Youth Spotlight: Danielle Armstrong
Blends Visual & Literary Arts
By Angela Wampler / A! Magazine for the Arts | May 30, 2012Danielle Armstrong, 22, has been winning awards in literature, but — most interestingly — she has been combining literary works with visual art.
A native of Bristol, she currently lives in Blountville, Tenn., and is a double major in English (with a concentration in creative writing) and Art and Design (with a concentration in studio art) at Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tenn. Before graduating from Tusculum in May, Danielle answered a few questions from A! Magazine for the Arts.
- You are the winner of this year's Curtis and Billie Owens Literary Prize in the nonfiction category. What was the piece of work?
My essay "On Rejection" centers around one of my aunts who used to babysit me and my sisters when we were younger. I grew up in a single parent household. My mother often worked night shift, so we would have to spend the night with my aunt. The essay deals with the experiences we had staying with her. The title refers to my rejection of my family. Other than my immediate family and one other aunt, I don't really associate with them. They're not nice people, and none of them have jobs or an education.
- You also were one of 17 finalists in the poetry competition at the Lex Allen Literary Festival at Hollins University in Virginia this year. What was the poem, "southern gothic," about?
Once my mother got a job working day shift, she stopped taking us to my aunt's house and we would stay with my grandmother in the summer. Gramma lived in the basement, and my two uncles lived upstairs. Usually, the last hour or so before my mother would come to get us, I would sit in a tree by the edge of the road and look for her car. The poem is about waiting there for my mother to take us away (see poem below).
- Your recent art exhibit "Interwoven" was inspired by your own literary works as well as the work of your favorite authors.
One of my goals is to write and illustrate my own books, preferably young adult novels. So much of my artwork is inspired by things that I write or works that I've read, mainly just to practice illustration. For example, one mixed media drawing is an illustration for Alexander Pushkin's short story "The Queen of Spades." Another, "Triptych with Old Oak," came from a haiku that I wrote. And the print "Junk Trunk" is based on my poem "southern gothic."
- You also bridged the gap between writer and illustrator with several books you designed and constructed.
I have a double major in English and Studio Art. One of the projects for my 2010 Book Arts class required us to construct a book in which the content dictated the form of the book. I had been working on an essay, titled "Deformed Tales," that talked about different people that I've known with deformities, like extra thumbs or webbed toes. I decided to use this essay as the content of a deformed book that has an accordion spine and stab-stitch bindings, an extra cover and back, and pages that aren't all the same size.
- You are a student editor of the Tusculum Review, the college's literary magazine, and you serve as an English peer tutor.
I've been working for the Tusculum Review since I became a creative writing major, midway through my sophomore year. I started out as a student editor, helping to process contest submissions, entering names into the database we have. Last year I was promoted to assistant editor, and I did layout for all of the nonfiction pieces in the journal. This year I helped show other students how to do layout, I attended the Allison Gallery during exhibitions, and I also updated the Tusculum Fine Arts Facebook page.
I've been an English tutor since January 2008, the second semester of my freshman year at Tusculum. I work with students one-on-one, mainly with essays. Most of the students I see need help recognizing transitions, run-on sentences, comma splices, etc. I show them how to recognize and fix these errors.
You plan to pursue a master of fine arts in creative writing at the University of Central Florida this fall. After that, what are your goals?
I'm considering getting a Ph.D. I intend to either teach or work for a journal or publishing company doing editing. And, on the side, I plan to write. I might even do an MFA in Printmaking or Drawing at some point. There's still a lot I can learn.
thick weeds grow around junk trucks
ditched across the street
aged cars rust in the dirt driveway
next to the rotten porch
where I wait, wrapped up in the sycamore tree
in front of gramma's house
inside, my uncles keep inbred kittens
hoard a labyrinth of records, tvs
a drawer stocked with candy for little girls
I count down the time until 5:00
and the dog rattles chains upon cement steps
limps on his back leg, broken, never set
This illustration by Danielle Armstrong was based on Alexander Pushkin's short story, "The Queen of Spades." The mixed media artwork incorporates pastel, charcoal, and photographs.
This triptych (mixed media: pastel, charcoal, photography) by Danielle Armstrong is based on her personal haiku.
Danielle bridged the gap between writer and illustrator with several books she designed and constructed.