On a foggy winter day at Venice Beach, D. J. Hall decided she wanted to paint human figures under bright sunlight with brilliant color. She got in her car and drove to Palm Springs in December, 1973. Using her telephoto lens, she photographed people lounging and soaking up the sun at the Spa hotel and other resorts. From those photographs she created a new body of work. Especially noted are the color pencil drawings that defined her distinctive artistic style. Before she was 30 years old, she achieved her goal of having a show in New York. Five subsequent solo exhibitions were held at O. K. Harris Works of Art, New York through 1999, while D.J. enjoyed an extensive record of solo and group exhibitions throughout United States, Canada, Japan, and Europe.

Hough, Katherine Plake
“D. J. Hall Thirty-five Year Retrospective”, 2008
Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA

With exhibitions Hall gained recognition for her extraordinary technical skills as a photo realist. She has, however, never considered herself to be such. She does not copy photographs. She uses them as sources of information, as notations from which she constructs her paintings. The figures we see in her paintings are real enough, they exist, but their surroundings are made-up realities whose elements the artist has chosen for their compositional rightness. Hall’s paintings pre-exist only conceptually and in process. That is, the artist composes as she works, responding intuitively to what the painting wants to be. Thus, her so-called "true-to-life" images exist only on her canvases. The finished paintings possess a quality absent from the photographs that she uses. The paintings are realities with an internal life that the artist has created. They have that quality we call presence , the difference between a created and a copied reality, as a comparison between one of Hall's paintings and it's photographic source reveals. The work made with the human touch has a character that the image made with the camera does not.

Robert, McDonald
“D. J. Hall—Selected Works 1974 - 1985”, 1986
Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery Associates, Barnsdall Art Park, Los Angeles, CA

Over the course of a 35 year career it would be far too easy to characterize D. J.Hall's artwork as realistic. That definition is for the lazy and literal-minded viewer. More correctly, the artist has consistently presented an “illusion” of reality. Beneath the surface beauty lurks a provocative “edge" delivering an uneasy feeling that something is amiss.

Hough, Katherine Plake
“D. J. Hall Thirty-five Year Retrospective”, 2008
Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA

DJ: 'Some consider it a sin to use photographs and that one should only work from life. The latter is certainly a more pleasurable activity and one I wish I could engage in more frequently. My models could not sit in the sun six days a week for months.'

Hough, Katherine Plake
“D. J. Hall Thirty-five Year Retrospective”, 2008
Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA

DJ: 'First of all, I am not a photo realist in the true definition of the first generation photo-realists, who wanted to be as mechanical as the photographic process (in translating visual information onto a two-dimensional surface). That was never me. I love to draw and paint realistically. I wanted to make these stories and re-create moments. I was not adhering to any reality other than the reality I set-up. When I paint from my internal reality the painting looks nothing like the original sources. My work comes out of a very emotional premise. The photo is my tool.'
She keeps a diary of ideas, which she consults before planning photo shoots. Then she starts figuring out visual ideas with thumbnail sketches. After choosing models Hall approaches her paintings akin to a set designer dressing a scene; she determines props, wardrobes, and location, then storyboards scenes, which she photographs and edits. If she can't get a desirable location, she stages her sitting on her patio and then from her own photos or many photos from other sources she "builds" a background. Her photo shoots are carefully plan often doing 5 to 10 scenarios and several costume changes.
Her final work is a fabricated reality composed of these and many other images, all painted with a finely detailed finesse.

Kaufman, Katrina
“D. J. Hall Retrospective Reflections”
Venice Magazine, June 2008, p. 71

Hall paints to try to recapture what she has not had much of: certainty, harbor, predictability, the ability to stop and control change.
There is a repeating visual narrative from decade to decade despite the contrivances of varied set designs, but it is not the one you might think. The repeating narrative is intensely personal, one of loss and longing.
This is a career spent making highly personal, pretty brave allegories ostensibly showing "the haves", but symbolically peering behind having and getting to the sutures––Hall's and our own.

Donohue, Marlena
“D. J. Hall”, ArtScene, Vol.27, No.10
June, 2008, p.16 - 18

But look closer, beneath the sunglasses and the sun screen, and a sense of the ennui and quiet desperation of suburban domestic “bliss” combined with the sadness and the inevitability of aging, emerges. Mixing nostalgia for her youth with subtle psychological insight, she presents a world where summer never ends, yet dark shades hide all kinds of wrinkles.

Chang, Richard
“D. J. Hall”, Art News vol. 104 no. 9
October 2005, P. 174

© 2015 D.J. Hall