New Art Installation Inspired by Dire Cancer Diagnosis

In 2010, the artist Diane Hause was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. Her doctor gave her five years to live.

You might assume that for someone for whom time is so precious, devoting six months to painting, collaging and assembling an art installation would be daunting. But for Hause, taking the daily trip from her home on the Black River in Bladen County to her nearby 2TEN HAUSTUDIO, where she painted the 18 birch wood panels that comprise her introspective installation “A Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes,” it meant living in the moment.

“I wasn’t even worried about if I was going to finish it,” Hause said one cloudy night as we sat around a fire outside her countryside studio in Ivanhoe, not far from the Pender County line. “That was part of the process, too. It was just the living, the living and doing.”

“A Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes” opens with a public reception 7-9 p.m. Friday at 2TEN HAUSTUDIO. Inside the studio/gallery, The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” floats down from the 20-foot high ceilings, bouncing off walls that are a dimly lit blue and dotted by a cosmos of star-like, purple and green laser lights. Centered on the back wall, 18 birch wood panel paintings sprawl out in an interconnected pattern adjacent to a giant, 8-foot-long kaleidoscope. It’s an eternity in a room, a large-scale work built on six months of moments.

“A Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes” is Hause’s follow-up to her 2013 installation “Eyeing the Cosmos While Astride the Abyss,” which aimed to recreate the out-of-body experience Hause felt after receiving her initial cancer prognosis.

“You know you have an appointment for blood work, and you know the results could be bad,” Hause said. “So it kind of hangs there more than you like it to, but when I’m in that space of creating, the beginning and end is not there. I’m just in that moment. When you’re in that moment, that’s all there is.”

In her paintings and collages, there are chickens, cardinals, flowers and constellations. One panel contains a perspective of hovering above the world, with Einstein’s formula for special relativity etched into the abyss of time and space. Overall, “A Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes” feels like a reminder of how insignificant we are in scope of the universe, and there’s some serenity in that thought.

As we sat around the fire, we could hear coyotes yipping somewhere behind the pines that line Hause’s property. Earlier that day, the artist had received good news: She’s not out of the woods, but her tumors haven’t spread or grown.

“For three months,” Hause said, until her next body scan, “I can push it out of my mind.”

Until then, Hause can bring everything back to the now, and not worry about the future.

— Justin Lacy for
March 18, 2015

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