Contact: Email me!
Art Web Site: TEXT
Michael Corbin, the Art Book Guy, has begun a chat with me about my work. The chat will culminate in an interview that will be featured on the Art Book Guy site. Michael's site is www.artbookguy.com and features interviews with artists and much more. Please visit his site. He has written 2 books, The Art of Everyday Joe: A Collector's Journal and Art for The People: A Collector's Journal.
MICHAEL: Hello Diane, Your work, especially the most recent mixed media works on your website seem almost allegorical. I see strong narrative and perhaps some symbols with strong emphasis on female subjects. What's the story here?
|The Teacher, Marina Semynova 1, 2, 3|
Hi Michael, thanks so much for taking an interest in my work. You have asked a wonderful first question with many pertinent facets that pertain to my work. To preface, I am very interested in the complex qualities of humanity that help create our stories and lives such as hope, compassion, kindness, wonder, passion, honesty, fear, doubt, compulsion, discipline, and perseverance to name a few. Ideas may come from a moment in time that I glimpse, a personal connection to my own history, a story I need to explore, an idea that "tugs" at me, powerful imagery or specific events. I never quite know what will "appear" as suitable topic, but my curiosity and intuition take me to many sources. As our world becomes more technological (which allows us to communicate more often with others but in a less intimate manner) I find myself seeking more humane and complex interactions and explanations. The "hurriedness" and shorthand of the technological world often deletes nuance, character, and complexity. Those are the qualities I attempt to include in my work.
|Children in Peril Series|
The beginnings of my interest in stories that often emerge as a "fragmented narrative" state, started with my "Children In Peril" that was developed within a nine-year period (1997-2006). The work revolved around the story of Lisa Steinberg, the abused, illegally adopted and murdered child of Joel Steinberg and Hedda Nussbaum. The story made national news but I was stunned by the front page New York Post image of Lisa smiling at the viewer. Her face stole my heart and the work began and culminated in three series "The Lisa Series", "The Nightmare Series", and "The Throw-A-Ways". I was living in Hoboken, NJ at the time. Opening my thoughts, passions, and empathy to the world in the work began a manner of working that allowed me to act, react, explore stories and investigate my thoughts and feelings about issues and subjects. It was during this period that I began to use symbol, metaphor, and less literal signifiers in context to develop a visual poetry which you have described as allegory to my viewers.
The story of the new mixed-media works comes from my curiosity and perseverance of images of Russian ballerina, Marina Semynova, after reading an obituary in The New York Times about her death at 102. My connection to Marina comes from my own history as a dancer in New York. My fascination with Russia began with my grandfather (who was born in Russia/Poland, depending on which country claimed his village) who told me many times that one of our relatives was a painter/poet in the court of the last Russian Tsar. I was fascinated with the culture of Russia as a child and later collected a serious collection of books on Russian dance. I grew up in and around New York City. Art was always important and my grandmother took me to the museums when I began to walk so I was very affected by art at an early age. But my love of ballet began at age 8 when I begged for lessons after accompanying a friend to ballet school. By the time I was 11, my mother had enrolled me in the Andre Eglevsky Ballet School on Long Island. Andre Eglevsky was a Russian dancer who had starred in The Russe de Monte Carlo in Europe and The New York City Ballet with George Balanchine. Within 2 years I was in The Andre Eglevsky Ballet Company dancing on stage. I was also enrolled every summer at The School of American Ballet, The New York City Ballet's feeder school in Manhattan. Many of my teachers were ex-Russian dancers from the Bolshoi. Andre used to host the Bolshoi Ballet at his home when they came to America. It was the era of the Cold War and it was such a privilege to be able to see the Russian dancers in NYC. My Russian teachers left a large impression on my life because they were so passionate, heartfelt, focused and honest about the art of ballet and teaching. I left ballet at 16 because my body could not take the physical rigors and turned back to fine art, but my love of dance has never ended.
Your question about an emphasis of female subjects in my work began with my experiences as a dancer. The dance world was one of limited arenas that demonstrated the strength and power of women in the arts as both teachers and artists. I remember sitting at my desk in my room at home on Long Island as a teen, wondering why the history of art included very few great women artists to model and emulate. My later years as an art student and artist found the world to be very steeped in patriarchal power with little room for female endeavors and spirit. Therefore my intuitive choice to use the female figure as a symbol of artistry, strength, and learning redirects the balance of my early inquiries and gaps of information about the female as a strong artistic figure.
When I read Marina Semynova's obituary in the NYT's I was intrigued and curious about her life. I googled her name and found old films of her dancing and teaching on U-Tube, but could not download the film until further inquires to a computer savvy person told me about software (from Iceland of all places) that would allow access. I bought the software, downloaded all the films I could find into I-Movie. Watching the films gave me that "tingle" of excitement that precedes the beginning of new work. What interested me greatly was Marina in her 60's or 70's teaching a solo from "The Black Swan" to a young dancer in a bare dance studio in Russia. The music, the choreography, the atmosphere of the dance studio felt so familiar and eerie as I was looking "down time" to another era (50's or 60's). My subject was before me - the aging teacher who had been the dancer and remained the dancer in her frumpy black dress and pumps moving exquisitely through space as she demonstrated various steps and sequences. She had great respect from her student and showed an empathetic willingness to pass on her art to the younger generation. I watched the film many times as I decided which positions would be dynamic on the page. Learning how to move the frames from I-Movie to I-Tunes to Quick-time and finally Photoshop for printing was a large learning curve and often I just worked from the computer in my studio on stop-gap.
I had been working in encaustic for the last 10 years, but found that the medium was not allowing me enough freedom to explore my ideas fully. I decided to work with acrylic grounds and mediums, which would allow me to build up the surface with pigment, pastel, graphite, marker, and other media. I chose to use heavy paper, (50"x38") and hang the work like a rug hanging with a rod in the back. I created pockets sewing heavy 3" ribbon on the top back area of the paper and inserted thin flat metal strips that could hang the pieces. The task I set up for the work was to place three figures of Marina on each paper that composed a moment of movement. Color has always been an element of wonder and enchantment for me and as the piece developed, the color became a vivid part of the environment and atmosphere, reflecting light and motion. As I worked I realized I needed to add the element of pattern to move around and into each piece to integrate space and figure. The patterning became an important element and signifier of the magic of the theater backdrops, lighting, and textural costumes. I began to spray paint through all types of lace and material to create repeated design. Pattern also reminded me of the attire of my Russian teachers who each had their own style of dressing for class. The 3 pieces were worked over a period of almost 2 years. My final presentation of the work removed the rod as a hanging device and adhered the paper pieces to Plexiglas with a 2-inch area around the drawing as frame. On the back of the clear frame area are glued 2 layers of delicate material that appear to create a soft floating frame.
I was fascinated and interested that you attached the word allegory to my work. I had not thought of the pieces in those terms and I feel you have given me an interesting angle to consider as I assess the work. Researching the word allegory on Wikipedia I found allegory is described as "a device used to present an idea, principle or meaning, which can be presented in literary form, such as a poem or novel, in musical form, such as composition or lyric, or in visual form, such as in painting or drawing ......... As an artistic device, an allegory is a visual symbolic representation." Marina is the visual symbol for me of a strong, vibrant, artist and teacher who lived a life of art and sharing of art. How great is that??