BREAKING INTO THE ART SCENE:
Who Is Vodka Woman?
From the time she was four, Dana Morgan was interested in art. Her parents, who own and operate an insurance business in Hampden, allowed Dana to begin art lessons at a local studio at the age of ten. There, she was exposed to mixed media: charcoal, watercolors and pastels. She realized she had an interest in depicting people, but was not interested in painting portraits.
She decided to pursue a career in advertising while attending Mercy High School, and went on to attend the Philadelphia Art Institute to study graphics and illustration. After spending a year working in advertising after graduation, however, in that arena, she knew that was not to be her lifes work. I felt like I was selling my soul, she explains.
She put her career on hold for a while after her daughter was born in 1990. A son was born four years later. While her children were very young, she sometimes helped her parents at their office on West 36th Street.
One day, during a visit to the nearby Pearl Gallery, Dana felt moved by local artist Kathy Darchicourts Matisse-like work. She met the artist, their friendship grew, and Kathy encouraged Dana to start painting again.
Dana became a regular visitor to the Pearl Gallery and was encouraged when she saw people get enthusiastic about the artwork on display. I knew then that I wanted to sell my art to people, says Dana. She began creating again with renewed energy. She produced enough work so that she and Kathy could exhibit together at the Pearl Gallery. She sold a few of her paintings, and has gone on to do solo exhibits of her work.
While vacationing in Aruba in 1997, each day at noon Dana blended exotic drinks for herself and her friends, using vodka. Her friends began to tease her, and thus was born her signature character, Vodka Woman.
Vodka Woman, says Dana, is a politically incorrect free spirit. She calls her painting style Vatisse Painting, à la Matisse. Her goal is to create pictures that allow viewers to feel as if they are stepping into a vacation.
Vodka Woman—also known as Winifred, after Danas aunt—has taken on a life of her own. Each painting tells a story. Vodka Woman owns a magazine called Trendy Travel. Her coffee-loving assistants name is Wanda, a slave to fashion. Vodka Woman has a cat named Tomato, which she found in Aruba, and a pet pig named Spamanda.
The character, a woman of few words, has two boyfriends—Tequilla Bob, who has been married four times, and Rum Randy, an Evian water-loving photographer who has a stepson, Mitchell.
Dana created an entire collection of paintings with these characters, showing them in scenes all over the world. Vodka Woman visits Africa and goes on a safari; she can be found in France attending the Cannes Film Festival, or in Baltimore at the Senator Theatre, attending the opening of a movie based on her life, The Adventures of Vodka Woman.
From these characters, Dana Morgan has created a secondary line of paintings—scenes from a Happy Coffee Shop, operated by Fiona and featuring a cast of characters who are regulars.
Dana is also working on a series featuring Wanda She also has other series of paintings: Welcome to Finchville, featuring a cast of comical cartoon bird characters, and Antiquated Cats, about four cats, living in an antique store. She can foresee some of her characters recreated onto cards and other products.
While shed really like to be known for more than her Vodka Woman character, Dana says she is happy for the success and recognition Vodka Woman has achieved.
Dana Morgan can be reached at her studio at 410-889-9290 or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Iris Sauber is a freelance writer, workshop facilitator and web designer. She can be reached via email: email@example.com
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This story was published on September 5, 2001.