Creating Space: Diane Christiansen Slows Time With Her Work

Creating Space: Diane Christiansen Slows Time With Her Work

Diane Christiansen, “The Last Day of Capitalism”, 2020, Gouache, Ink, Acrylic, Plaster, Paper, 55×50 inches

“It feels like we’re all on the last day of something, right?”

I’m Diane Christiansen, an artist.

While meeting to discuss her work at the Chicago Cultural Center exhibition “Women’s Shaped Instruments,” the world’s instability casts a long shadow on our conversations. Just the day before, 19 children and two teachers were killed in Uvalde, Texas. A few days before that, 10 people in Buffalo.

As a practical therapist, Christiansen is visibly upset by what happened the day before. “I’m not sure if I’m ready to do this,” she says, referring to our interview. “In a sense, art feels like a rearrangement of the proverbial deckchairs, or in my case, it’s decorating the deckchairs.”

Installation View, “Women’s Shaped Instrument”, Chicago Cultural Center 2022 / Photo: Claire Brit

Christiansen reveals a smile he knows, with deep maroon hair gently surrounding his sharp eyes. In almost an hour and a half, he discusses paintings, pandemics, lost loved ones, and the important need for space, both physically and mentally. As our conversation progresses, she becomes more vibrant. Her enthusiasm for art, music and Eastern philosophy is evident even through the flickering connections of Zoom Call everywhere.

Theoretically, “Women’s Shaped Instrument” is a group show featuring an exhibition by Leslie Baum and Serena Trep, in addition to Christiansen. In reality, it feels like a series of solo exhibitions in an adjacent gallery. Of the works of the three artists (all women, all middle-aged), Christiansen’s work seems to be the most outward-looking. Large-scale works of paper, such as the dialistic “weather forecast” and the fiery red accusations of the system, which is the “last day of capitalism,” provide clues to the theme in ways not found in many modern abstract paintings. I’m wearing it.

Installation View, “Women’s Shaped Instrument”, Chicago Cultural Center 2022 / Photo: Claire Brit

How does the world enter her work?

“At the beginning of the pandemic, my sister’s husband, one of my closest relatives, died of a coronavirus. He was very young. And about a year earlier, basically, I lost my parents back to back. “

The loss broke everything. And for the artist, the only way to deal with it was the same way she was dealing with Trump’s year.

“I just went out into the studio and tried this ritual. I started making these little pieces and sent them to some of the really isolated clients. They like” hold firmly. ” I will say that, and various other small affirmations. I was trying to give something that would connect me. “

That was the birth of the “weather forecast”, which began with the death of the artist’s brother-in-law.

The vast record of disasters, the “weather forecast,” is a never-ending, green and black Rorschach-stained memory of civilization-changing events. Black dots rise up the surface of the paper, separated by a date and a description of what happened that day. Near the top, the whole configuration seems to be open. “So I left a space there, because this illness just continues and continues …”

And, like many things, the exhibition, conceptualized many years ago, was put on hold for a pandemic.

“I think the date has changed a couple of times,” Christiansen summed up after a while. While she was late, her work that she proposed to show her first changed radically.

“My work has evolved and changed, and I’ve begun to be amazed at how much work I wanted to do, but with the help of my artist’s friends,” No, don’t. There is an entire wall of plaster paintings, “I edited into just a few.

The five large pieces on paper benefit from the clarity that space gives them. “Milarepa’s ears” are bold blue-colored slabs bisected by continuous white lines, interspersed with small portholes that reveal the sides of the painting below. It takes time for these moments to occur, and even in their revelation, it is not always clear what we are seeing. The viewer needs a spiritual distance to permeate the meaning of the work.

“When I counsel clients or help with marriage or anxiety issues, one of the things you have to do is create a lot of space and a lot of empathy.”

“And painting does that,” continues Christiansen. “You make time, slow it down, and that’s what Buddhism calls” communication. ” The whole knowledge is instantly transmitted in front of the painting. “

Despite the predominance of lens-based media for the past half century and the recent rise of fashionable “immersive” events, the strength and relevance of painting remains in its ability to communicate. The work may begin at the moment of tragedy, but the distance it gives us can lead to joy.

“I’m very happy about how the show was done and how great everyone’s work is. I couldn’t imagine how positive the reaction would be or how many people saw it. did.”

A warm smile fills Christiansen’s face and we both agree. An hour and a half after we started, we felt better. (Alampokaro)

The “Women’s Shaped Instrument” is on display at the Chicago Cultural Center at 78 East Washington until September 4.


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