In February Yavapai College hosted “Inner Geographies,” a show featuring work by Diane Gilbert, Carol Rawlings and Bonny Stauffer. The YC gallery always has great shows, but this one knocked me flat, particularly the work of Diane Gilbert. If you missed that show and don’t know her work, I’m very pleased to introduce you to Diane.
I get very excited when I get to meet artists I didn’t know about, especially those with a long connection and history in our community. Diane has all that and so much more.
Diane began as a fiber artist, and she taught weaving for 30 years, 21 of those at Yavapai College. Over the years her work has evolved to incorporate non-fiber materials into multidimensional installations. Moving beyond the solitary loom-based work, Diane focuses on working with space to create immersive experiences, for both the artist and the observer. She sees her work, which engages the observer through texture, nuance and depth, as a counterbalance to our perpetually screen-focused lives.
Her work is process-oriented, building on a basic structure and allowing the materials to tell her what they want to do. For the February show she created a series she calls Places on the Moon, incorporating pieces using paper and fiber, each named for a lunar feature, such as “Ocean of Storms,” “Sea of Clouds” and “Lake of Dreams.” The series focuses on light and shadow, as we see so starkly in images of the moon.
Diane works with played guitar strings, woven mesh screens, wire, paper and fiber. “The guitar strings, in particular, hold all the notes that have been played by musicians who never knew one another but who are now playing silently together. The screens, which are normally used to separate inside and outside, are here used to confuse those distinctions by reflecting little bits of light back to us. Paper, so like our skin, can glow as if lit from the inside while extending the boundaries of a form with shadows.”
Diane has worked with guitar strings for over 15 years. For 25 years her husband, musician Denny Giovanetti, collected all his old guitar strings, encouraging Diane to use them somehow in her work. After his death in 2003 Diane brought out the box of strings and dumped them onto a table. She began to make things, and is still creating art from them all these years later. “Denny was always my biggest cheerleader. He would love the work.”
When she began to show her guitar-string work, other people got excited about it and began saving strings for her. She would find strings in her mailbox at the college, and people would stop her on the street to say they had some strings for her in their car. It grew and grew. A guy who repairs instruments who had known Denny started saving strings for Diane, and still does to this day.
“The materials began to mean a great deal to me, that there were all these musicians, somehow silently playing together. It felt like a statement about people coming together from different backgrounds, different music.” Diane has boxes of strings and feels like they all have the character of the people who played them.
For Diane the installation of a piece brings her as much joy as the design that precedes it. She designs pieces for specific spaces, which can often be quite large and require many days and many hands to assemble. She speaks of an installation that took two weeks to finish at the Mesa Contemporary Art Museum, where she took a whole crew down to help, and rented a house for them. Putting this piece together created a little community, which she found very gratifying.
Diane built a large installation at Sam Hill Warehouse, a space that no longer hosts art but still holds a place in the hearts of many in Prescott. She pulled together a crew of people to help put it together, some students and many friends. They would work for several hours, then she would feed them. Again it became a close group.
In the brief shining moment we had the Milagro Arts Center, Diane created an interactive installation for it. A dancer performed with/in the pieces, and Diane speaks fondly of when a fourth-grade class came to visit from Primavera School and interacted with her two kinetic sculptures. “These things have brought a lot of meaning into my life that I hope somehow goes out through the work.”
Diane Gilbert understands the value of art in our lives, lifting us to a place of wonder and contemplation. Prescott is richer for having her, and we look forward to more opportunities to experience her work in the future.
To find Diane’s work, visit dianegilbertart.com.