Diane DeLeonardo

Artist Statement

I am a visceral painter. I paint from my gut, from feelings and for the feeling of the brush and the paint on wood or canvas, for the ecstatic feeling of paint sliding across a surface. I use colors chosen from a non-verbal, non-thinking place, colors I have found in dreams and visions. I paint about what sound looks like: frogs on the first day of spring, or butterflies drinking from the first flowers of thistle and milkweed, or the prairie growing on the hottest day in July abuzz with redwing blackbirds and cicadas. I call these my Rabbit Hole paintings: a kind of folk art collage inspired by my relationship with and experience of nature. Dangerous. Chaotic. Sensual. Erotic. My paintings are drunk with life, desire, and sensuality.

I also paint from my sense of order and appreciation of patterns and color: my Quilt and Repeat series. These paintings reflect my love for quilting and my relationship with old fabric and my Grandmother, who taught me how to quilt.

Recently I started painting from a place within myself that is beyond the intellect, where thinking is not allowed: my free form, abstract paintings. To create these paintings, I engage in a process that involves prepping boards then adding layers and layers of unfiltered input. Colors, textures, shapes, anything is allowed. I work on these and let them talk to me, tell me what they want to become. Often I ignore them for long periods of time, or I will accost them periodically with paint and inspiration. Eventually, they will reveal themselves to me and I proceed to finish them. I like to paint this way as a contrast to a more intellectual approach because I am looking for skill or inspiration that isn’t accessible to my thinking brain.

Sometimes I have a dream or an inspiration or a desire to create something specific. My 3-D circus was inspired by one of my favorite books, Geek Love, by Katherine Dunn. Or “The Map of My Brain” which I conjured and planned very carefully. I experience these creative visions as if the Muse came to visit and decided to spend the night. But I can’t execute it. I don’t have the technical skills. And the frustration of that pushes me to do one of two things: solve the problem creatively and move on; and/or get better at my technical skills as a painter. Sometimes these paintings take years to complete; and by the time I have completed them I have changed as a painter and my skills have changed too.

I find that where I paint, has a great influence on what and how I paint. The barn on my property in the Shawnee Forest allows me to paint large, messy and deep into the long summer nights with the sound of the forest all around me. And many of my paintings are inspired by the creatures who share that space with me: frogs, birds, snakes, fish, owls, bees, turtles, beetles and so many more! When I paint in my drafty old house on State Street, the formal dining room having been appropriated for my studio, I am cramped for space, and must be (somewhat) careful not to throw paint all over floors and walls. I find my paintings there are smaller, more thoughtful and planned.

Lastly, I have an interest that grows more each year in environmental art: my Leave a Trace event during the solar eclipse last year was a great success and allowed many people to come together to make art from the natural materials on my property. We built a beautiful wall from the invasive Tulip Trees and a huge floating water strider for the pond. I look forward to sharing art and the making of art for years to come, both from being a member of The Pharmacy and from creative events that bring large groups of people together for the simple joy of creating and feeling paint slide across a board.