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Diane Oleary

Since deciding to devote herself entirely to her multiple artistic pursuits in 1967, Diane O'Leary has been best known for her sparse, highly stylized Native American paintings, particularly her figure studies. However, she has always concurrently represented her immediate surroundings in an ongoing collection of environmental pieces. This less well-known body of work includes lithographs, prints, tapestries, weavings and art quilts, two of which have been published by the Smithsonian (1994 and 1997) in their outstanding Native American Expressive Culture series from Akwekon Press and the National Museum of the American Indian. Diane attended Texas Christian University (BA, BS & MS), Bacone College, Harvard (MS) and Stanford (MA, MFA & PH.D) and her distinctions are in piano, baroque literature (music), nursing education (public health) and archeology. She undertook the study of art in 1961 and in 1967 she moved to Taos, New Mexico, and fell under the tutelage of noted Canadian landscape painter Eric Gibberd and Taos Founder Emil Bisttram. She was privileged to have occasional criticisms from Georgia O'Keefe during that period, and it is O'Keefe's influence, which is most evident in O'Leary's botanical pieces. She studied lithography with Linton Kistler in Los Angeles in the early 1970s and is an accomplished master printer. The sway of O'Keefe, Helen Frankenthaler, Bisttram, Louise Nevelson and other modernists has clearly impacted the technical direction of Diane's work, much of which now borders on the abstract, but which is all still imbued with an underlying scientific drive to be anatomically faithful to her subject matter. But in spite of those early influences her art remains unique, adventurous in combining many techniques to suit a specific artistic goal, and wholly her own. Diane mastered the Japanese art media known as Gyotaku (Japanese from gyo "fish" + taku "rubbing") to create "The Living Waters of Tillamook Bay". Gyotaku is a traditional form of Japanese fish printing, dating from the mid 1800s, a form of nature printing used by fishermen to record their catches. There are two methods used in Gyotaku, direct and indirect. The direct approach (the one Diane works in) is similar to block printing or linocut. In order to make a gyotaku print, one places the subject (e.g. fish, crab, scallop shell) on a flat surface and paints one side with sumi ink. Modern gyotaku artists often substitute watercolor, india ink or other painting material for the traditional sumi. Once the pigment is applied to the subject, a piece of rice paper is then carefully applied on top of the fish and then pulled off with a mirror image of the fish having been created on the substrate. The indirect approach requires that the subject is firmly secured into a cradle or mounted onto a firm backing, then a very fine piece of fabric, either silk or polyester, is attached to the subject with a glue that will release (e.g. spray adhesive or a water-based glue that can later be washed out). The artist carefully applies ink to the fabric using a tool called a tampo. The tampo is constructed from a piece of fine silk bound around a soft, rounded ball of cotton. Very thin layers of ink are laid onto the fabric, and the textures of the subject transfer through the fabric, creating textures in the print. Diane O'Leary is represented in most public major Native American collections and literally thousands of private and corporate collections including the National Estuary Program offices in Washington, D.C. and most recently The Archives. Her paintings and fiber works have been widely published and collectors are amused to see her paintings and prints occasionally decorating the walls of up-scale offices on various television series and in films.
Diane O'Leary uses art to promote conservation of the ocean. Her brilliantly colored collages are clearly an expression of love for a critically threatened estuary and include representations of a number of species no longer found in Tillamook Bay. Diane begins with a gyotaku, or an impression taken from a real fish. Her collages of cloth and paint were one of the first ever exhibited on the walls of The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport.

Artist Information:
Name   : Diane Oleary
Location: Florence OR 
  United States
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