Diane Hause: Setting the Pace in Castleberry

A silhouetted horse ushering in a wave of destruction. The agony of a mother’s loss etched into her face. The spirit of a dead son rising. These are the images so hauntingly portrayed in Diane Hause’s latest vision, “Quest for the Echo’s Source.”

As you turn the corner of Hause’s organic studio in the industrial Castleberry Hill district, you cannot resist being pulled in by the force of this 8 foot by 16 foot memorial to the tsunami victims. “As an artist I have to trust the creative process,” comments Hause. “It was so painful doing this painting. I kept thinking that I wanted to find redemptionin this world right now.”

The painting portrays a mother and father grieving the loss of their son. The father’s body resists the force of the wave. The mother, her cheek pressed firmly to that of her son, echoes the traditional icon of the Madonna and child. Her body is in the shape of a canoe, the vessel that gave birth to the child and now transports his soul to the world beyond. Embedded with countless metaphors, Hause used a collage of painting, wood carving, Chinese chops and Asian writing to seek solace and meaning in the face of destruction.

The materialized canoe from Hause’s painting rests nearby, as if to underscore the power of the subconscious upon reality. Handwritten notes are scattered within, attesting to the impact this piece has had upon onlookers. Although the “Quest” was not officially presented until September, with an indefinite showing, its conception has been a work of art itself. Hause put the creative process on display by allowing others to partake in its inception.

“I worked on it for about three months,” explains Hause. “I kept the studio open. It was interesting because people were getting part of the process. I had people sitting in here weeping. Another one would come almost weekly to be with it.” “Quest,” which gave birth to a breathtaking series of collateral art, is just one show in Hause’s everchanging repertoire.

Since opening her studio in 1999, there has never been a shortage of exhibits. Hause’s inspiration comes from life events, personal experiences and, at times, the inexplicable. “I had a dream before 9/11 that led to my series ‘Thinly veiled misogyny,’” she recounts. “I was following four women cloaked in black. The next day in the mail, my Amnesty International magazine came in. There were four women sitting on a park bench. It was about women in Afghanistan.” The article led Hause to RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan), and ultimately her first benefit. Since then, she has been a champion for many causes and a trendsetter in Castleberry.

The quintessential bohemian, Hause’s quiet beginning as a minister’s daughter in North Carolina has resulted in an unbelievable life. Her story, better suited for a novel than a humble article, spans the United States and the globe. After obtaining a BFA in painting, she launched her career (and nomadic lifestyle) by painting murals. Her first project led to a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. While working on the mural, she was approached by a contractor who was building a prototype of one of the country’s first shopping malls.

“I said, ‘What’s a shopping mall?’” laughs Hause. She accepted the well-paying job designing graphics, which resulted in her traveling throughout the U.S. Between jobs, she went to Mexico, planning on driving up through California to the next assignment. “I stopped in Santa Barbara to go to the bathroom and stayed seven years.” Hause got her MFA in painting at UC Santa Barbara, and from there continued her exciting jaunt around the country, working as a teacher and pursuing her artistic passions.

Her travels eventually brought her to Atlanta, where she has been for the last ten years. In 1999 she decided to open her own studio.“I had seen a psychic when I was looking around,” she recalls. “She said, ‘You’re going to find a space. I don’t want to call it a gallery; it’s more organic than that. You’re going to exhibit your work there.’ She asked, ‘Do you know what a pace car is? You’re going to set the pace. You’ll be the pace car there.’” Hause’s psychic was dead-on. Since her arrival, Castleberry Hill, often called the SoHo of Atlanta, has become renowned for its art studios.

Like a true artist, Hause’s life, and work, is fluid and ever changing. Her exhibits are unpredictable, necessitating frequent visits. The future is anyone’s guess. Hause has thoughts of creating her own Walden by opening a studio on the quiet property she owns in North Carolina. But for the time being, she enjoys anticipating her next inspiration. “The hardest thing is getting out of your own way,” she relates. One look around her burgeoning studio is evidence that Hause cleared that hurdle long ago.

— By Melanie Kowal for Piedmont Review

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