Wednesday, May 4, 2016


ARYN, oil and cold wax on panel, 12 x 36 x 2 inches, © 2016 Diane McGregor

The new body of work I have been creating since early 2016 has been a rewarding shift in my painting practice. In addition to transitioning to new media (oil and cold wax on deep-cradled Gessobord panels), this work explores a completely different style and subject matter. These new paintings are gestural abstractions inspired by the planet Mars. My husband is an astronomer, and one of his responsibilities has been to serve on the International Astronomical Union's committee that names geological features on Mars. Mars nomenclature is a fascinating process and has a very interesting history, beginning with the Milanese astronomer Schiaparelli’s work in the late 1800s based on his visual observations of the planet. At that time Schiaparelli was only able to observe albedo features (dark and light patterns on the planet’s surface) as seen from the telescopes of that era. Schiaparelli’s thematic nomenclature referred back to geographical and mythical names of the ancient world, and, he chose names “whose sound awakes such pleasant memories.” This procedure for naming features on Mars has continued into the present day. HiRISE, THEMIS, and other orbiting instruments and spacecraft have been able to gather magnificent visual detail of martian geography. I became interested in the martian place names for their poetic and ambiguous associations, and I thought they would make great titles for abstract paintings. The link between titles and imagery has always been an important focus in my work. So I began to study the photographic data that has been gathered from the various spacecraft and I have found a rich resource for “landscape” abstractions that energizes me and seems limitless in its potential.

Monday, February 22, 2016


About a month ago I visited a colleague in her studio, while she was on a nearby retreat in northern New Mexico.  Rebecca Crowell is one of the foremost contemporary painters using oil paint mixed with cold wax medium.  She teaches all over the world.  I was fortunate to spend a few hours watching her work.  I was so inspired that I decided to experiment with cold wax when I got back to my studio. Using Gamblin cold wax medium with oil paint allows for a myriad of textures and effects that I was unable to achieve with oil paint alone.  The wax also helps the paint set up faster, so layering is facilitated. I stopped using stretched canvases – you need a rigid support to paint on, so now I am working on beautiful panels with 2 inch birch cradles (sides). The panels are lovely physical objects in themselves, and, for now, I’m working with small sizes.  I’m no longer using brushes – instead I’m reaching for palette knives, squeegees, scrapers, brayers, and pigment sticks.  I am still in a relatively experimental stage, but I love the results so far, and have decided to move forward with this major transformation in my style and materials. I am taking up a new challenge and I’m very excited about this evolution in my work.

I have been painting grids for five years, and I have been using only oil paints on canvas for more than 30 years. The change in my materials and technique has been a revelation. Sometimes it can be a little frightening to step out of your “comfort zone” and reinvent yourself. But I feel that the New Year and my recent birthday have been nudges to inspire a radical shift. I’m excited, and look forward to creating this new body of work. 

Boreas 1, oil and cold wax on panel, 12 x 6 x 2 inches

Boreas 2, oil and cold wax on panel, 12 x 6 x 2 inches

Hesperia, diptych, oil and cold wax on panel, 6 x 8 x 2 inches each panel

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Refuge in the Night

Intimacy is a principal benefit of reclaiming the twilight hours of each day: intimacy with nature, intimacy with others, intimacy with ourselves. Darkness is good therapy. It unwinds the springs that daylight tightens and opens doorways onto eternity that are made invisible by light.   —Clark Strand

Diane McGregor, Listening in the Dark 1, 2015, oil on canvas, 24x24 inches

"BLACK" opens next week at Space Gallery in Denver. The curator, Jo Marks Aardsma, writes, "The work for BLACK was selected because each artist uses black, not as negative space, but as an opening from which to reveal what lies at the edge of vision."

Diane McGregor, Listening in the Dark 2, 2015, oil on canvas, 24x24 inches

Black is darkness, the shadow self, the unknown, the unknowable. For me, the darkness is mystery, and since one can’t see in the darkness, one must listen. Stillness and silence are necessary for this kind of listening – an awareness of feelings and thoughts and mythic truths brings the unconscious self into the light. Paradoxically, working on these paintings for “BLACK” has sparked my interest in color again – in this case, a glorious manganese blue. The blue and the black shimmer together, giving the black a mysterious power, and turning the blue into the light that seeps through the cracks in consciousness.  “Everyone carries a shadow,” Jung wrote, “and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” Jung believed that “in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness – or perhaps because of this – the shadow is the seat of creativity.”

Diane McGregor, Listening in the Dark 3, 2015, oil on canvas, 24x24 inches

Nature is also referenced here.  “Listening in the Dark” could be an invitation to pay attention to the sounds of the night: crickets, frogs, the wind, the rustle of leaves.  These sounds are a comfort in the blackness, while opening the senses to what mysteries the darkness reveals. 

"BLACK" opens with a reception for the artists on Thursday, October 22nd, from 5:00 to 9:00 pm. The exhibition continues through November 28th at Space Gallery, 400 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, CO.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Finding Balance

Diane McGregor, Meditation 4, oil on canvas, 22 x 24 inches © 2015

Everyone knows what a hassle it is to move.  I moved to the other side of Santa Fe last month, and my life has been understandably chaotic for several weeks.  But my painting practice has helped me through it. Every day, the deliberate act of focusing on painting one tiny rectangle at a time helps me find my center. Calming energies emerge from the process of creating a grid painting, healing me from anxiety and stress. The repetitive and meditative engagement with the canvas is so beneficial to me -- I wonder if the same peaceful effect is transferred to the viewer?

Meditation 4, detail