Here Now – Artist Takes to Ivanhoe After Big-City Life

“I just decided to move from population 6 million to population four,” is how Diane Hause explains moving her art studio and exhibition space from Atlanta to Ivanhoe.

She has settled into a new studio designed in a modernistic style by Wilmington architect Scott Ogden of B+O design studio. It’s tucked behind a 150-year-old house on a large wooded lot off N.C. 210 northwest of Atkinson.

That’s quite a change from the 4,000-square-foot warehouse near downtown Atlanta where she once worked and displayed her art.

Now she sits on a balcony listening to wind sighing through the pines. Deer walk by, and she counts among her neighbors goats, cows, horses and a peacock who struts in the road. A large owl swoops down whenever she pulls up in her car.

“I want to get to know that owl,” she said.

She lived in Santa Barbara, Calif., and Baltimore before moving to Atlanta.

“I never felt like a country girl,” she said. “Now I’m going back to Atlanta less and less.”

She’s selling her warehouse space in Atlanta’s Castleberry Hill district and plans to open her Ivanhoe studio to the public this spring.

The artworks lining her walls are dominated by “Quest for the Echo’s Source,” a 16-by-8-foot painting on wood inspired by a dream and a tragedy.

One night in 2004, she dreamed of an empty canoe floating on a river. She felt the image was meant for a big painting so she bought several plywood pieces and readied them for painting.

She found an old canoe near a sawmill in North Carolina, and placed it in front of the blank planks of plywood.

Two months later, the great tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004, swept across the Indian Ocean, killing more than 150,000 people in 11 countries.

“Quest” depicts a couple struggling in a huge wave, the mother grieving for her dead son between them. Inspired by the canoe she’d found, she painted a canoe floating behind the mom, containing a haloed sheep under a branch of cherry blossoms. A sparrow rests on the branch under the planet Saturn. Chinese calligraphy adorns the wavetops, and the Chinese symbols for “destiny” and “fate” are at left.

The sparrow senses weather changes, Saturn equals sorrow and a horse visible in the wave is an “apocalyptic foreshadowing of death,” she said. The blossoms represent rebirth.

It’s a lot to absorb. When she set it up in her Atlanta gallery, people began leaving notes in the real-life canoe, which she encouraged. Tsunami survivors came by, including a couple who were scuba diving and felt the wave that killed many in their wedding party.

In her Ivanhoe studio, the canoe is positioned in front of the painting with the notes still inside.

Hause, 58, was born on Long Island and lived in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., before her father retired young and moved the family to Wilmington.

She graduated from Hoggard and went to the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she studied under the artist Claude Howell.

Howell was a demanding teacher, she said. His students used eyedroppers to mix paints, creating vast color maps of 1-inch squares: 19 drops of blue, one drop of white; 18 drops of blue, two drops of white…

She learned colors from Howell, but she also learned “a level of fearlessness … getting out of my own way,” she said.

As she was once pondering an empty canvas, he came and laid a stroke of paint on there.

“Never be afraid of white,” he told her. She says she never gets “writers block” looking at a blank canvas.

“When I teach, I hear Claude’s words coming out of my mouth,” she said.

In 1977, she painted a mural on the side of Wrightsville Beach’s Crest building. She worked her way out to California and back to Baltimore painting shopping mall walls, billboards and murals, picking up teaching jobs along the way.

“Vagina Monologues” author Eve Ensler came to her first gallery opening in Atlanta. She has framed several signed notes from Yoko Ono.

She plans a grand opening for her studio in May. She hopes her outdoor deck will be finished by then.

She dreams of someday creating a Black River Arts Festival in Ivanhoe, complete with music and outdoor art displays.

— Si Cantwell for

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