Diane Simpson: Sculpture and Drawing, 1978-2009 at the Chicago Cultural Center ran through July 3, 2010. Curated by Lanny Silverman, this exhibit reveals the scope and an intimate view into the artist’s process over time.
Diane Simpson, Amish Bonnet, brass tube, waxed linen thread, fabric, enamel on wood. Photograph by J. Kronika.
The retrospective covering more than thirty years of work from artist Diane Simpson includes over forty sculptures and drawings. This Chicago artist is inspired by “historical dress from various cultures and eras.” “The wealth of references… blurs distinctions between architecture, fashion and sculpture.” Some sources of inspiration include “Japanese armor and crafts, Shaker furniture, 17th century formal dresses, hats of all kinds-from Amish bonnets to Southeast Asian paddy hats to bowler derbies- and Art Deco design…”
Diane Simpson, Drawing for Amish Bonnet, graphite on vellum graph paper. Photograph by J. Kronika.
Her “abstract depictions of the body, shelter and protection” explore “notions of the body and domesticity…with a strong feminist undercurrent.” Working with detailed drawings and reference images of her source material, Simpson’s fine draftsmanship reveals insights to her creative process.
Diane Simpson, Muff, faux fur, fleece, mahogany. Photograph by J. Kronika.
Constructing her sculptures, Simpson employs “cardboard…, MDF, wood, leather, fabrics, Lexan, fiberglass, and a variety of found industrial materials.” Her sculptures purposefully expand and contract the original scale of her source inspirations, creating towering forms and intimately scaled details.
Diane Simpson, Drawing for Muff, graphite on vellum graph paper. Photograph by J. Kronika.
Utilizing the isolated aspects of inspirational sources, whether referencing a baby’s bib, an architectural detail or a cultural context, Simpson imbues her work with layered interpretations and commentary. Simpson employs pictorial illusions such as oblique parallel angles and asymmetrical orientations in her sculpture to flatten volume and present complexity and distance from the original inspiration.
Diane Simpson, Sleeve-Sling, aluminum, wool, acrylic on wood, cord. Photograph by J. Kronika.
Diane Simpson, Sleeve-Sling detail, aluminum, wool, acrylic on wood, cord. Photograph by J. Kronika.
The unique nature of these works maintains Simpson’s dialogue with the timeline of culture and contemporary art. The scale of Simpson’s composite sculptures references the human silhouette and the way that clothing acts as body shaping architecture in certain cultures, including the Japanese kimono and Elizabethan garb. Lynne Warren writes in her biography of the artist, that Diane Simpson “shape-sifts” through her sources to come to the eventual dynamic result.
Diane Simpson, Drawing for Sleeve-Sling, graphite on vellum graph paper. Photograph by J. Kronika.
The exhibit at the Cultural Center included an accompanying video which reveals the artist’s process in developing her “Window Dressing” series in 2007 for the Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin. Simpson worked for a year on a grant to produce the hand cut and assembled works for the exterior windows. Inspired by advertising and fashions of the 1920’s and 1930’s the works recreate the window dressing ideals of placement and complementary design utilized by merchandisers of the period. The sculptural works reinterpret and separate from the strictly commercial sources to present visually stunning interplays of subject and background. More information about this project is available through the link listed below.
Diane Simpson, Court Lady, 1984, oil stain on MDF, linen canvas, nylon cord and plastic fasteners. Photograph by J. Kronika.
Diane Simpson is represented by Corbett vs. Dempsey in Chicago, and by Linda Ross Contemporary/Art + Projects in the Detroit area. Simpson’s work was recently exhibited in the traveling exhibit Concurrent along with artists Natalie Alper, Tim McFarlane, and Larry Webb.
Diane Simpson, Drawing for Court Lady, graphite on vellum graph paper. Photograph by J. Kronika.
This exhibit was partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, United Airlines, and Lawry’s The Prime Rib. Quotes above come from the accompanying exhibit brochure statement by curator Lanny Silverman.
For more information about the Chicago Cultural Center: www.chicagoculturalcenter.org
For more information about Diane Simpson, visit the artist’s website: http://www.dianesimpson.net/
For more information about the “Window Dressing” series at the Racine Art Museum: http://www.dianesimpson.net/pages.php?content=gallery.php&navGallID=1
For more information about Corbett vs. Dempsey in Chicago: http://www.corbettvsdempsey.com/
For more information about Diane Simpson at Linda Ross Contemporary/Art + Projects in the Detroit area: http://lrosscontemporary.com/artists/artists.html
For Diane Simpson’s works at the Drawing Center: http://www.drawingcenter.org/viewingprogram/portfolio.cfm