Quest for the Echo’s Source

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Pain and loss are incomprehensible. The power and destructiveness of nature are both awe inspiring and inexplicable. Diane Hause’s studio installation “Quest for the Echo’s Source” is her response to the recent tsunami disaster. We might first be struck by the horror of death and destruction and the memory of this recent tragedy. But for Hause, this is not the entire story.

In “Quest for the Echo’s Source” the artist is seeking the rhythm
and meaning of the natural world: one moment death, one moment beauty, one moment redemption. You enter the studio. On the walls are handsome chromatic photographs of the Black River in North Carolina and the surrounding landscape. A simple unvarnished wooden canoe filled with handwritten notes is in front of you.

Slices of cypress trees lean against the wall. Woodcuts printed on paper line the wall to the left. An audience of viewers is standing in front of a large painting, simply looking. They speak to each other in hushed tones. Diane Hause has invited us to share her journey by allowing viewers to come to the studio during the process of making this work.

Although it may not seem so, this is a risky proposition. The process of artistic creation can be dangerous: one step forward, three steps back; you change one thing, you change everything.

One mark washes everything away but reveals even more. Now, imagine having an audience watch your trials and tribulations as they emerge from your brain. That audience gets to see all your mistakes, not just the successful result. But the dividends are as large for the audience as the risks are for the artist: Imagine being able to see the steps of an artist’s thoughts while making a significant work.

By inviting us to visit the studio as she is in the process of creating a work of art, Hause is not just accepting a risk but revealing and reveling in the risk-taking that is essential to the artistic process.

Our first glimpse of “Quest for the Echo’s Source” revealed vertical slices of cypress trees leaning against the gallery wall, photographs of the Black River and a French Huguenot canoe filled with notes from the viewers while beached on sand in the studio’s entrance.

Turning the corner, we immediately entered the workspace where a large [8 x 16’] ten-panel painting was waiting, ready to be worked on.

A second visit to the studio reveals the painting in progress: it is a reinterpretation of Hokusai’s wave, with three figures torn in pain over death from the recent tsunami. Within the painting there is a canoe with an angelic lamb complete with halo. Engraved into the surface of the painting on the upper right hand side is a cherry tree.

We can see Hause thinking through each form as it relates to the whole. As viewers, we have become witnesses to the work of art as it comes into being and the process this artist must go through to create and finish her vision. As the work comes into view we see the background plane go from milled pale wood, to a yellow ochre sky, to a bright bloody red, and finally to a soft and soothing green laid over the top.

Once one sees this green it is impossible to imagine any other color there. Hause has collaged images onto the surface as well, a Russian icon of the Madonna and Child in the hand of one of the figures held up like so many have when hoping to find a lost relative or loved one. Also collaged onto the surface are four butterflies, two fish in the Pisces yin yang configuration, and above the halo on the lamb is collaged the planet Saturn. The foam on the wave has collaged Asian writing, and two Chinese chops have been carved by the artist and then printed in the traditional Asian red as a signature on the left hand side of the painting. Two forms are outlined: a horse that is a pale shadow floating over the wave in a foreshadowing of death and a small, intensely outlined sparrow, isolating the form. Hause often carves multiple linoleum plates of the images she is working on.

In Quest for the Echo’s Source, she has made multiple printed images on paper of the lamb in the canoe, the three figures joined in their pain, and the cherry tree.

Hause has carved directly into the wood of the panel where the blossoming cherry tree is in the upper right hand corner. She actually uses the painting as a plate to print this image by inking the surface and pulling a woodblock print from the image of the tree.

It unfathomable how nature can be so beautiful, so sublime, and yet in an instant so deadly. By trying to find meaning in this mystery through art making, Hause seeks redemption.

— Deanna Sirlin
Atlanta 2005

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