About me

Dena Novak grew up in West Rogers Park in Chicago.   Her early works were inspired by the physical and mental landscapes of the midwest.  As a teen, I was constantly mesmerized by traveling on the elevated train called the EL.  Riding up in the sky, I would watch the backs of brownstones and tenements fly by.  Stairs, windows, brick and clapboard all merged. These geometric, yet rounded shapes still appear images in my dreams.  My energetic, frenetic paintings lie at the intersection of abstraction, sculpture and landscape, loudly nestled between reality and dream.  

My art channels the seemingly magical process of transformation.  They are visceral, dense and packed with material.  Incredibly thick and heavy, I obsessively lawyer on paint to build the body of my work. I paint intuitively, scratching and carving the oils as if they were clay, until a painting emerges. 

I attack the canvas with a frenetic energy.  Aggressive, quirky lines and undulating forms transform chaos into dreamy landscapes. As I paint, I channel not the dreams of slumber or death, rather the prophetic visions and hallucinations of the mad.  Paint and colors collide, as the work channels my unconscious need for raw physicality.  I am creating a physical body in paint. I am not interested in the illusion of space, rather embracing the gravity of the material.  

  My work’s size is informed by disability and pain as I struggle with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Dysautonmia, a rare connective tissue disorder, that affects the whole body.  EDS is a chronic pain condition.  Painting is for me is informed through my process. So, like my art, I transcend the physical when I paint. 


Dena Novak is an oil painter whose work examines the emotions of hope and fear in times of uncertainty. Her energetic, frenetic paintings lie at the intersection of abstraction, sculpture and landscape loudly nestled between reality and dream. The paintings are thick, viscous, and sometimes carved with her old clay tools. Novak’s subjects reflect colorful landscapes with a dark underbelly that tell the story of her emotions. 


Novak studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and received a Masters of Arts and Teaching with an emphasis in ceramics from Tufts/Museum School of Fine Arts, Boston.  She grew up in West Rogers Park in Chicago and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Dr. Justin Ayers and her two daughters, Penina and Batsheva.




TUFTS University (The School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts) - Masters of Arts in Teaching


Colorado College in Colorado Springs - Bachelor of Arts in Art Studio and Comparative Literature


The Art Institute of Chicago - Extensive Training




(1994-1997) Bridgwater Raynham High School in Bridgewater, MA - Director, Art Department


(1998-1999) Sokolowski School in Chelsea, MA - Teacher


(2003-2005) 92nd Street Y in New York, NY - Assistant Director, Art Programs


(2009-2013) Hamilton Hebrew Academy in Hamilton, Ontario - Director, Art Department


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