GALLERY TALK at Walsh University January 2021:
In 1999, Diane Belfiglio began working on a series of paintings based on national historic monuments and buildings. She completed four series of paintings from northeast Ohio, which included images from the National First Ladies Historic Site and the McKinley National Memorial, both in Canton, Ohio; historic Zoar, Ohio; and President Garfield's residence in Mentor, Ohio. She then traveled to other locations to continue her study of national historic monuments and buildings. In 2008, Belfiglio began working in oil pastels. Her first drawings included images from historic Jamestown and Mount Vernon in Virginia. As her drawings progressed, Belfiglio became more intrigued with the organic elements of her images, which were more aptly expressed with oil pastel than the architectural ones. This development has led to her newer floral images and beyond. After working in oil pastels for 12 years, she has recently begun to explore watercolor.
My paintings prominently feature closely-cropped, sunlit architectural forms. Although realistic in their presentation, I rely heavily on their underlying abstract qualities to give to the already imposing images an even greater sense of power. Shadows, ethereal by nature, take on a rigid structural aspect in these compositions. Colors range from brilliant to subtle in an effort to reproduce the strong sense of sunlight streaming through each piece. Although these images are visually powerful, the delicate details in the architecture—and often in the surrounding vegetation--are also prominently featured in my work. The resultant blend produces a heightened, stylized reality. I work to transform the mundane into the extraordinary, so that we see beauty in images that generally go unnoticed by most of us on a daily basis.
OIL PASTEL DRAWINGS
My art has undergone many changes and much exploration over the past twleve years. I have transitioned from painting large, hard-edged acrylic paintings to drawing smaller, more intimate oil pastel drawings. This new work is still firmly grounded in the same formalist ideas that have interested me since my beginnings as a professional artist: closely cropped images bathed in the play of pattern between sunlight and shadows. The concept remains the same, however, the medium and images have changed.
When I first began working in oil pastels in 2008, I returned to a more formalist, abstract approach to my realistic images, a throw back to my very early work done in graduate school. The photographs I took at the Jamestown archeological site lent themselves perfectly to more simplified compositions; hence the inception of the Jamestown Geometry series. This was followed by more formalist work, the Potomac Patterns series, which depicts streamlined images from the pier at Mount Vernon.
However, as I continued with more architectural images--the Mount Vernon Memories series--it became obvious that architecture is more amenable to acrylic paint than it is oil pastels. Organic images seemed to speak to oil pastels in a much more powerful way. I decided to step back from the architecture for a while and began experimenting with floral images--although some elements of architecture still exist in these floral pieces. For me, this transition to florals has been the most surprising transformation of all. Yet, I have become strangely possessed by these images and intend to follow them as they lead me into my next transitions.
My foray into sculpture started in 2015. It has been fun and rewarding. I have always been fascinated with geometric shapes. My newest sculpture has been constructed out of the 1" X 2" lumber with which I build my painting canvases. At this time, my sculpture work seems to combine the influences of Mondrian and Calder, but as I continue on, I will just have to see where else it may lead. At least while I am having fun, my new work has already been accepted into professional shows.
Never say never. For the majority of my life, I have not taken to watercolor as a medium I ever wanted to use professionally. But in 2015-16, the Canton Museum of Art had a spectacular show of Joseph Raffael's watercolor paintings. The colors and luminosity in his work were so amazing that I just couldn't get the images out of my head. A couple of years later, I was called upon to teach Watercolors at Walsh University, a class I normally don't teach. So there was another toe in the water (pun intended). Fast forward to 2020, when I finally had the urge to vanquish my demons and give it a try. I started slowly, making plenty of mistakes, but soon realized that I could create the luminosity that I crave in my work in this medium. Thus, the exploration will continue.