Mixed Beliefs:

Artist Diane Hause Unifies Religions the World Over

War seems to surround us. As it has done throughout history, instigation often comes from differing religious opinions. Though we really aren’t that different, ignorance or misunderstandings place us in opposition. The foundation of every religious belief, from Hinduism to Judaism, is love, acceptance and tolerance, but this seems to have gotten lost in the mix of misinformed misconceptions. Gandhi said, “I consider myself a Hindu, a Christian, Moslem, Jew, Buddhist and Confucian.” Defining himself not as one, but as all, the Dalai Lama noted the “simple philosophy of life is kindness.” Diane Hause’s retrospective examines the unity and beautiful diversity of the world’s religions and how, with some insight and information, we aren’t as different as we may think.

A mixed-media artist who utilizes her work as a vehicle to examine a variety of issues, Hause comes from New York, but earned her BFA at UNCW and went on to receive her MFA at University of California Santa Barbara. Having moved back to North Carolina only two years ago, her artistic career has been prolific and influential and was predicated by fate. She was chosen as one of four students in her 5th grade class to take a Saturday trip to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

“I didn’t want to go,” Hause states, “but upon arriving at the Guggenheim, it was 1962, and there was a retrospective of Andy Warhol’s work. To see those huge canvases and the vibrant colors was just a connection and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Claiming her art emerges from the idea of a collective consciousness, influential dreams allow her to draw on a sixth sense. “You should trust your gut, your instincts,”she emphatically says. “Pay attention to feelings and follow them.” Once, Hause says she found herself in the throes of a recurring dream, wherein a diagram of interconnecting circles seemed more apropos to a scientific formula. Later, when she was shopping, she came across a CD of Middle Eastern music. “When I opened the inside cover, there was this diagram from my dreams,” she explains. “After doing some research, I came to realize that it was from the Kabbalah.”

This led her to begin an investigation into Middle Eastern religions. She was on a search for humanity, for spirituality—something she said is within all of humankind. ‘Convergence of Faith” was born to examine these variety of beliefs—to prove to others we’re not as dissimilar as we may think.

One of the unavoidable components of the show is a burqa. A beautiful, light blue garment meant to be tried on by visitors. A taboo dress in our society, the intention is to attempt to, for a brief moment, understand what many Middle Eastern women experience everyday (something after which I tried on made me realize I have a large head). A part of an exhibition that aimed to draw attention to the misogyny against women in Afghanistan, Hause noted it emerged from another prophetic dream.

“I was following these four women,” she explains. “I thought they were nuns; they didn’t know I was there, but I followed them through markets, villages and onto a mountain top. They stopped at a cliff. One turned around and stared me straight in the eyes. She was veiled and the intense power of her gaze woke me up out of a sleep.”

The next day, after opening her newly arrived Amnesty International catalogue, the same four women were photographed sitting on a bench in Afghanistan. The eyes that had captured Hause in her dream were staring back at her from the pages. She immediately organized an art show to promote awareness about the life of women in Afghanistan.

Hause encourages interactive responses, too, wherein folks can add comments to her book. The range was varied, including the elimination of a woman’s sexuality, which while empowering also promoted insecurity and vulnerability. From a feminine perspective, the piece relates to another in Hause’s series, which comprises women in an array of poses. They represent priestesses chosen from the most prominent families in ancient Rome. Their jobs were to communicate with the gods and take a forced vow of chastity. If they broke this vow or refused the highly regarded position, death was imminent.

“I was thinking about what it would be like to be forced into this situation,” Hause says. “Some would feel trapped with no option, some would have felt it was an honor, and some yet a spiritual selection. The variety is representative of the different feelings that women would have had about this selection.”

A society regarded with high esteem in life and academics, it is an aspect often overlooked: the innumerable emotional facets of femininity. Vestal virgins are reflective and documented by women who don the burqa; for some it is spiritual, for others, it’s a prison.

One of the new works included in the retrospective is entitled “As the Crow Flies.” A mixed media piece, it consists of 16 11-inch squares of recycled metal ceiling tiles. A panel features an image of Mother Teresa while another showcases the all-seeing Egyptian eye. It provides a notion of all religions being separate, unless one chooses to see a united front. They are mesmerizing, fitting and united in the basis of their ultimate desires.

Hause’s retrospective proves compassion and understanding can pay off—not just artistically but socially and soulfully. The exhibition will be on display through December at 621N4TH. Admission is free and the hours are Monday through Thursday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Published November 15, 2011

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