BY MARTHA McCARTNEY
Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
June 17, 2015
I had a conversation with Diane Divelbess that wound up being about trajectory, intersecting lines, surrealism and how one person’s belief system can come into conflict with another person’s. Our conversation was meant to be about art and, I suppose—at its essence—it was.
Diane Divelbess is an artist who has truly made her life art. She’s surrounded herself with artwork collected from her travels around the globe. And while, at first glance, this collection may appear disparate there is, at its core, a common element—a curiosity about the way different cultures see the world and the shared spirituality of people and story.
Divelbess was born in Phoenix, Arizona and attended college in California, where she earned a BA Fine Arts degree from Scripps College and a Masters of Fine Arts from Claremont Graduate University. She studied printmaking and silkscreen privately with Nick Dematties and Jack Duganne. She is Professor of Art Emerita with California State University, Pomona, where she taught for 27 years. She has exhibited on the West Coast from California to Washington. Divelbess and her spouse, Grethe Cammermeyer, now live on a beautiful property with a stunning view of Saratoga Passage near Langley, on Whidbey Island.
On the surface of things, much of Divelbess’ work is deceptively simple. And then there is the closer inspection. From landscape paintings to pencil drawings, one begins to see the mind of the artist exploring the spatiality of surfaces, the intersection of planes and the perspective of distances, which brings the viewer to question where they are in time and how, and if, they are grounded. Some of the current work, which—as ever—is rooted in precision, transcends the pencil marks and leaves the viewer twisting in space like a mobile that shifts in the wind—puzzling out what is foreground and what is background. The relationship and tension between shapes makes the bond seem unbreakable.
The couple’s house, which is now essentially a gallery, is filled with work that intrigues her in a similar way as her own artwork, and even the arrangement of art on the walls is significant. The space between works takes on new importance—the relationship between paintings seems to hold the wall together. This collection of art is, in many ways, a testament to precision, but then there is a surprise element that reveals an irreverent sense of humor.
The “gallery” contains massive collections of what Divelbess calls the “kitschiest” stuff—from Pez witches to Frida on a rubber eraser and the Black Madonna in a walnut shell. Divelbess is a great collector of folk and tribal art and has masks adorning the walls in juxtaposition to her serene renditions of a teacup. It’s not a random collection nor is it chaotic; it’s highly organized and linear.
Divelbess paints, draws with pencil and crayon and utilizes various printmaking techniques, and—in true “teacherly” fashion—she patiently explained all the methods of each system. Her daily practice lines shelves in her studio—sketchbooks neatly arranged, holding a drawing from most every day going back decades. “Art begets art,” she said. Her philosophy is evident in her surroundings and in her dedication to her vision.
In celebration of Diane Divelbess’ 80th birthday and to showcase her art from this last decade, Divelbess and Cammermeyer are opening their home for an exhibition of current and past work, with all pieces for sale. They invite the public to attend a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 20 at their home on 4632 Tompkins Road in Langley. The exhibit will be open for public viewing from 1 to 5 p.m. every day—Wednesday, June 24 to Saturday June 27—with a closing reception from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 28.
For more information about the art of Diane Divelbess and her work, click here or call 360-221-6141 for more information about the exhibition.
Martha is a poet, photographer, mixed-media artist, persistent gardener, candle-maker and semi-retired knife sharpener. She currently lives in historic Coupeville with her dog, the ever-fabulous Lillie Savage.
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