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Living Totems:

Ivanhoe Artist Takes Art Back to Nature

Totem poles are an art form indigenous with the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest. Carved and created from large trees, the figures and images depicted on the poles are extremely varied. They can range from recounting familiar legends, representing ancestral lineage, personal familial success or other notable events in a clan or tribe’s history. Often misconceived as objects of worship, totem poles functioned as personal identification banners.

Diane Hause is an artist and native of New York, though she’s lived in Wilmington now for 40 years. She graduated from UNCW in 1978 with a BFA in painting and spent her time here studying with local artistic legend Claude Howell. Graduating from UC-Santa Barbara with her MFA, Hause lived in Atlanta, too. She moved to Ivanhoe, NC, where she had a studio designed and constructed by local architect Scott Ogden of B+O Design Studio.

Located on 240 beautiful, sprawling acres on the Black River, 2TEN HAUSTUDIO functions as an alternative exhibition space for artists. Having lived a city life, Hause opened her studio in Ivanhoe because of its slower, more relaxed and inspirational pace. “It’s the kind of a place where a traffic jam is usually the result of two cars being held up behind a tractor,” she muses.

As an artist, Hause incorporates symbols and spiritual beliefs into her paintings. In a retrospective at local gallery 621N4Th, she has exhibited a body of work that examined a variety of religious beliefs and the implications associated with them. She notes how a lot of her art emerges from the idea of a collective consciousness and influential dreams, which allow her to draw on a sixth sense. “You should trust your gut, your instinct,” she instructs. “Pay attention to feelings and follow them.”

With her personal and artistic interest in religion, Hause’s hosting of an artistic exhibition where artists created their own totem poles comes as no surprise. She says the idea was an “odd synchronistic event” she stumbled upon after rustling through old boxes and finding a postcard from a friend’s trip to British Columbia. The front of the postcard presented an image of a totem pole postmarked circa 1990. “I was reminded of totem poles and how much, even as a kid, I was drawn to them,” she says.

When Hause left the studio and began doing some yard work during the setting sun, she took note of her peaceful surroundings. “It was casting really long shadows of the pine trees,” she remembers, “and it was the shadows, more than the trees, that suddenly gave me the inspiration for the totem exhibit.”

Participating artists in the exhibit include Kinga Baransky, Benjamin Billingsley, Christopher Boehm, Elizabeth Britton, Cecilia Bruno, Liam Bruno, Susan Bullers, Michelle Connolly, Elizabeth Darrow, Sharon Ely, Lynn Gay, Kristin Gibson, John Gibson, Amy Hall, Dave Hause, Diane Hause, Robert Hause, Fritzi Huber, Leslie Pearson, Arrow Ross, Barbara Squires, Nicolle Nicolle and Richard Whitaker. On Saturday, September 29th, they traveled to Ivanhoe to begin painting their personal totems.

Each artist purchased pine board, measuring 1 x 12 x 6, which were exhibited in 2TEN HAUSTUDIO. However, with permission from the State of NC Department of Agriculture, the artists then painted totems outside on the pine trees. On the day of the event, the artists combatted some rain but persevered to continue the show. Local writer Celia Rivenbark juried the final exhibition and selected that first prize be awarded to Benjamin Billingsley of Wilmington. Second place went to Elizabeth Darrow of Wilmington and third place was awarded to Christopher Boehm of Chapel Hill.

Serving as event organizer, artist and curator, Hause also lent her artistic ability to the exhibition. The visually literal interpretation of he own totem pole was inspired by an owl that lives at the studio. It resides at the top of the totem pole. Along with the revered postcard from her friends, Hause’s totem showcases horses she sees daily, followed by a yin-yang for balance and another animal, be it bird or beast!

“It represents a new life and awareness to nature since moving to the country after the inner city of Atlanta!” she says. “It’s life’s journey. The spiral is the spiritual realm (hence on top), which is the journey within/without; the orange shape next is the ‘human’ form as in ‘man’; then the leaf as nature/earth, then the bear print as animal, then the clouds/rain as the water element followed by my personal handprint as in my life journey and imprint.”

Seeing a return to its original form of art, utilizing trees and natural elements, “The Living Totems” present a departure from what contemporary society associates with art forms in sanctioned galleries. The exhibition will be on display until October 31sy at 2TEN HAUSTUDIO. More information may be found at www.haustudio.com.

Alex Pompliano for EncorePub.com
October 23, 2012

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