Vivid Dreams … Diane Hause

In the dream, four women clothed completely in black walked ahead of her. “I felt like they were nuns that I was following. It was the longest and most vivid dream.” A slight shift, and they were walking through a bazaar that had a middle eastern feel. “Finally they came to the edge of a cliff with a mountain range in the distance. One turned around and looked at me. She was completely veiled with only her eyes showing. She looked so deep into my eyes that it woke me up.”

Visionary Diane Hause describes the dream that led to one of the defining projects in her life as an artist. “That was two years before 9/11. I started thinking about the women that were veiled.” In the next day’s mail was Amnesty International Magazine. Flipping through it, she spotted a photo of four women from the back sitting on a park bench. They looked exactly like the women from her dream.

The accompanying article listed a web site. Hause sent an email stating she was taken by the article and the plight of the women. A woman named Mehmooda replied. Their long correspondence resulted in a series of paintings and mixed media objects along with an exhibition fundraiser that grabbed the attention and support of Jane Fonda and Eve Ensler of the Vagina Monologues.

Mehmooda supplied many items for the event, including videotapes and burqas, outer garments worn by many Islamic women to cover their bodies when in public. The Atlanta-based show: Thinly Veiled Misogyny and a Perpetual State of Inconsequence was held a few days after 9/11 and raised $6,000 for The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan.

Owner of 2TEN Haustudio in Bladen County, N.C., Diane Hause is a transplanted Wilmingtonian, having moved here from New York when her parents were looking for a home where they could retire. Diane attended UNC Wilmington and studied art under Claude Howell. “Claude Howell still haunts me,” she said laughing. “Classes were small and intense. He was tough and hard … but you learned from Claude.”

After graduating with a B.F.A., she obtained a teaching position at Cape Fear Technical Institute (now Cape Fear Community College) teaching drawing and painting while she freelanced as a wall muralist. Standing on a makeshift scaffold, painting the front of the Crest Theater at Wrightsville Beach (now Crest Fitness), she was approached by a man who asked if she would be interested in painting the interiors of the new Independence Mall. “I didn’t know what a mall was.” At their meeting, he handed her a set of blueprints―something she had never seen before―but she got the job. Hause painted the interiors of many of the first businesses in Independence Mall. “In 1977 that mural and graphic painting job was such good pay to make.”

The same company offered her work at other malls under construction throughout the country, so she purchased a VW pop-up camper and took off. “I lived in it for a year traveling around following them.” She spent four months in Flagstaff, Ariz. “Everything was fine until I woke up freezing to death one night.” Surrounded by snow, she packed up and headed south to Phoenix where she picked up jobs doing murals before packing up again and moving to Mexico, then to Baja and San Diego, Calif., painting anywhere there was a blank wall someone would pay her to cover.

Wanderlust led next to Los Angeles then five years in Santa Barbara where she received her master’s degree in painting at UC-Santa Barbara while painting and managing a stained glass shop. “I still regret that I left Santa Barbara, but I couldn’t find enough work.”

Sight unseen, she followed a friend’s advice to move to Baltimore, Md. “I got a teaching job at Howard Community College and painted murals.” She also took a job painting billboards; painting 50-by-30-foot signs on a daily basis. “It was a nightmare of a job, but I loved it.” And Hause continues to love painting large canvases to this day.

Like much of her life, her road to each position was almost circumstantial. Leaving Baltimore for Florida, Diane found herself living on a lake in Tampa on a 50 acre orange farm.

While walking her dog she encountered the farm owner, and they struck up a lively conversation. Discovering that she was an artist, the farmer insisted she meet his grandson, an avid art enthusiast whose mother subsequently introduced her to the dean of the International Academy of Merchandising Design (IAMD) where she taught for a period of time.

On to Asheville, N.C., Hause decided the area was a bit too small for her endeavors. She recalled students at IAMD suggesting she would like Atlanta, Ga. “I hadn’t been to Atlanta since I’d thumbed there,” something she did frequently in earlier years. Checking out the city, she recalls thinking that there was a lot of energy, “but I didn’t realize the Olympics were coming in six months.

“What I had liked about Baltimore was its proximity to Washington, D.C. and New York City. Atlanta had the same large city feel.”

Immersing herself in art shows, she met a student at the Atlanta College of Art who encouraged her to teach there. Not one to be shy, Hause called the dean directly who relayed, “We get 800 applications a day from teachers,” she said, “but if anything happens we’ll let you know.”

Around 6:30 the next morning, the dean contacted Diane explaining a professor had suddenly died the evening before. “She asked if there was any way I could come in and take over his drawing classes. I loved teaching there!” Hause taught drawing, painting and color theory to “really serious students,” but she also had a terrible commute. “I lived about 22 miles from the city. It took me three hours to get to work in the traffic that first morning.”

As Hause continued to teach, she also painted and showed her work in Atlanta galleries. “That was a pivotal point for me. I got so frustrated with it.”

She felt she was owned by the galleries. “In the beginning, they’d take only 20 percent, and then in time 50 percent of sales and exclusive contracts. Sometimes they would tell you what to paint,” she continued. “I felt shackled, like they were putting me in a cage. I remember where I was sitting when I thought there had to be another way to do this. I thought ‘I can open up my own space!’”

Experiencing many years of independent travel, including hitchhiking through the U.S. and Canada, may have been what ignited Diane’s creative spirit. That open-minded spirit led her to the run-down warehouse district of Atlanta now known as the Castleberry Hill art district. She was on a quest for her own studio.

What she found positioned her to become a pioneer in the renovation and rejuvenation of the art district located about a mile from Centennial Park and five blocks from the Atlanta College of Art. In her quest, she found a handful of fellow artists tucked away amongst the warehouses and much-needed rehabilitated historic homes.

Her ideal spot turned out to be a 4,000-square-foot automotive warehouse. She used half for her studio and converted the other half into an acupuncture clinic for her friend Barbara Squires who was originally from Kelly, N.C. She added another 2,000-square-foot loft on the roof top of the warehouse as a residence for an ideal inner city work/live experience.

Her first show, a series called 16 Vestal Virgins, drew about 100 people. “It felt really good. I could hang it the way I wanted to and that started it.”

Time and circumstance led to the benefit for the Afghan women. The next benefit would be for the Lost Boys of Sudan. “I had seen a 60 Minutes special. It was so overwhelming,” remembers Diane. “Sure enough, the next day in Creative Loafing, there was a photo of this young African man holding this clay cow. The article accompanying the photo was about the Lost Boys of Sudan that were living in Atlanta.

“I called the listed number in the article and offered my space to show their sculptures. They said they were trying to locate a place to sell their work.” Hause was not aware that Mary Williams, director of the Lost Boys Foundation, was Jane Fonda’s adopted daughter.

Lining her studio with shelving, Hause called in the 16 African drummers she incorporated into her exhibit and sent out invitations. “Those sculptures sold like Tiffany’s jewelry. 100 percent went to the Lost Boys. We were featured in People Magazine and 3TEN Haustudio at 310 Peters Street was on the map.”

“Other galleries moved in. When I left Castleberry, there were 15 galleries and coordinated art strolls that were known to draw as many as 1,500 art patrons.”

Hause lives now on 240 acres in Ivanhoe, N.C., which she and Barbara Squires purchased in the 1980s. The vibration of Atlanta came to be a negative rather than a positive. Diane longed for open spaces to walk her dog without having to drive to a park.

The two women renovated a 150-year old house on the property which has become Squires’ Acupuncture Clinic. Hause engaged architect Scott Ogden to design her studio that is next to the acupuncture clinic. Ogden also designed her home which sits across Hwy 210 from the studio on the Black River in Bladen County.

With one foot softly planted in Atlanta and another firmly placed in Ivanhoe, N.C., Diane staged her first show, “Re-imagined,” in the new 2TEN Haustudio. Like others, it resulted from a vivid foretelling dream of the tsunami disaster: in the 8-foot-by-16-foot painting there is a striking tsunami wave engulfing humans and a sacrificial lamb.

“My life and my philosophy have always been to go with my gut. I’ve learned not to ignore it. A dream … if it is that vivid to me … let’s a lot of things come through if you get out of the way.”

Re-imagined had over 100 attendees for the first showing and was a great success. Then, right after this inaugural exhibit, came cancer. Two weeks after a mastectomy, Diane moved furniture from her loft in Atlanta as her home on the Black River was finally built and ready to be moved in. Her planned Retrospect show at 621N4TH art gallery went on as scheduled.

“My brother Robert helped me load all my work for the Retrospect exhibit. I was so grateful as I couldn’t have lifted all the pieces by myself at that time.”

Hause followed that with 1×1=ONE, a group show of eighty artists from Atlanta, Wilmington, and 1×1=ONE Opening other parts of Georgia and North Carolina which were hung at 2TEN Haustudio this past December.

Diane’s next purpose is to live with Stage-4 breast cancer as she continues to do the work she loves. She has three projects … maybe even more … on tap.

Cigar boxes have been collected after calling out to her, but haven’t yet told her what to do with them. “They’re in the studio nagging me.”

There are pine trees surrounding 2TEN Haustudio and its 240 acres that will become works of art when artists transform them into living totems with eco-friendly paint this September.

Then there’s another installation.

With Diane’s installation in Atlanta, The Presence of Absence, she evoked the presence of the dead upon the consciousness of the living through lighting, curtains, music and projections in the studio space.

She considers her presence of the dead exhibit now as she ponders the effect of her bout with cancer and how it fits into her latest installation. “I feel like I’ve always used death as my advisor, but this time it is like there is no bumper sticker. I can’t describe the feeling of being at that edge and going into that expanse and facing it. What do I think happens next? What is life? What is death?

“Everybody will experience death,” she continues, “but it’s such an abstract thought process. That abstractness has been removed from me.” For an artist that intuits, it’s big. “I haven’t done a series about it yet. I don’t completely see what creative form it will take right now.”

Diane Hause wonders if she can express herself artistically in an installation of the kind of The Presence of Absence. “There is something about being in the studio with empty white walls that is meditative. I felt it is a place to sit and be with whatever this is … what I’m facing. What it means. Whatever emerges.

“It’s forming, but it’s not formed yet. All I have so far is this sense that I want people to experience what I have experienced by my diagnosis. That’s tough. That’s a tall order.”

“All I have so far in my mind is some kind of an installation with a sheer curtain and you have to go to through, it like a veil … and there’s a labyrinth … something that you move within.”

Diane hopes those nagging cigar boxes may be incorporated as something the viewer opens and reads.

Maybe the viewer will end in a womb-like tent that Diane builds. “Something you’re in … but it’s not scary. It’s meditative and comforting.”

It’s like the heart beat in the womb. “The original drummers were women; the midwife had drummers with her,” says Hause. “We all come from the original drum beat of the mother’s heart in the womb; that’s as far as I’ve gotten.”

— Teresa McLamb for
August 2, 2012

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