Sunday, January 06, 2008

Art Space Talk: Diana Baumbach

Diana grew up outside of Chicago with her muralist mother, businessman father, and sister Sarah. For many years, she studied ballet. She performed with Ballet Chicago and with the Bolshoi Ballet at the Vail International Dance Festival. Later, Diana decided to go to college and study fine art. She received her BFA in Printmaking and Drawing from Washington University in St. Louis. After taking some time off, she decided to pursue her MFA at Southern Illinois University. She recently finished her MFA in Printmaking and Drawing. Diana currently teaches studio foundations and digital media at the University of Wyoming. She also teaches printmaking at Laramie County Community College.
Brian Sherwin: Diana, your mother was a muralist-- do you credit her with your early interest in art? What else can you tell us about your early years as far as art is concerned?

Diana Baumbach: My mother and I actually have very different approaches and goals when it comes to artistic production. She never pushed me towards art as a child and for many years, fine art was just a hobby for me. Living with an artist as a child did, however, introduce me to the idea that the creative impulse could emerge in domestic spaces. That idea has been central to my recent work.

BS: Diana, you studied printmaking and drawing at Washington University and you continued your studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Can you tell us about your experience at these schools? Who were your mentors during those academic years?

DB: The printmaking program at Washington University was very conceptual and I used that time for creative experimentation. Most of what I made then bears little resemblance to what I do today. The graduate program at Southern Illinois University offered a unique experience to teach undergraduate students while also taking classes myself. There was a strong graduate community and I really enjoyed working with instructors Leslie Mutchler, Jason Urban and Chris Wildrick while there. While at Southern Illinois University, I made friendships and contacts that I value greatly.

BS: Diana, you also have experience as an educator. You have instructed art at Laramie County Community College and the University of Wyoming. What do you teach? Also, how do you balance your role as a teacher with your need to create your personal art? Is there ever a conflict?

DB: Primarily, I teach foundations level courses. At the University of Wyoming, I teach 2D design, color theory, and digital media. I'm very interested in working with younger students and guiding them through their own exploration of the elements and principles of design. Much of my work deals with formal elements, so I actually see an overlap between foundations studies and my own work. I am fortunate enough to be provided with a wonderful studio and a relatively light course load, which allows me the time and space necessary to make my own work.

BS: Allow me to ask some questions about your art. Your art deals with the intersection between fine art, design, and everyday life. Can you go into further detail about your art and your artistic process?

DB: Sure! I am inspired by the everyday objects around me just as much as I am by fine artists. I really value the thought that goes into the design of a cup or a chair. Much of my work references functional objects…blankets, paper towels, toilet paper, a doll house…but I make everything by hand using slow, repetitive techniques. The time that I invest belies our attitude towards our surroundings and the idea that we live in a disposable culture.

BS: Tell us more about how you mesh household patterns with printmaking techniques...

DB: To be honest, I do not use printmaking all that much in my work at this point. I am more interested in the concept of the multiple. In the past, it has been useful to use serigraphy to rapidly recreate patterns and allow for variations in color.

BS: Is there a philosophical reason for your use of patterns from household items such as printed fabrics, paper towels, napkins, and furniture? Is there a message that you desire to convey with this choice? For example, are you making a statement about consumerism?

DB: I am interested in using these objects as a point of entry and investigating them for their formal qualities. Most of my work can be appreciated simply on a formal level. I'm not trying to make any sweeping statements about our culture, but rather, to make people look a bit more closely at their surroundings…and hopefully help the viewer recognize that they are making aesthetic decisions about the world around them on a daily basis.

BS: Diana, can you tell us more about your artistic influences? Have you been inspired by a specific artist or art movement?

DB: Sure, I am inspired by the artists Andrea Zittel, Anu Tuominen, Thomas Demand and the architects Rocio Romero and Frank Lloyd Wright. I think there are some very interesting collaborations happening between designers and large companies like TARGET and Alessi. I also really love Scandinavian design, especially Marimekko fabrics.

BS: What are you working on at this time?

DB: I just finished up a few pieces for the faculty show here. They are a bit different…colorful! I'm also working on a grant for a new project called Shared Space. It's an alternative gallery that aims to bring challenging contemporary art and design to rural Wyoming.

BS: Diana, I understand that you established an alternative gallery space called Gallery Thirteen13. Can you tell us more about that project? What are your goals for Gallery Thirteen13?

DB: Gallery Thirteen13 was a project that took place in my home in Southern Illinois. It was essentially a reaction to living in a rural area where there were no art galleries. I decided to create my own exhibition space using an extra bedroom in my apartment. The project ended when I moved, but will hopefully be reincarnated as a new project, Shared Space. I have some very exciting exhibitions in the works which will involve new media, site specific installations, and a permanent collection, but funding is still pending.

BS: Tell us more about your opinion on alternative galleries. Several artists in St. Louis are starting to exhibit from their own homes instead of relying on a traditional gallery setting-- I remember reading about that several months ago --it seems to be a trend. What do you like about this direction that some artists are making in regards to taking exhibiting into their own hands?

DB: I am very excited about the possibilities of alternative art display. The more I read, the more I realize that there are tons of similar projects popping up throughout the US. I feel there is a lot of energy in D.I.Y. projects that makes the traditional gallery system less and less of a necessity. Perhaps this impulse comes from the possibilities on the Internet. There are so many ways to get your work out there nowadays.

BS: Do you have any advice for artists who are interested in learning more about printmaking?

DB: I would encourage young printmakers to attend the print conferences (Southern Graphics Council and Mid-America Print Conference). It is an excellent was to get excited about printmaking and to meet like-minded people. Printmaking is so community oriented that it's important to connect with the larger print community. Also, I would encourage printmakers to participate in and/or organize print exchanges. It's a great way to connect with other printmakers and start a collection.

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

DB: Thank you for the opportunity to display my work on and for taking the time to interview me!
You can find Diana Baumbach on login ID, dbaumbac. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin

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