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3 Citations in this Annotation:
Lorenzo Iandelli on Diane Simpson : Sculpture + Drawings 1978-2009
13 November, 2022
A lingering trace of the influence is always present in the work of American Artist Diane Simpson. Her process begins by finding a subject to transform. Taking from the world of applied arts, her research is primarily focused on the female garment and other wearables which enhance bodily proportions, such as Elizabethan petticoats, Amish bonnets or historic armours, but also architecture and themes of domesticity. The reference, in the form of a photo or object, then undergoes a process of distortion and abstraction, resulting in a sculptural outcome. These often read as familiar, connecting the uncanny with a language of recognisable proportions and details – raising questions about one’s embedded knowledge, symbols and associations of taste.
I discovered Diane Simpson’s work as a student during my own process of understanding how to decipher the constructs and influences we surround ourselves with. I obsessed over Simpson’s work and its ability to balance between an external influence and her own personal instinct. Her work never appeared as a comparison to its origin but rather a progression which lived independently, politely calling back when necessary. This abstractive process goes beyond taking a reference and morphing it. The work abstracts material qualities, human-proportion, and the material-cultures embedded in each piece, highlighting their sociological as well as functional roles.
After the selection of the source material, the second stage sees its translation into drawings. Components are broken into planes and flattened – a representation method which sits between a carpenter’s study and a tailor’s pattern drawing. The work then takes its form based on the artistic and technical nuances of these study drawings.
When constructed, the clashing 2d planes often replicate the geometries of draping or pleating garments, evoking human proportion. Like a door traces human height and brick is scaled to fit the palm of a hand, Simpson’s sculptural work takes on anthropomorphic qualities, outlining the body of the supposed wearer of each reference piece. The wide-shouldered structures in her Samurai series exude armour/dress-like qualities. Distributed in an elegantly menacing array, these planes capture the theme while never explicitly referencing it – aside from in its title.
Each work subtly navigates between familiar knowns (an external influence) and unknowns (personal sensibility), with an outcome which feels close but undefined. In the same way that Diane Simpson constructs through a source, I borrow her wider approach as a reminder of the mysterious value of interpretation.