Diane Churchill

Essay by Harriet Lyons ~ Formerly Visual Arts Editor of Ms. magazine, Lyons is recognized for her coverage of the 1970s pioneering Feminist Art Movement.
written for an exhibit at Pomona Cultural Center, 2010


A stream runs by Diane Churchill’s airy studio in the Garnersville Arts & Industrial Center, a pre-civil war factory in the lower Hudson Valley that has been transformed into spaces for artists and for light industry. The Nyack-based painter was drawn to the rhythms of the stream and its rippling movement. She began to explore this motion through descending vertical lines.

“Not as a descent or an injurious fall,” Churchill says, “but as a fall into oneself or into the comfort of one's being.” The flowing water came to represent an effort to extend the five senses, to develop a sixth or seventh sense to see what might lay beyond or within. In William Blake's words, the beyond could be “an immense world of delights.”

Known for the richness and lyricism of her color, particularly saturated red, and her references to mythology, calligraphy and the alphabets of various languages, Churchill’s latest work is a shift in palette to muted pastels and her imagery to a fluid motion between upper and lower, offset by the rhythm of small objects that are often painted with thick and textured gesso. “I needed red – its power and intensity,” says the artist of its absence here. “I did everything I could with red. I wanted to be finished with it.”

The leaf, a recurring image in Churchill’s work, is still evident but more embedded. “I find it a noble form,” she says.“It is a stand-in for the natural world and for growth.” Her fascination with music remains and continues to influence the motion of her lines in most of this work, from lively and staccato to slow and thoughtful.

But the line stands alone, dictated by its color.

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