Daina Dagnija was born in Riga, Latvia. In October of 1944 her family fled the second Soviet occupation. Six years in displaced persons' camps educated her in Latvian language and patriotism for her native land. In 1951, her family immigrated to USA - Detroit, Michigan. When in high-school, Dagnija attended Saturday painting classes at the Detroit Art Institute. There she was most impressed by an El Greco painting, also Bruegel’s “Wedding Dance”.
In the fall of 1954 she went to New York to study painting at the Art Students’ League. Next year she won a merit scholarship for the painting "Immigrant boy" (her young brother’s Ukrainian friend). (photo on the right) Then she returned to her family and studied at The Art School of the Society of Arts and Crafts in Detroit.
In 1959 Dagnija went to Los Angeles, where she studied at the Chouinard Institute (Cal Arts) and became a committed abstract expressionist. On the last day of 1960 she married a young Latvian, drafted in the US army, who was being sent to Okinawa. Some months later, she joined him there. Living in an Okinawan village, she was fascinated by the local scene, and started to develop her personal figurative style, based on the abstraction that she was so committed to. (see Okinawa period)
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