can also be used for scrying and for energy reflection. Can you talk about your process with these works? Are you summoning and trapping entities? Is it more about reflecting the entity back at the self/viewer? Are these magical objects?

Yes, I would consider my mirror pieces to be magical objects. I consider all my pieces to be magical objects, but I would call any piece of mine with a mirror (sometimes I’ll try to get something reflective in a sculpture as well) as a tool, rather than just a piece.

I consider my practice to be a ritual and the act of charging a piece by laboring over it and acting intuitively to be a very raw and powerful process.

It gives a piece a sort of weight that a piece on a non-reflective material does not have. A mirror commands. A mirror has a history. It is not just a surface.

The mirror has seen you as you have seen it. It has a bit of “being.” This is not just in a magical sense, but generally how animals view their reflections.

I do mirror meditation and scrying and it is my main form of grounding. I would consider them portals, whether or not this is necessarily in the literal sense is something else.

Aside from demons, alien lifeforms seem to be the other theme of your recent work. On April 27, 2020, The Department of Defense authorized the release of three unclassified Navy videos taken in the last 20 years. The public statement says “The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as “unidentified.”” Many consider this to be the first public confirmation of government UFO footage. Do you believe that there are extraterrestrial intelligent life forms that have had some contact with Earth? And what do aliens represent in your work?

I know there are people that believe they have been in contact with non-human entities and experiences vary from good to bad.

“Aliens” and “Demons” are interchangeable in my work as one of the prevailing theories for these two entities are that they are “interdimensional beings.”

There are many correlations between abduction phenomena and the experiences someone goes through when they feel they are possessed. Some people believe there are tiers or different hierarchies of these beings, so that’s something I try to carry over when fleshing out a figure for a piece.

The virus is an invisible enemy and a very real threat. Some people believe that demons and aliens are invisible enemies. Do you view your entities as threatening and why give shape to invisible enemies?

There is this belief that, in order to come into contact with a benevolent, positive energy/entity, one must actively try to drum up positivity. The same does not correlate with the negative, however, and negative entities will find you wherever.

With the growing unrest in the world, negative forces are much more prevalent.

Both of these beings show up in my work, but I am admittedly a little more heavy handed on the negative side.

I do believe that the examination of the negative and the working through the negative is a process of understanding, which in itself is a positive act and manifests positivity.

The lifeforms depicted in your work are nongendered. Why is that important to you?

I feel that any adherence to gender would muddy what I’m trying to convey. This applies to my personal life as well, as I align with being non-binary.

Familiar by Danielle Draik, linocut on rice paper, 16.5 x 13.5 inches, 2019

You also work with linocuts. What do you like about that medium?

I really enjoyed relief printing in college and began using it after school as a way to flesh out ideas in multiples, on the cheap and on the fly.

Something about that heavy blackwork is just super tasty too.

It turns out that a lot of people gravitate towards my print work. It is a little more primal looking and it is definitely rawer than a piece that takes a longer amount of time. Also, the relief print community is insanely welcoming and helpful.

What kind of art have you been consuming and why? Is this different than what you typically consume?

I’ve been buying a lot of music and prints from people I have always wanted to support. I’ve also donated to St. Vitus Bar’s kickstarter to help keep them open after all this.

My friends and I have been sending each other art and crafts and it has been heartwarming. I am trying to keep any money I spend local and within my creative community.

Are there any supplies or tools that you rely on or would like to have but are currently struggling to get? Is there work you’d like to be doing right now, but can’t due to stay-at-home restrictions or space issues?

Oh yes. Our local employee-owned art store has closed down and they have the good stuff.

Depending on how long this is going to last, I might need to order some heavy sculptural materials and I am debating on whether or not I should get it shipped and have it cost an arm and a leg or risk a pickup.

Some paints seem to be on backorder with indefinite times as to when they will be back in stock (which could be from international supply and trade being affected).

I could really use cement and soil, but I’m not risking my health to go hard for frivolous things at home depot.

I had a series of large plank-wood engravings that I was going to work on in my studio that have been put on the backburner. I was planning on looking for a venue to show them during Ridgewood Open Studios, my hometown’s open studios weekend. I have more time to flesh them out now, I guess.

Has your financial situation been affected by the spread of Covid-19?

It has and hasn’t. I am technically an essential employee, so I do have income coming in.

I cannot get to my studio, which I am still paying for, because it is located in a multi-work space and I live in a building with at-risk tenants and I don’t want to bring anything home.

I’m also out of show/convention events for the foreseeable future.

What can we do to support your work at this time?

Message me! Follow me on Instagram. I enjoy that there are so many odd methods of communicating right now.

I am still interested in eventual public commissions, doing zoom studio/talks, and commissions.

I’m still shipping through my etsy store and I am always open to people throwing me a line asking if something I have on my instagram feed is available if it isn’t in my store.

You can find my work here:

I have three pieces on display in an online show called “Alphabet Soup” at Alterwork Studios based in Astoria, New York. You can find the show here: Alphabet Soup.