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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Diana Duval: "Back-Lash" at the SDAI

Friday night, I went to the opening of "Movers ans Shakers" at Art Expressions Gallery. I was there at the beginning and it was already - absolutely- packed. It's good that a project brings together a lot of people from the art scene of San Diego. I hope there will be more projects like that one in the future. I have to go back to Art Expressions to see the show again: I could not see anything Friday!

I could not stay for very long because I promised Diana Duval I would be at the opening of her solo show: "Back-Lash" at the San Diego Art Institute. I know her for a few years: we are both members of the San Diego Art Institute. Friday was the opening of her first solo show. With a group of people I helped her bringing her pieces from her apartment to the Institute. A lot of her pieces are very large - and very heavy with complicated frames she makes herself.
She works in a small apartment which is entirely dedicated to her work. There is art everywhere: materials, art books, stacks of pieces leaning against all the walls, piles of things and papers.

A few years ago Diana had to be amputated after she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in her right leg . Not long after that, she lost her apartment and was homeless for two years, living in her car with her dog. She lost everything in her apartment including all her artwork.
When She finally found another apartment through a program which helps disabled people, she started a new series of work, very much inspired by what had happened to her.

It's been 7 years now I believe that she lives in that apartment and she has a build a strong body of work. Diana Duval is an extremely determined artist and she seems never stop working. She always reads about art history, her work is filled with art references. One thing she is interested in is the relation between the painter and the model. Through the times, painters and sculptors had always "used" women as models, putting them in all sorts of positions, very often naked. Diana paints self-portraits, so she is her own model, and includes in almost all her painting a blue -and naked - male figure. She represents herself as an asian, black, caucasian or hispanic woman. She gives to the female figure (her): knowledge (books) and money(rich clothes and interiors). There are some recurrent themes in her paintings like the missing leg, the red shoe. Another theme is the key of the door which opens the house. The key she lost once and she may loose again (if she does not comply with the inspections she has to go through).

Diana always wears black and red clothes, mostly dresses. She shaves some of her black hair and creates hats with feathers, felt, silk. She does not have a prosthetic leg: she says she cannot wear one because it hurts. So she always has clutches.

Because of her terrible physical trauma that she puts in the center of what she creates, she reminds me of Frida Khalo. Also, like Frida Khalo, Diana Duval, although knowing what is going on in the art world, follows a very personal and unique path.

"Back Lash" is a special show, the best solo show I saw at the SDAI in four years (since I am a member). Diana Duval packed the space with paintings and sculptures and -amazingly- it works. I say amazingly because when we brought her paintings to the SDAI, I really believed that there was no way everything would fit in the space...

Her show is extremely colorful, yet somber and disturbing. Diana does not lie, she is there with all her power and it seems that nothing could stop her.

Go see her show and tell me what you think, I am interested to know!

San Diego Art Institute
1439 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 236-0011

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the images of the show. Too bad I'm on the East Coast.