Experiencing a Moment: Reflections on Work + Group Show

Thoughts leading up to my upcoming group show at Houska Gallery ‒ Dec. 14th opening reception from 5-8pm. Show will be up until mid-Feb. 2019.

We live a fragile and finite existence. That truth has guided my leap into painting since the beginning. My past year and a half of painting has been an exploration of the fleeting nature of life. In many ways, a life is a collection of moments that flow unmercifully from the present and into memory. This recognition shapes the way I live in and out of the studio, revealing itself in my practice of focusing all attention on an experience not only when in the moment but also on the canvas after its occurrence.

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From my first panoramic view of Teton mountain range to a man’s quiet deliberation of flowers in a nursery, these moments are extraordinary in their ephemeral nature. I suppose this is what moved me early on to paint bouquets of flowers, radiant in their short-lived beauty.

In the studio, I give myself over to a single mindedness that refocuses time. Away from physical distractions, I exist with my thoughts and reflect on the intricacies that make an everyday moment profound or a rare experience universal. This reflection of the past helps make me more aware of the present.

The following five paintings, part of my upcoming group show at Houska Gallery, reveal moments that have deepened my understanding of myself and my relationship with the world. From grand vantage points to mundane scenes, the works focus on the essence of a moment with vibrant clarity and the stillness of introspection.

I Shouldn’t Be Here by Diana Zeng

I Shouldn’t Be Here

72 x 60 in., oil on stretched canvas
2018

This work captures a candid moment observed by the artist of her husband contemplating choices at a plant nursery for their garden. In his gentle touch, the reality of what strength and masculinity can look like becomes vividly clear. The scene exists in opposition not only to strict ideas of gender but also to the figure’s own personal struggle with his ongoing existence as a cancer survivor. The marital relationship between the artist and her husband is shown through the notion of shared assets ‒ the figure’s yellow skin is the color typically cast onto the artist’s Asian identity.

I Shouldn’t Be Here Ⅱ by Diana Zeng

I Shouldn’t Be Here Ⅱ

72 x 48 in., oil on stretched canvas
2018

In this piece, the artist captures her husband’s sudden exuberance upon seeing flowers along a path. His animated display of hysterical wonder stands contrary to the idea that men shouldn’t show strong positive emotions. Placed in relation to “I Shouldn’t Be Here”, the pair of works begin to offer a broader view of masculinity. The second figure in the composition is the other person on the path, the unseen viewer. This is where the artist stands, looking beyond to the unknown path. She at once commits to the journey ahead while acknowledging the lack of Asian American women represented in her chosen life path.

From This Outlook by Diana Zeng

From This Outlook

36 x 48 in., oil on stretched canvas
2018

This depiction of the Snake River Outlook on U.S. Highway 89 in Grand Teton National Park represents artist’s first view of the Teton Range during a trip in 2017 shortly after her career shift from business to art. This scene cut through the chaos of that transition with a timely and vivid reminder that we stand among grand forces of nature that humble us. The experience of this scene provided a foundational intention of the artist’s practice ‒ pulling attention away from daily distractions and focusing on the wonders of being alive.

First, Look Back by Diana Zeng

First, Look Back

20 x 16 in., oil on canvas panel
2017

This view from the north-west side of Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park is seen while looking back and hiking away from the mountain range. In this easily overlooked experience, the realization of what has been traversed to reach this present moment comes into view. The title is the phrase the artist declared to the rest of the group on the trail at this time. This work, “First, Look Back” is accompanied by its immediate successor “First Look Back”.

First Look Back by Diana Zeng

First Look Back

24 x 18 in., oil on stretched canvas
2017

This landscape of Grand Teton National Park from the north-west side of Jenny Lake depicts the view gained from looking back at the Teton Range. This work was painted in succession to "First, Look Back". Its relationship to its predecessor emphasizes the ever-changing nature of life and perspective. The two different portrayals of the landscape reflect how subjective reality can be, changing not only from second to second but from person to person.


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