BEAUTY IS MY CALLING
By: Dianna VanderDoes
Dianna VanderDoes is a mixed media and fiber artist living in Denver, Colorado. Dianna constructs large art quilts from several layers of dyed and painted fabric held together with stitch. Her pieces are an exploration of the intimate connection, and depth of feeling that form her relationship with the natural world. Dianna also works as a therapist and an environmental activist.
It takes some amount of courage to stand up for beauty and do it without irony or sentimentality. I was attracted to “And Beauty for All” when I first heard of it because of its unabashed appeal to that fundamental principle. That is the principle that I most want to see in the world, most want to feel within myself.
I’m a fiber artist and I make large art quilts made of many layers of fabric, dye and paint, all stitched together to create complex images of the natural world. I initially made art because I just loved color and the tactile nature of working with cloth. As time went on, I began using my art as a means of personal expression and it seemed to become more complex and more evocative to the people looking at it. Now I look at my art primarily as a way of making my inner life into something concrete that I can look at in the outer world.
My subject is always the natural world and my relationship to it. It’s interesting to me that as my art has evolved, so has my relationship to nature. Over the years, it has become more complicated, more nuanced, and intimate. My relationship with the natural world has changed from something that I was aware of occasionally while on a hike, to becoming my daily companion, the arena for my most personal battles for meaning and personal integrity in my life. These days that relationship often involves grief, fear, and anger, as well as joy, wonder, and the deepest gratitude.
My latest art project will be a solo show at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. When I got the news that I was one of the artists chosen to show work at NCAR, I was exultant, but also a little apprehensive. I felt that given this moment in history, and given this venue …. I need to make a big statement. I kept telling myself that I needed to make work that is “powerful” and to me that meant work that evokes strong emotions such as anger or grief.
I was worried about making work that was too “pretty” and wouldn’t have the emotional punch that I wanted. For a couple of weeks, I headed to my studio with that in mind. I wanted to move people and I felt that the way to do that with my art, was to tap into those strong emotions within myself. I do have those strong emotions. It’s difficult for me to understand how anyone who is alive right now can NOT have these feelings about our current relationship to the natural world.
Nevertheless, when I tried to work from those feelings, it felt superficial and artificial. It was difficult for me to create and I ran out of steam quickly. It became tough for me to even go into the studio. Finally, I came to the realization that when I tap into the deepest part of myself, the part that is deeper, older and truer than my current fear and sadness, what I feel is awe, wonder, delight, and love.
Can love and beauty make a difference? Can beauty have the muscular impact that the darker emotions often have on us? I am still feeling my way through that question. I do know that cynicism is the norm and the most socially acceptable response to most situations. So, I will continue to feel all my feelings and my relationship with the natural world will continue to be the powerful and complicated presence in my life that it is. And the work I do for the NCAR show will be my very best attempt in this moment to honor and celebrate the beauty, truth and goodness in the world that is always there for all of us.