Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Diane McGregor: Santa Fe


Artist Diane McGregor

Please share a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and were there any early influences on your work? 
I grew up on the east coast, in rural areas of NJ and Connecticut.  Those early years surrounded by lakes and forests instilled in me a reverence for nature.  After graduating high school I moved to Tucson, Arizona, where I fell in love with the desert landscape. Then I moved to Hawaii where I lived for 11 years, which was a wonderful, healing experience. However, Hawaii was not the ideal place to have a career as an abstract painter, so I moved back to the mainland in 2001, to pursue my art career in Santa Fe, NM. I love being back in the desert.

Did you receive any formal art training? 
If yes, where and what did you major in?
I majored in Studio Art at the University of Arizona, with honors work in Art History.  I graduated with a BFA in 1985.  I majored in Art History in Graduate School at the U of A, but decided not to complete my degree.

Terrain II 
oil on canvas
32 x 32 inches

At what point in your life did you become interested in making art and was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist? 
Since I was very young (maybe 6 or 7) I've loved oil painting. I started out with the paint by numbers kits — in those days they were oil painting kits, and I immediately fell in love with the smell of turpentine and oils. I constantly made art all through elementary school and was included in a children's art exhibit in China. In high school, I had the most wonderful, devoted art teacher — he took me under his wing and nurtured my talent. Art saved me in those difficult high school years. When I went to college, I was really torn between making my own art and studying art history. During graduate school, I received an internship with the University of Arizona Museum of Art, and loved working there.  However, in 1988 I finally made the decision that whatever the hardships, I was going to be a painter.

Shimmering Air 
oil on canvas
18x18 inches

What is your media?
I use Schmincke Mussini oil paints on canvas. Just paint and mineral spirits, no special mediums or varnishes. A wonderful Navajo man, Albert Natonabah, makes my canvases for me — he is an impeccable craftsman. I believe his art enhances my art.

What is your current work about?
I think of my current work as minimalist meditations. I am working with the grid. This has been a natural development for me from my previous work, where I used the grid as a starting point, but gradually obscured it. That body of work involved the essence of the grid and the notion of infinity, and I tried to arrive there with the idea of formlessness.  Although I love that body of work, I finally realized using the grid itself could encompass all of that and more.  Now I am using the grid as the primary compositional device in the work. I love the purity and simplicity of the grid, yet through its repetition it seems to satisfy all my creative desires. My technique involves building up an underpainting onto which I paint tiny rectangles of white, allowing the underpainting to show through. Between the linear elements of the grid, and the more fugitive, organic elements of the areas inside each rectangle, there is an interesting dialogue between the geometric and the lyrical. This way of working seems well-suited for me — I have never felt comfortable with the "grand gesture" and this delicate, methodical technique allows me to access a contemplative and quiet place within me that I find necessary in order to connect with my work on a spiritual level.

Terrain III
oil on canvas
32 x 32"

What is your workspace like? 
I converted the master bedroom in our home into my studio.  I don't have a huge space, but the natural light is outstanding. It works perfectly for me. I love working at home, being with my animals, and observing the constantly changing light and weather of my surroundings.

McGregor's studio

McGregor working in her studio

How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues?
I am definitely a hermit, so I don't get out much to socialize, except if there's a friend having an exhibition reception or something like that. Facebook and the internet has been critical for me — I have found so many like minds all over the world, and I have learned about and met so  many other contemporary artists.  Recently, a small group of Santa Fe women have started the Lady Minimalist Tea Society — we get together  once a month and we're planning to have a show of our work. That's been really gratifying to get to know these women and the work that they are doing. (The name sort of started out as a joke, but we've all grown rather fond of it!)

Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?
Getting stuck is one of the worst places to be. It often signals that it is time to move forward and evolve.
I try to keep working during those times, trusting the answer or the insight will appear when I'm ready to receive it.  This, of course is not easy – the waiting can seem like the muse has totally abandoned you.  I spend a great deal of time reading and studying art history, looking at contemporary painters on the web, and reading art magazines and blogs.  Eventually something clicks and I'm back on track.  Other days, enormous doubts plague me, and I've found there's nothing to really do about those except take a short break – maybe go into Santa Fe and look at some inspiring work  – usually the doubt goes away within a day or two.

oil on canvas
32 x 32"

Detail of Terrain

Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
Journaling, meditation, spiritual studies (mostly of a Buddhist nature), reading poetry, being out in nature, contemplating the sky and the weather — all these activities go into my work and nourish my connection with my paintings.


oil on canvas
18x18 inches

Do you have other jobs other than making art?
I am also a wildlife rehabber, so in the spring NM Game and Fish gives me orphaned skunks and raccoons to raise. They are eventually released to the wild.  It is always a challenge to be completely there for them when then need a mama, love, and nurturing, and then later having to have to let them go is always difficult for the heart.  Each and every baby is a unique and precious critter, and it is a great honor to give them a chance to live free in the wild.

Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?
I would like to eventually have representation in 6 galleries across the country, as well as being in more museum shows. I'd also like to be involved in more curated, thematic exhibitions. I especially hope to be focusing on larger work — the grids really seem to "breathe" when they are larger and there is more detail involved — it's harder to achieve that on small canvases.

oil on canvas
32 x 32 inches

Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?
I will be included in "Bare Essentials: Minimalism in the 21st Century," curated by Ingrid Fassbender and showing at Woman Made Gallery in Chicago in November.  I will also be showing a series of small paintings  I call "Winter Poems"  in December at Costello-Childs Contemporary in Scottsdale.

You can see more of Dianes' work on her website, http://www.dianemcgregor.com and her blog is http://dianemcgregor.blogspot.com

Thank you Diane!


Tamar said...

Great interview, Diane.
I enjoyed reading more about your painting process (and am delighted to be one of your FB friends.)

Nancy Natale said...

Thanks for this post, Lynette and Diane! I enjoyed learning more about your work, Diane, having seen it on Facebook. It's great to see a detail because so much is lost with the low-res FB pix. I'm glad you talked about working through doubt. That's probably something we all share.

Diane McGregor said...

Thank you for reading and commenting, Tamar and Nancy.

Lynette Haggard said...

Hi Tamar and Nancy, thanks for commenting and Diane to you for participating!

Janice Mason Steeves said...

What a wonderful interview Lynette and such a terrific idea to interview other artists. Loved reading it.

Lynette Haggard said...

Thanks for reading Janice! The artists do the heavy lifting! Tell your friends to follow my blog; always looking for a bigger audience, they can sign up on the home page.

Seth said...

Wonderful interview. Fascinating to hear more about Diane's background and inspirations. Thank you!

Lynette Haggard said...

Thanks Seth!

Diane McGregor said...

Thank you for reading, Seth!

Debu Barve said...

Really wonderful interview!

Lynette Haggard said...

Thanks for reading, Debu! If you become a follower you can be notified of new interviews.