Sunday, December 4, 2011

Red Bird

Red Bird, oil on canvas, 18 x 18 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

Red Bird

Red bird came all winter
firing up the landscape
as nothing else could.

Of course I love the sparrows,
those dun-colored darlings,
so hungry and so many.

I am a God-fearing feeder of birds.
I know He has many children,
not all of them bold in spirit.

Still, for whatever reason --
perhaps because the winter is so long
and the sky so black-blue,

or perhaps because the heart narrows
as often as it opens --
I am grateful

that red bird comes all winter
firing up the landscape
as nothing else can do.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lynette Haggard's Artist Interview Series

I was recently featured on Lynette Haggard's Art Blog. Please enjoy reading this interview with me about my work and inspiration. I talk a lot about what led me to becoming a painter, and share some of my working methods and some of the inner processes that motivate me toward creating my work.

Thank you so much, Lynette!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Winter Poems

Clockwise from upper left: Winter Poem I, Winter Poem II, Winter Poem III, Winter Poem IV
All oil on canvas, 12 x 12 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

Winter is returning to New Mexico. Very cold mornings, a little snow, the blacks, browns, and golds of the frozen plants and leaves. This quartet of paintings was composed as a poem to the winter season, the winter landscape.

Instead of the vertical orientation of the grid's rectangles, the new paintings I have been working on emphasize the horizontal -- in other words, the horizon line of the vast New Mexico landscape. The blues and whites echo the frozen earth and sky, with flecks of gold, black and brown reminding the viewer of the warmth that still lingers beneath the surface.

I will be shipping these paintings out soon for a group exhibition in December at Costello-Childs Contemporary in Scottsdale. The exhibition will feature smaller works by the gallery's artists. There will be an opening reception on Wednesday, December 7th, from 4 to 8pm.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Upcoming Chicago Exhibition

Terrain, oil on canvas, 32 x 32 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

My painting, Terrain, has been chosen for exhibition in "Bare Essentials: Minimalism in the 21st Century." The exhibition will be held at Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, opening November 4th and continuing through December 22nd. There will be an opening reception on November 4th from 6-9 pm. The curator is Ingrid Fassbender, of Fassbender Fine Art. Currently she is working on an additional "Minimal" exhibition which will include international artists.

From the exhibition brochure:

Minimalism is a specific movement identified with
the evolution of post-World War II art. The
movement pioneers – among them Frank Stella
and Carl Andre – felt that “art excludes the
unnecessary”. These artists – including others
such as Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, Agnes Martin and
others – were rooted in the reductive aesthetic
aspects of modernism. It was this reductive
element which these artists pursued in their
movement away from the prevalence of Abstract

“Bare Essentials: Minimalism in the 21st Century”
is an exhibition that will explore how women artists
are influenced by these earlier ideologies, and how
they attempt to make them their own.

I am deeply honored to be included in this extraordinary exhibition!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shimmering Air

Shimmering Air, oil on canvas, 18x18 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

The Hummingbird

It’s morning, and again I am that lucky person who is in it.
And again it is spring,
and there are the apple trees,
and the hummingbird in its branches.
On the green wheel of his wings
he hurries from blossom to blossom,
which is his work, that he might live.

He is a gatherer of the fine honey of promise,
and truly I go in envy
of the ruby fire at his throat,
and his accurate, quick tongue,
and his single-mindedness.

Meanwhile the knives of ambition are stirring
down there in the darkness behind my eyes,
and I should go inside now to my desk and my pages.
But still I stand under the trees, happy and desolate,
wanting for myself such a satisfying coat
and brilliant work.

- Mary Oliver -

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Origin of Fire

Escalante II, oil on panel, 10 x 10 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

Music is a big part of the creative process for me. I usually listen to the same piece of music over and over again while working on a particular painting or series. For these paintings, I chose to listen to "The Origin of Fire," a medieval chant by Hildegard von Bingen and performed exquisitely by the group Anonymous 4. The repetition -- not only from the structure of the chant, but also from the whole piece of music -- reminds me of the temporal structure of the grid itself; the repetitive process of creating each small rectangle while at the same time engaged with the whole image as a thoughtfully considered composition. The music surrounds me and inspires the contemplative atmosphere such work demands.

Escalante III, oil on panel, 10 x 10 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

The Escalante region of Canyonlands, Utah, is the inspiration for these paintings. It is my favorite place on earth. I love watching the sun rise and set over the mysterious red rock formations, and being so far away from any other living human, I drink in the silence and solitude. It is my heaven.
My grid paintings are a distillation of the landscape into a living, breathing object of its own -- in this case, the red rocks, the silence, the fragile desert plants, the footsteps of mountain goats and chipmunks.... Sleeping in that wilderness brings my attention into utter harmony with the fact of life on earth and the mysteries that lie beyond the glittering stars.

Escalante IV, oil on panel, 10 x 10 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

"And I -- a human being neither afire
in my form with the strength of strong lions
nor familiar with their exhalations,
but constrained by the fragility of the weak rib
and flooded with mystical inspiration --
saw something like the most brilliant fire,
incomprehensible, inextinguishable,
all alive, and all filled with life,
having within itself a flame the color of air."

-- Hildegard von Bingen, Vision 1: The Fire of Creation,
from The Origin of Fire

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Return to the Grid

This summer's extreme drought and furious fires in northern New Mexico has given me pause. It has been a time of contemplation and reassessment, partly because it has been too hot to work in the studio. I have had time to reevaluate my priorities and become aware of inner urgings that are calling me to return to the grid (see some of my earlier posts from February and March). Painting the grids, I've realized, is therapeutic for me; they are healing in their simplicity and repetition, and very satisfying in their layered complexities. There is a meditative calm that filters down to me through the process of creating them, and I trust that these positive qualities will be transmitted to the viewer. Combining these visual characteristics with poetry and titles that reflect my reverence for nature, I hope to open up the territory for spiritual insight and communion with our deepest yearnings.

Twilight, oil on canvas, 18x18 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

At the Twilight

At the twilight, a moon appeared in the sky;
Then it landed on earth to look at me.

Like a hawk stealing a bird at the time of prey;
That moon stole me and rushed back into the sky.

I looked at myself, I did not see me anymore;
For in that moon, my body turned as fine as soul.

The nine spheres disappeared in that moon;
The ship of my existence drowned in that sea.

- Rumi -

Friday, June 17, 2011

Contemplating the Horizon

Terrain IV, oil on canvas, 60 x 45 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

Inspired by the ethereal nature of the vast desert spaces of the American West, my abstract oil paintings are minimalist meditations upon the landscape, the light, and the elements. These images are not representations of a specific place or environment, but a synthesis of shifting visual impressions, contemplative observations, and a meditative process.

My painting process involves building up many layers of vertical and horizontal brushstrokes in a grid framework. This gives the composition its stability and structure. Brushed and scraped textures reference those found in the landscape and on weathered rocks and ancient surfaces. Subtle variations of the color white, including soft grays and pale ochres, symbolize the spiritual essence of the desert for me: purity, clarity, infinity, peace. Natural earth and mineral pigments emerge from the hushed white fields, creating a richly layered, mystical interpretation of these elusive desert realms.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Escalante, oil on canvas, 32 x 32 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

My project involving the grid has been instrumental in moving my paintings forward. After producing 4 of the rigorous grid paintings (see posts from earlier this year), I have found a thread that I can hold onto: Landscape. The new work I am doing has a more pronounced "landscape" feel to it -- I am focusing on compositional elements that are abstract yet have some reference to the desert and my environment -- the light, the land, the weather, the seasons. I feel more "anchored" somehow. I have lots of new work in progress in the studio, both large and small paintings, and I am excited about this new (yet subtle) direction I am following. It is a synthesis of all my experiences with oil paint, textures, and layering over the past few years.

Monday, April 4, 2011


"Like a Bedouin who can make out the subtlest shades of sand or an Inuit who can read with precision a comparable narrow spectrum of snow and ice, Ryman has catalogued white's actual variety, thus ironically demonstrating its latent non-neutrality when seen in relation to itself." -- Robert Storr

Darsana, oil on canvas, 24 x 24 inches, © 2010 Diane McGregor

White is the most important color on my palette. I use it as a color, not just to depict "light." Its relationship to other colors is remarkable -- it is always influenced by the quality of any given pigment, and yet white always retains it's own weight and structure.

One of my favorite painters, Robert Ryman, had a love affair with white that has left us with a whole new vision of what white, as a color, can be. In all of its delicate and subtle evocations, white in Ryman's paintings conveys strength and majesty.

From Suzanne P. Hudson's marvelous book, Robert Ryman: Used Paint, she observes:

"Ryman came to insist on the realness of paint (white and otherwise) not as pure color but as a marker of its effects. A painting would be an orange painting or a white painting because of the demonstrable behavior and sensible qualities of the paint that was used to actuate it. Color here is not an abstract essence or language game but the physical effect of the paint in which it is suspended. [pp 60-62]

"Painting white paintings was something Ryman had long disavowed, as when he answered a question about this is 1971:
No, it may seem that way superficially, but there are a lot of nuances and there's color involved. Always the surface is used. The gray of the steel comes through; the brown of the corrugated paper comes through; the linen comes through, the cotton (which is not the same as the paint -- it seems white): all of those things are considered. It's really not monochrome painting at all. The white just happened because it's a paint and it doesn't interfere. I could use green, red, yellow, but why? It's a challenge for me to use paint and make something happen with it, without having to be involved in reds, greens, and everything which would confuse things. But I work with color all the time. I don't think of myself as making white paintings. I make paintings; I'm a painter." [pp 247-249]

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Terrain III, oil on canvas, 32 x 32 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth
remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichen and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

Mary Oliver, from Twelve Moons

Sunday, February 6, 2011

NEW GRIDS and details

Terrain, oil on canvas, 32 x 32 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

Terrain, detail

Terrain, detail

My oil paintings are minimalist meditations on the infinite space and light of the vast desert regions of the American Southwest. Using the discipline and repetition of the grid, these process-driven abstractions explore ideas of order and randomness in nature and the landscape. Painterly gestures and fugitive forms float within the stillness of the grid. Foreground and background are meticulously woven together onto the painting's intricate surface. Cumulative and reductive, organic and geometric, revealed and concealed, fixed and mutable -- the elements of the composition are in constant flux toward a state of equilibrium and balance.

Terrain II, oil on canvas, 32 x 32 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

Terrain II, detail

Terrain II, detail

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Year : : New Work

"An emblem representing either impersonal rationality or otherworldly spirituality,
the grid offered an endlessly self-generative starting point to which the artist
could return anew."
-- Susan Rosenberg, in Warren Rohrer (exhibition catalogue,
Philadelphia Museum of Art), p 13.

Essence, oil on canvas, 32 x 32 inches, © 2011 Diane McGregor

My first painting completed in this New Year is a breakthrough painting, the kind of focused realization that all artists hope to stumble across as they move forward on their creative evolutionary path. I have been working with the grid since 2006. My most recent process-driven paintings have been using the grid as the foundation of the whole enterprise, in that their surfaces are slowly built up of vertical and horizontal brushstrokes. But the grid has not been part of the work in an obvious way, it was more theoretical than visually manifested. The other day, inspired by one of my favorite artists, Agnes Martin, I decided to make use of the grid as the focal point of the composition. Through the interface of the permanent with the accidental, these paintings employ the discipline and repetition of the grid while referencing the essence of Nature and the landscape. Implications of infinity and vastness echo the visual and emotional experience I have of the New Mexican landscape.

Below is a detail of
Essence. The work is extremely labor-intensive, but I thoroughly enjoyed painting each little rectangle, as if it were it's own minimalist abstract painting. This work continues my efforts to bring a meditative quality to both the process as well as to the visual impact of the finished painting.

Essence, detail, © 2011 Diane McGregor