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With Typewriter at Ready, Artist Gets People to Talk

LANCASTER - Home is where the heart is was the focus of Museum of Art and History artist-in-residence Dani Dodge's fourth and final installation Saturday for her "Home is Heritage" series.

With typewriter at hand, Dodge welcomed those entering the Western Hotel/Museum to sit down and open up about themselves.

"Today what I am doing is a community activation for the Lancaster Museum of Art and History. And it is the fourth (and final) of the community activations that I've done. For this one, people are coming in, they are telling me the story of a relative - it can be somebody in their far past or somebody that they know right now - and then I type that story up, about three sentences. Then it's going into a handmade book that is specially made for this. That book will be on display at MOAH: CEDAR where I have a solo show there," Dodge said.

"Each of the events are related to ideas of home. I felt like, for me, when I think about Lancaster and the Antelope Valley, it's one of those beautiful community places where people think they want to leave but then they realize 'this is really home.' I'd known for a while that I was going to get this opportunity and I spent some time in the community beforehand," she said.

Dodge's first installation took place at Joe Davies Air Park in Palmdale. There, people would write the name of a place that was not home to them on a paper airplane and shoot it into a horizon she created.

"The next one (installation) was at Prime Desert Woodlands. I did a painting on a table and it was a painting of the Earth and the people got to come in and they got to write on it, their own messages to the Earth.

"Then the third one was at the library, the Lancaster Library ... and there people came in, they told me their life story. I typed a title for their story on to a file card of the library that had a book on the other side. I typed it and they got to file that into a vintage card catalogue. They had these choices of which genre of literature their story was. It could be comedy, romance, horror, nonfiction, and so they had these choices, and then they also got to take a quote from a book."

Asked how she came across the Antelope Valley, Dodge said she came because of the Lancaster Museum of Art and History, which has drawn a lot of talent.

"They are doing amazing things, they have amazing art, I've been here one time before when I was a reporter for the Ventura County Star actually. I'd come here to do a story on people who were leaving Ventura County to move up here so that they could have their horses near to them," she said.

Dodge said for her fourth installation she opted to use a typewriter because of the nostalgia that comes with t.

"I love the sensation of a typewriter, I love the nostalgia ingrained to the story, I love the fact that when you write on a typewriter, you see all of the mistakes - when I'm writing these stories, they are very, very human because you can see where I hesitated, you can see where I am thinking, you can see where I got too far into it, I didn't hear the 'ding' and I wrote the sentence over. And so there's a history created just in the action of using the typewriter that is adding to the history that the person is telling me," Dodge said.

Although she describes herself as an introvert, Dodge said she enjoys giving people an opportunity to share their stories, an opportunity to use her art as an outlet for others.

"I think that there really is, in our current society - despite the fact that we have all these ways of communicating now - there's much less heart-to-heart communication, there's much less looking at somebody and talking to somebody. And so, my projects tried to bring that back a little bit and they try to say 'I value you and that your value to what I do as an artist is important," she said.

Dani Dodge lives and works in Los Angeles. Her work is included in three museum collections and has been shown across the U.S. and internationally.

In 2016, Americans for the Arts named Dodge's interactive installation/performance "CONFESS" one of the outstanding public art projects of the previous year.

As a newspaper reporter, she was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for exposing congressional corruption in 2006. She was embedded with the Marines during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and covered the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. She left journalism in 2008 to focus on art.

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