I am a painter, teacher, mother, and advocate for Autism and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) awareness based in Los Angeles, CA. I was born and raised in Chicago, where I studied painting at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago before transferring to Colorado College to complete my undergraduate studies in fine art. While working on my Master of Arts in Teaching with an emphasis on Art Education at Tufts/Museum School, I experimented with ceramics alongside my continued painting practice. In 2021, I presented a one-person exhibition of my paintings that was accompanied by a panel discussion addressing my art and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome as part of the Keck School of Medicine’s HEAL Presents Art & Medicine program at the University of Southern California. I was awarded the Inaugural Exhibition Program Award by the Simone Gad Foundation, Los Angeles, CA for my exhibition Neurospicy at bG Gallery in January 2023. Since 2003, I’ve been an art teacher working with children and adult learners.


"Alchemic Autism" by Dena Novak


I seek to converse with the materials, intuitively looking for alchemical processes and “mistakes.” The oils delighted me, and I fell in love with the materiality of paint and the chemistry of glazes. I enjoyed finding the boundaries of the materials and then breaking through those boundaries.

My work is dimensional. I use heavy impasto to work in deep layers. The frantic, wild marks represent my psyche. The paintings challenge conceptions of beauty and investigate ideas of hope, fear, and alchemical transcendence through my experience of living with both Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and autism. People with EDS struggle daily with thinning the proteins and collagens that hold our bones in place. This manifests in my art as an intuitive, ritualistic process of layering paint onto panels in thick strata that symbolically counteracts the thinning of my body’s connective tissue. I view my paintings as landscapes of my internal nature, made up of gestural marks and sculpted forms that suggest a jumble of viscera. I am not interested in the illusion of space but in the materiality of paint. The finite area of the picture plane compresses the physical and emotional experience of making the work, offering a vital expression of being fully present and alive through the act of painting.

"Telomerase" by Dena Novak
"Alchemy of The Souls" by Dena Novak
"Hypermobility" by Dena Novak
"Mystery of My DNA" by Dena Novak
"Orphan Cells" by Dena Novak
"Sensory Processing Disorder" by Dena Novak