Danielle Joy Graves







Danielle Joy Graves is a visual artist based in Indianapolis, IN.




Questions by Sarah Potter, December 2018

Who or what are some of your artistic inspirations?

I find more artistic inspiration in what than who and that what is constantly changing. Right now, it’s Disney foods, holidays, and how this ripped up fabric outside my window moves in the breeze. Last month, it was Walmart’s Poopsie Pooey Puitton, the Netflix original “Cam,” and dollar store junk. I worked at Walt Disney World for a semester during my undergraduate program and ever since then Walt Disney World has been the most constant inspiration. Food carts pumping out popcorn smell to grab attention, life-sized Disney characters mute and blinking, Cinderella’s castle turning to rubble via mapped projections — it’s a terribly beautiful place.

Your work explores gender roles and notions of sexuality, often with absurd humor. What is the reaction your work receives? Do you find that men react differently than women?

When I first started making work exploring gender and sexuality, it was very subtle and better-received. In the past year or so, it’s developed more and people either seemed to love or hate it. I’ve been removed from a show I was invited to because the piece was too “vulgar,” censored many times, and have received push back time and time again for the work I decide to put into public view. At the same time, I’ve been commissioned to create a pink, fiery, cumming vagina permanent installation, invited to be a part of shows with that same “vulgar” piece, and been invited to work with about every arts organization in Indianapolis, where I’m based.

I’ve found men do react differently. Generally, they either question my choices, are uncomfortably supportive via social media, or just don’t relate and don’t speak on it.

How has collaborating with your partner, Nick, changed the way you create your solo work?

Since we’ve started collaborating, I haven’t made anything that I would consider solo — it’s hard to tell whose ideas are who’s and if not that, then we both have our hands in each other’s work. However, since working with Nick, I’ve started to work a lot quicker, I’m more open to ready-made objects, and I now see the possibilities of video and other media that I never really played with before.

Tell me more about the heart eyed character you have been developing during your time at the Wassaic Project.

When I first started drawing and developing my emoji heart-eyed girl, I was trying to understand whether she was feeling empowered or performing. Drawn-in situations where she was receiving oral from Mickey Mouse while stuck with this heart-eyed smiling expression, was she pleasured or playing a role? I started thinking about female performativity, looking at Minnie Mouse as a mute, smiling character meeting and greeting thousands of Disney guests a day, at Britney Spears during the year of her publicized breakdown — specifically looking at her “iconic” performance of “Gimme More” at the VMA’s — and at my own personal experiences that lead me to wonder whether I myself had been pleasured or playing a years-long role. Nick and I are working on a video where, in her fantasy world, my emoji girl performs in these different roles while juxtaposed against Nick’s toxic masculinity performativity built world — the two worlds connected by a dead phone screen and finally coming together at the end. I’m excited to see where the emoji girl finds herself in the future.

If money was no object and you had an endless budget, what would you create?

Juicyland. Similar to Disneyland or Disney World, but it’s my own characters and land of magic, wonder, and pleasure. “The more you come, the better it gets.”

What is next on the horizon in your work?

Lots of learning — I’d like to be able to move into the realms of video/film, animation, music, and performance to better form a world for my characters to live in and a world for me to dream in.


I started thinking about female performativity, looking at Minnie Mouse as a mute, smiling character meeting and greeting thousands of Disney guests a day...
— Danielle Joy Graves

Photos by Jeff Barnett-Winsby