Diane Katsiaficas

Diane Katsiaficas, Abdomen, 2014, laser etched paper, 36 in. x 24 in. 

How would you describe the work that you do?

Diane Katsiaficas, Hands, 2014, laser etched paper, 36 in. x 24 in.

I am a visual storyteller, drawn to public and individual stories, events and places that resonate with social conscience and responsible practice. I consider what lies beneath the surface of a retelling of details or events. Content determines the form of my work. . . . The medium with which I work is whatever seems appropriate to the idea including: text, cut tin cans, drawing and painting, photography and digital media, sculpture, and collaborations with other artists in different disciplines. Small drawings have always been for me a means to either document a place, an experience or an idea. Drawing “in an expanded sense” with a laser cutter or digital sewing machine has provided infinite possibilities for realizing works that are complete works in themselves or intermediate stages in the process of asking  “what if?”  

Are there ways in which you intend your work to challenge the viewer?

Diane Katsiaficas, Wrapped, 2014, laser etched paper, 36 in. x 24 in.

I want viewers to be taken in by the content and the mystery. I strive to identify appropriate visual metaphors for the narratives, sometimes reasoned and sometimes intuited. I work to create parallels, comparisons and overtures to larger ideas which, when woven together, create narratives that can engage others to reflect upon their own. . . . I think of my works as “frameworks” where the components are like the key on a map, guiding the exploration of a territory. Sometimes these narratives are small hand‐held works. Sometimes they take the form of large‐scale temporary installations.  

Is there something you are currently working on that you are particularly excited about?

I recently completed a small book telling the story of a young refugee’s journey from their homeland to Greece. While on the island of Lesbos this past May, I found drawings made by Greek children in the parking lot of the town of Molyvos. I was fascinated by these discarded drawings that were about street signs and finding one's way. I scanned the drawings, contemplated their meaning, wrote a text and reworked them into a small accordion fold book entitled One Day. It will be an edition of 100 with all monies from sales benefiting refugee relief.

How do you know when you have been successful?

Over the years, when people remember the work and somehow engage in a conversation with me about it.

Why did you choose to pursue the life of a professional artist?

I could not be otherwise.

In your opinion, how is being a woman artist in 2015 different from what it might have been like one, two, three or even four decades ago?

Very different. In 1968 when I graduated from college with a major in chemistry and a minor in art, being a chemist or a teacher was acceptable. Pursuing a career as an artist was not—at least not to my conservative Greek American family. Slowly they came around as did slowly our culture start to recognize the importance of women’s voices in the arts. . . . They had always been there, they just hadn't been recognized.

What have been the greatest challenges to your art career and how do you navigate them? What advice has influenced you or your art making?

In 1976 when I earned my MFA at the University of Washington, Seattle, I was the only woman painter in my class—and there were no women on the painting faculty. My advisor and mentor was Jacob Lawrence. He and his wife Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence taught me the importance of diligence, dignity, and patience.

Katsiaficas in the studio

Does personal history work its way into your practice? How might who you are be reflected in your current work?

The private and the personal inspire my work. The past three years have been challenging ones for my health. My capacity to physically create large artwork was impaired. Challenges to one’s health, the frailty of the human body, pain, healing, and hope, are origins for the imagery for the suite [Causes and Conditions]. In the process of translating small mixed media drawings into laser cuts of handmade paper changes occur. For me, they are analogous to a body’s phases of repair. 

How do you identify yourself as a feminist artist? 

Diane Katsiaficas

Feminism is for me working for the recognition and acceptance of equality: of race, of gender, age, religious views and cultural identity. As a feminist, I strive to support this essential belief in my work as an artist and as an educator.




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