As part of Arts Week Evanston 2008, the public is invited to several open artists’ studios. The RoundTable visited the studio of artist and writer Diane Thodos.
A non-descript building on Hartrey Avenue houses the remarkable studio of Evanston-based artist Diane Thodos. Stepping across the threshold into the studio of this artist, one thinks of the “inner necessity” of creating, articulated by the poet Rainer Maria Rilke (“Letters to a Young Poet”) and expressed in Ms. Thodos’ work. The pieces arrayed in her studio represent the artist’s abstract response to complex emotions that reflect these times.
Her figure drawings are Ms. Thodos’ personal, private and contemplative expression and allow her to take the physical richness of human existence in many directions.
Drawing inspiration from individuals and events that affect and are emotionally real to her, she attempts to portray not objective reality but her subjective responses and emotions to objects and events. In recent years, Ms.Thodos said, “her work has become an intense and direct pathway to emotion.” That is, she says, “It disposes of any intellectual or conceptual mediation between feeling and the creation of imagery.”
Many of her prints and paintings are filled with jagged arrays of color indicating the influence of German Impressionism. The Sept. 11 attacks, she said were a “turning point … opening up a jar inside me.” She said the attacks traumatized her in the way her parents’ experiences affected them: her mother, during the Nazi occupation of (Konitsa) Greece, and her father, in the Great Depression.
Ms. Thodos talked about the major artistic influences in more than 20 years of study. As an undergraduate, she studied with printmaker and artist Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17 in 1984, in Paris, a time, she said, that was one of her most artistic experiences.
In Paris she began to use the technique of spontaneous drawing called automatism, as well as abstract expressionism and surrealist printing techniques. “Loss” and “Touching Sadness” are among the works that illustrate the graphic power of the line.
Another strong influence on Ms. Thodos was art historian and critic Donald Kuspit, a champion and interpreter of German Expressionism at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where Ms. Thodos also studied. She said his ability to see the many contradictions in the world of contemporary art inspired her then and continues to do so today. She said Mr. Kuspit’s work was extremely influential in the development of her art criticism and other writing; she has published more than 50 essays and reviews.
Then, in 1992, while living in New York, Ms. Thodos discovered the German Expressionist collection of Marcia and Granvil Specks. Ms. Thodos said, “The prints … were like opening a door in my mind that I had been seeking for so many years.” Ironically, Ms. Thodos discovered the collection at Northwestern University’s Block Gallery and learned that the Specks were living only blocks from the Thodos family home. The Specks influenced her development as an artist and always encouraged her efforts as an artist.
Ms. Thodos works in a variety of mediums – oil-painting, printmaking, woodblocks, etching, charcoal and pastels – “keeps my creativity moving,” she said.
Ms.Thodos’ studio is filled with canvases that express her interpretation of figures, faces, actions objects and stories that need to be viewed and experienced to understand her work. Standing in front of her work, a viewer can be transfixed and transported to places in the mind that evoke both joy and sadness.
The various mediums and the color palettes speak to the intensity and power of her work.
Ms. Thodos is an active member of the North Shore Art League, where professional artists produce works and interests and exchange news of the art world.
She is currently represented by the Thomas Master Gallery in Chicago, as well as in Mexico City and Paris. Her work is currently held in many collections, including the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Smart Museum of Art and the Block Museum of Art in Evanston, as well as many other private collections in the United States and internationally.
The 2008 Arts Week Evanston will take place Oct. 10-19. There will be Open Artist Studios on Oct. 11 and 12. Ms. Thodos’ Studio, 600 Hartrey Ave., (near the intersection of McCormick Boulevard and Oakton Street), will be open from noon until 5 p.m. on Oct. 11 and 12. To see more artwork, visit www.dianethodos.com.