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Spring and Summer 2020 Billboard- “To Our Friends” by Dianna Settles

This week, we said goodbye to our billboard by Dianna Settles, an Atlanta-based painter and printmaker. This billboard was only intended to stay up a month, but when the coronavirus hit, we decided to leave it up for many reasons.  It served as a reminder of the warm days of friendship and intimacy that will return intensified, and of the shared power we build through friendship that is the best guarantee of care during crisis.

Settles says this about her work:

In 2014, I traveled to my father’s home country of Vietnam, where, for the first time, I witnessed room after room of artwork featuring figures I could relate to and see myself in. This began my indeterminate synthesis of traditional Vietnamese painting and the colonial influences of European art. The presence of marginalized bodies in my work is historically important, and permeates my translation of conflicting, alienated feelings through bodies, colors, and objects rendered into sources of power and reclamation. Along with meandering on this line between European and Vietnamese artistic lineages, I also collapse the space between the portrait and still life forms – my work often functions as still lifes of faces, while simultaneously as portraits of objects.

My paintings materialize ephemeral experiences of joy, potentiality, and friendship in order to reflect on, revisit, and remember them in all their ecstasies and agonies. These images are ways of processing my identities, and celebrating the beauty and uniqueness of the worlds my friends and I construct and inhabit. Inspired equally by actual occurrences and potential arrangements, and combining disparate objects, people, places, and actions from my life, my compositions are collages of moments that take on a richness gesturing beyond the individual emotional and historical resonances of their components – towards all possible arrangements of a life worth living.

Whether portraying grand adventures or the oft-overlooked, banal moments of the everyday, I aspire to celebrate the desire to fully participate in communal life, and inspire joy in the struggle to do so, even in a society so inhospitable to this desire. Many of my paintings illustrate joyful collective experiences, exalting in such moments and exploring ways to further elaborate forms of life that precipitate them. At other times, my subjects are caught in moments of isolation, raising questions around the structures and obstacles keeping us from such meaningful and pleasurable lives. My vibrant colors, poetic compositions, and detailed, playful mark-making help me refine and reveal shared experience, and elevate this beyond individual dreams and memories.

This billboard is based on a mural that Settles painted in Paris:

You can see more of her work at: