Wednesday, January 7, 2009


It is winter here in Santa Fe, and the landscape takes on a mystery and solemnity that influences my perspective. Ravens flying over the frozen hills, shimmering snow-covered fields, everything rests in an otherworldly slumber. Although I am an abstract painter totally devoted to non-representational imagery, all of my work is infused with a rapturous experience of the natural world. My reductive abstractions reference nature and the landscape, and perhaps this is a doorway through which the viewer can enter the painting and connect with it on a deeper level.

Rising, 2009, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 inches
© 2009 Diane McGregor

This perspective became very clear to me as I was resolving my newest painting, just finished a few days ago, Rising. The painting gives me a feeling of dawn, when the blue evaporates and the light rises. There are some calligraphic marks in the center which are partly submerged by a yellow-white crust (maybe a cornfield covered with snow?). A darker bluish band is at the top of the painting, where some black brushstrokes seem to be flying toward the upper edge of the canvas. I can see the painting as a field, viewed from high above, ravens flying across the landscape toward the shadow of the moon. Then the whole composition shifts and you are looking upward toward the sky, the horizon sits below you and the light is rising, the birds are flying up into what's left of the night. As an abstract painter, narrative is something I really try to avoid, but in this painting it opens up to me, and perhaps points toward a new kind of meaning in my work.

I struggled with this painting since last August; then winter arrives, my perspective shifts, and an inevitable poetry comes into being. The relationship I have with a canvas can be very intense and intimate, and this painting took a long time to resolve. Finally, when I saw the "field from above" it all came together. This is interesting since I consider the painting itself a field, in which my investigation of painting is defined by that field and its materials alone. And also interesting that my studio sits on top of a hill -- I look down upon the valley and across to the snow-covered mesas, the mountains in the distance, and the ravens drifting silently over the landscape below me.


Angela Wales Rockett said...


And your words really resonate with me and how I work - though I am also an abstract painter, lately I've found myself inspired more and more by the land and elements around me.

Leslie Avon Miller said...

Diane: Your words an “otherworldly slumber” capture mood, as do your compelling paintings. Reading over your blog I found your reference to the creation process of a painting. “My involvement with each painting is like a birthing experience, and only I and the painting know what labor pains I have suffered in creating it.”
So very true of the process. Thank you for stating this so well.

Diane McGregor said...

Dear Angela and Leslie,
Thank you for your comments. I am passionate about abstraction, and the effort to avoid recognizable subject matter is a critical issue for many abstract painters. Sometimes the process goes on and on until all obvious references are edited out. Even then, one never can control what the viewer brings to each piece, and this too is critical -- art would be nothing without the viewer's participation.

Rebecca Crowell said...

Diane, a really beautiful painting!!

As you say in regards to the viewer, landscape can be a doorway into a deeper connection with the painting--and it seems that was also true in this painting for you.

In my own work, when narratives or descriptions come to mind, I tend to see that as a good thing. Especially if I keep these ideas fluid and open-ended in the same way that other aspects of the process are--the color choices, paint marks, etc. So that it is almost like dreaming in paint. Then I am often surprised at the places I end up, and sometimes a new direction is revealed.

I love how you probe into the processes of abstraction in your writing--as well as in your painting of course!

Diane McGregor said...

Dear Rebecca, I like your attitude of just being open to the flow of what happens in the painting, without judging it or questioning your motives. As you point out, the process requires a refined skill to be open to unexpected encounters with color or texture or brushwork; narrative adds a whole new layer to the work. I'm going to practice the art of allowing. Thank you for the encouragement!

Seth Apter said...

Beautiful painting and quite interesting thoughts about the relationship between abstraction and nature.