Diane Churchill

Redness and Myth

Essay by David Shapiro
written for an exhibit at Soho20/Chelsea Gallery, 2002

Diane Churchill’s swans and Ledas are a severe and radiant series of watercolors and acrylics. Each one is different and new and haunting. Churchill has learned a saturation from the fauves that does not contradict her own freshness. Her Ledas are never violated; they do not shrink from an extreme transformation. How much the painter has learned from Yeats, from Rilke, and from an untranslatable intrepidity of the heart.

Her red is not just passionate but visceral, and her twin-tailed glyph-filled paintings are as strange and frangible as the maximal Indian tantric meditations. There is a devotion to a dream of art in these committed narratives. Though they are symbolist, there is no retreat from the optical: they must be scrutinized in detail.

An art historian once joked that the Renaissance was lucky to have Greek mythology, for sexuality and strangeness, as if the Bible weren’t already filled with angels, sensuality, and intercourse between opposites. “The world is a wedding,” not a violation. The meeting here, as the artist has said, is of other dimensions, and I think it is difficult to decide in the Paradise of blood and thresholds, who is getting the most pleasure: the artist, the swan, Leda or ourselves? Excess is our necessity. Inflecting Breton, we might say beauty will be uncontrollable (like this) or will not be.

Leda And The Swan 2