When life as a girl feels like a horror film, this Vancouver artist illustrates it
Weird girls rule the world, and we do it by finding ways to survive in places that are pretty good at making us feel like we don’t belong. Some girls dance, some girls scream, some girls cut off all their hair. And some girls draw.
Dana Kearley is one of us. The Ladner, B.C. native moved to Vancouver at 23, where She has been residing for the past five years. Her work, which encompasses drawings, illustrations, paintings, and zines, deals with themes such as mental health, sex work solidarity, and menstruation as interpreted through a darkly absurdist — yet distinctly feminine — lens.
And She’s a seasoned vet. “I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil. It’s always been my go-to. I remember getting in trouble . . . in kindergarten, like I wouldn’t hang out with the other kids, I’d just be at the crafts table,” She laughs. “I was like, ‘I just wanna make things!’”
Her future endeavours involving DIY publication were foreshadowed at an early age, making “children’s zines” featuring prehistoric fish that both terrified and fascinated Her.
“Horror has always been the kind of thing I’ve been interested in. When I was a kid, I remember being really intrigued [by] things that scared me,” She explains. “I had this encyclopedia of deep sea creatures that I would look at constantly, but they were so scary!
"I just remember being really scared while looking at the images, but I would close the book and then look again. I guess I liked the feeling of being scared, but knowing you’re also safe.”
As She grew older, Dana drew inspiration from Her lived experiences with anxiety and the role of women in cult horror classics like the 1983 release Sleepaway Camp to create the visceral, body-focused nature of her work.
“So many of the main characters in horror movies are females, and what they go through is so real and it does happen in real life,” says Dana. “Anxiety and horror go hand-in-hand for me, because I struggle with mild anxiety . . . and it’s like the fears are almost like reality in a horror film.”
A key element of Dana’s work involves the horror film trope of the “final girl”: “You often see that the female is the one who wins or comes out alive.”
The result is a gorgeously unsettling blend of striking colour and controlled chaos that proves that the macabre and the feminine are far from mutually exclusive.
“I love being the weirdo,” says Dana, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.