Dana Lok

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What is my work about?

My paintings and drawings play with sequence, point of view, language, illusion and flatness to investigate the magical threshold between a sign and what it points to. I draw on the history of painting and animation for source material. I treat flat, still images as spaces you can move through, like a theater set, or see a second moment of, like two frames of an animation. My pictures take an active stance towards your observation. They can call out for you when you’re not around, imply you shouldn’t be looking, or tell you that now is not a good time.

Artist Statement

Images and words are miraculous bits of the world that point to some other, distant bit of the world. My paintings and drawings of the last year are driven by a fascination with the magical interaction between medium and content, surface and image. In my attempt to pinpoint the relationship between these notions, I work at their threshold.

To ‘grasp’ can mean to hold in hand, and to comprehend. My drawings compare looking and touching as methods of understanding. Sight is the sense best suited for perceiving something distant, but the haptic sense can confirm the existence of something with a special degree of certainty. A hand can reveal by pulling away an obstruction, or by reaching out to touch the thing it wants to know. In my Rubbing series, traces of a blind search for content make up the drawing itself.

Some of my pictures have an ambivalent attitude towards being viewed and handled, though. Crying Pointing Painting literally illustrates the property of a sign to point elsewhere, and ushers you right outside its own composition. On the other hand, some of my pictures perpetually seek an observer. I like to think There, There calls for you even if you aren’t around to look at it. In each case, the picture assumes an attitude towards its own observation. It can talk back, defer, point fingers, misdirect, doubt, and beckon.

These attitudes play out in a sequential framework. When I repeat and sequence an image within a single composition, the frame of the image becomes a working element of the composition as a whole. When I merely double the image to create a sequence, the boundary between one image and the next remains ambiguous. This boundary could mark two frames of an animation, an axis of bilateral symmetry, or two tokens of the same word you can choose to read once or twice.

Approaching still images as temporal spaces has led me to consider what happens when you walk around within a picture, as if it is a theater set. Traditionally, a painting treats you to the expensive, front and center seats. I like to entertain the idea that you might get a seat that’s off to the side. When I bring this logic to an iconic painting like Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe, I have the opportunity to revise the narrative by shifting your point of view. Elements of the set might be misaligned, as in Rubbing, Lunch, or you might realize something you thought was round is actually flat, as in my Tilted Bather series. Enchanted Cel places you at stage right of a picture. From this point of view, the illusion of depth in a landscape collapses, but you also gain access to embedded information- a voice.

This way of thinking about painting allows me to illustrate quite literally the contradictions of flat picture planes and deep pictorial spaces. It’s just one more way of spending time digging at boundary of medium and content, surface and image. The fault line I’ve uncovered is charged with attitude, atmosphere, and magic.


2015 MFA, Visual Art, Columbia University, New York, NY

2011 BFA, Visual Art, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
University and College Honors
Philosophy minor


The Crack-Up, Room East, New York, NY
Floating Point, Judith Charles Gallery, New York, NY
Columbia MFA Thesis Exhibition, Fisher Landau Center for Art, Long Island City, NY

2014 MFA First Year Show, The Wallach Gallery, Columbia University, New York, NY
Networking Tips for Shy People, Livingston Street, Brooklyn, NY

Crush the Serpent, The Tea Factory, Brooklyn, NY
Imperative of Teaching: Studio Pedagogy, Bergen Community College, Bergen, NJ

Visual Arts at Chautauqua Members Exhibition, Fowler-Kellogg Art Center, Chautauqua, NY

Other Possible Titles, Grizzly Grizzly, Philadelphia, PA
Rust Melt: New Abstractions from Pittsburgh, Fe Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA
MEGA, Carnegie Mellon Thesis Exhibition, Miller Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh’s Rising, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh, PA
Ignition 4.0: Natural/Unnatural, Fuse Factory, Columbus, OH

Caught Looking, PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA
Exquisite Corps, the Edge Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA


Interventions: Object Lesson. Artist Project Volume 4, Issue 1.
Artist of the Week, LVL3 Media

The Harvard Advocate, Harvard’s Literary Journal, artwork featured in print

The Oakland Review, Carnegie Mellon’s Literary Journal, cover art



Andrew Fisher Fellowship, Columbia University, New York, NY
Three Arts Club Scholarship, Columbia University, New York, NY

Andrew Fisher Fellowship, Columbia University, New York, NY
Three Arts Club Scholarship, Columbia University, New York, NY
Visual Arts Intraschool Scholarship, Columbia University, New York, NY

Visual Arts Intraschool Scholarship, Columbia University, New York, NY

Vermont Studio Center, residency and artist’s grant, Johnson, VT

Marjory Glassburn Francis Junior Art Award, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Ethal Kirk and Mary Murdoch Scholarship, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
Wilfred Readio Sophomore Art Award, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

Robert J. Fingland Freshman Art Award, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA