By Meghan Power
While a student of film, she often noticed unease in conversations around skin tone and the rendering of skin tone in film: “I began asking questions like, why am I perceiving myself the way I am? And why do people perceive me in a certain way? These questions led me to investigate the notion of perception — to bring ease into these conversations and to approach them from a multicultural perspective. I became interested in Johannes Itten’s colour theories, including his theory of colour contrast and his theory of colour harmony. Itten was a Swiss painter, but also part of the Bauhaus movement (1919-1933). He taught at the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar (Germany).”
Diane envisions three installations within the exhibit: an experimental video showing people of 16 different cultural backgrounds — all residents of Calgary — sharing their stories about ethno-cultural experiences. The emotional expression of all these faces will be made into one composite image, showing the unique, yet simultaneous universality of human connection and emotions. The second installment will be extracted portraits from the video, featured in a triptych-styled format, accompanied by painted swatches of colour, trying to match the skin colour in the portrait, and word art using different common keywords taken from the video. The final installation features two light boxes — one will invite people to observe un-animated 3D printed objects under the illumination of a light box with prompts to help people get curious about their perspectives. A second light box will have different tinted transparencies and people will be invited to look at their skin in a new light and colour, and reflect on how that makes them feel.
For Diane, digging deeper into this conversation is not just about art, “it’s personal. It’s about my experiences — how I’m treated as a person in the world — how I treat other people and the questions that I’m asked as a Black woman, and how our first encounters are connected to the colour of our skin. It’s also about sharing these experiences and starting a conversation about ethno-cultural differences without using the big R word — racism — a word that carries a lot of different context and subtext for people.”
“When I first started developing this project in 2014, I didn’t have the funding to produce it. The ArtShare funding from Calgary Arts Development (CADA) has been essential in allowing me the time and space to research and begin production on the installation. And it’s also helped open many doors and opportunities for me, within the local arts community. I also appreciated the added level of support offered by CADA’s grant coordinator. As a new Calgarian and Canadian resident, and not being overly familiar with the process, their added support was welcome and appreciated.”