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Diane Burko: Flow
June 10 - October 15, 2006
The James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown is holding the exhibition Diane Burko: Flow, on view from June 10 through October 15, 2006. Burko is one of the Philadelphia area's most celebrated contemporary landscape painters; she has often traveled to exotic, far-away places to find inspiration for her dramatic landscapes. (right: Diane Burko, Wissahickon Reflections, East Frieze #1, 1997, oil on canvas, H. 65 x W. 92 inches. Collection of the Artist, Courtesy of Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, PA)
This exhibition features 25 of Burko's works, including paintings and photographs that focus primarily on spectacular and panoramic landscapes of volcanoes, craters, waterfalls, and glaciers from the Alps, Iceland, Italy, Hawaii, and Costa Rica, depicted from unusual (often aerial) vantage points. Flow was jointly organized by the Michener Art Museum and the Tufts University Art Gallery, and was curated by Amy Ingrid Schlegel, Ph.D., director of galleries and collections at Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts. This exhibition focuses on Burko's recent work, and is the fourth in an ongoing series at the Michener that features contemporary landscape painters.
Burko is an uncommon artist-explorer of the majesty of the land and its psychological and spiritual effects on us. Her work hones in on ever-present, if not always visible, natural processes and states of lava as well as water's transformation between solid, liquid, and ether, and this exhibition examines these intertwined subjects of flow and transformation. Burko is a part-time resident of Bucks County, and has also explored the more pastoral Pennsylvania landscapes of Geddes Run Creek and Wissahickon Creek; several images from these locations are included in the exhibition.
Diane Burko received her BFA from Skidmore College in 1966 and her MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969. Born and raised in Brooklyn, she has lived in Philadelphia since 1966. Burko is the recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Lila Acheson Wallace Foundation, the Leeway Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
To more fully inform Resource Library readers about this exhibit the Michener Art Museum provided the following text which may be seen on the walls of the exhibit gallery.
Diane Burko: Flow
Instead of inventing landscapes as a reflection of interior states of mind -- a common practice nowadays in the art world -- Philadelphia painter Diane Burko is an uncommon artist-explorer of the majesty of the land and its psychological and spiritual effects on us.
This exhibition of Burko's paintings and photographs focuses primarily on spectacular and panoramic "extreme landscapes" of volcanoes, craters, waterfalls, and glaciers from the Alps, Iceland, Italy, Hawaii, and Costa Rica, depicted from disembodied and aerial vantage points. A part-time resident of Bucks County, Burko has also explored the more pastoral Pennsylvania landscapes of Geddes Run Creek and Wissahickon Creek, several of which are included here also.
Burko's work hones in on ever-present, if not always visible, natural processes and states of lava as well as water's transformation between solid, liquid, and ether, and this exhibition examines these intertwined subjects of flow and transformation. Stylistically speaking, Burko creates pictures that explore the fluid boundary between representation and abstraction, and her practice today challenges both the inherent subjectivity of painting and the supposed objectivity of photography (hence the two mediums are juxtaposed as equivalents in the gallery). Early in her career she began to collect aerial photographs of landscapes, and in 1979 she accompanied "earth artist" James Turrell in a Cessna airplane over the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell. Since then she has been taking her own photographs.
Diane Burko received her BFA from Skidmore College in 1966 and her MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969. Born and raised in Brooklyn, she has lived in Philadelphia since 1966. Burko is the recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Lila Acheson Wallace Foundation, the Leeway Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; she is represented by Locks Gallery, Philadelphia. This exhibition was jointly organized by the Michener Art Museum and the Tufts University Art Gallery, and was curated by Amy Ingrid Schlegel, Ph.D., director of galleries and collections at Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts.
Burko and Photography
Diane Burko's uses of photography are varied. Before 1979 and periodically since then, her paintings have been scaled up from appropriated photographs, as in the Grand Jorasses at Marguerite, an early, monumental photographic realist painting of remote Alpine peaks in winter. Paintings have also been loosely based on her own photographs done in situ (as in her placid, more gestural series from Philadelphia's Wissahickon Creek and her most recent work from Point Pleasant, Bucks County, where she is a part-time resident). Her paintings also have combined elements of appropriated photographs with her own aerial views of dangerous landscapes inaccessible by foot, such as Langjökull Before Trip.
By 2001, Burko had begun to exploit the potential of digital photography as much more than simply source material for paintings. She made the conversion from analog to digital cameras, started to take courses in Photoshop, and digitally printed for the first time some photographs she had taken during her travels over the years (with a digitally inserted shadow of an airplane). In 2004, she took a trip to the Pacific Northwest with the sole purpose of photographing with a digital Fuji medium format camera, whose large-scale "negative" allows the final image to be greatly enlarged. The scale of her photographs now rivals that of her paintings, yet she prefers to be regarded as a painter who "happens to use" photography. As she says, "Photography provides a remove that leads me to contemplate issues of space, distance, and point of view. [The aerial] vantage point provides infinite possibilities for exploring abstract issues of surface nuance, edge, and color shifts. Nature can be captured in expanses of exquisitely modulated color and densely articulated detail. Painting is still my first love. Photography is a new direction. I believe each medium can inform the other."
[quotes accompany pictures in the gallery]
"Flying is exhilarating. The most dramatic experience I ever had was in a small helicopter flying with David Okita (who flew for the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory) over Big Island. He took my door off so I was right there hovering over molten lava spilling into the sea, with clouds of steam rising up over skylights (openings through the hardening lava crust) and over smoke coming up from Kilauea."
"Over the years, I have developed a method of taking hundreds of slides on site and then reviewing them in the studio. That process entails my discarding a majority of them. I then consider scale of images and sometimes take pieces from them to combine in a composition. I project the slides onto the canvas and paint directly, loosely positioning elements in terms of shapes of dark and light. Then the projector is turned off. I do make a scan of the slide so I have a print for reference, but the colors and even the position of the elements change as the painting progresses. Ultimately, the painting takes over."
I have always used photography as a tool to capture the memory of a landscape. My process of working begins with the desire to know about a certain compelling region, to study in preparation, and to then travel to that place, and experience it by walking, climbing, painting, drawing, photographing and also by flying over the terrain.
Looking down over the landscape has always been my preferred perspective, perhaps because I find it more abstract when the horizon line is gone. I enjoy experiencing and presenting a disjunctive, unexpected spatial point of view. Even when not flying, I tend to go to the edge of cliffs, such as Etretat, on the Normandy coast, or the edge of Vesuvius' crater in Italy. I am looking for a visual surprise, a view that takes my breadth away: a landscape that needs to be painted and challenges my imagination and skills.
My paintings are basically abstractions. The landscape becomes a vehicle for me to explore formal juxtapositions . . . I enjoy the ambiguity and interchange between the ideas of abstract space versus real space. The landscape provides this tension for me . . . I enjoy the materiality of the paint as well as the materiality of the water, lava, rock and mist. I enjoy presenting a vista as well as implying the history of the earth.
Because of the tumultuous times we live in, I feel a compulsion and a responsibility to celebrate what is still beautiful and relatively untouched.
(above: Diane Burko ,Aldeyjarfoss #2 , 2004, oil
on canvas, 72 x 42 inches, Collection of the Artist, Courtesy of Locks Gallery,
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