Briefly describe the work you do.
I produce evocative installations that respond to the impermanence of our body and our memory. My recent works investigate the anxiety created by waiting for something to emerge that won’t show. Instead stillness, quietness, or emptiness confronts you.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
Art is not very prominent in my family, but am told creativity comes from my Grandmother, Jean, who I never met. She passed away before I was born. I also come from a family where both of my grandmothers were seamstress. Because I started out as a formal painter, I never thought that I would be using sewing in my practice, but I guess it is in my blood.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.
My studio is more of a place for me to experiment. I spend most of my time in my studio. Even if I am just reading or writing. I think it is important to be around the things i make especially my small material studies. I move my studio around about every two weeks, sometimes even the furniture. It keeps me on my toes. I like to change things up, it helps fuel my mind.
My process differs from the traditional notions of being in the studio because my pieces aren’t complete until after they are installed. The process of installing is where everything comes together. I tend to be more reactive and intuitive than when I am working in my studio. The work transforms based upon where it is installed, which is the most exciting part of my process. I feel the constant change of the piece based upon the environment is really true to our human condition and the recollection of memories, two topics I find fascinating.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art
I think like a painter, but now I make work that crosses mediums (painting, sculpture, sound, video, and installation). I choose to make work that makes us more aware of our mortality and fragility. I am terrified of death, I really fear it and have anxiety that is caused by my fear. I never thought I would be making work about it because it is such a struggle for me emotionally. This fear is a real emotion for me, and trying to create that emotion by investigating it more gives me a point from where to start.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
Working late at night seems to work best for me. Something turns off in my mind and I take more risks. I hardly listen to music when I create. I like to work in silence because it keeps me focused and thinking about each move.
I am in the MFA program at Massachusetts College of Art & Design (MassART) and am lucky because I can make art every day for another six months! My thesis exhibition is in April.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work has drastically shifted since 2011. It went from painting formally to using a variety of materials. I just wanted to learn everything and anything I could. While I was at Virginia Commonwealth University, I learned how to use the laser cutter and projectors. These technologies were new to me and opened up my mind. This is where the shift in my work happened. I was not satisfied with making the paintings I had been making, they had no point or meaning to me. At the time, my grandmother was sick with Alzheimer’s Disease and I started to make work about her loss of identity. She was a Croatian lacemaker, so I was trying to find a correlation between the language of lace and how our minds work. Something I am still investigating. I began to think like a seamstress, which wasn’t far out of my comfort zone. When I was little, about ten years old, I began making patterns and sewing. I always separated the two, art and sewing that is, but now I work them together and it feels honest.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
My family is extremely supportive, and I am very privileged to have such amazing support. My grandparents lives and stories have been inspiring my work for the last four years. My grandfather recently passed away and we were very close, so at this moment I am seeing a shift in my work due to my personal history.
Artists that have impacted my work are Janine Antoni, Doris Salcedo, and Ann Hamilton. I like the emotional quality of their work, it feels so real. Doris Salcedo’s exhibition at the Guggenheim this year in NYC changed the way I thought about the absent body, and it moved me emotionally. I knew that art could do this, I also feel this way about the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, but I didn’t realize how extreme it could shift your mood and thoughts until experiencing it.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I entertained being a math teacher for a bit and a fashion designer. I definitely feel like I made the right choice. I could never imagine myself in those roles now.
Diana Jean Puglisi was born in Brooklyn, NY and works in Boston and New Jersey. Diana is an interdisciplinary artist— her work manifests as drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, social practice, sound, and video.
She is currently an MFA candidate at Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the recipient of their prestigious Beker Family Scholarship. In 2011, she received a BFA from William Paterson University and a Post-Baccalaureate from Virginia Commonwealth University
Diana was selected this summer to be a 2015 Artist in Residence at Gallery 263 in Cambridge, MA. Her work has been exhibited nationally. Recently, she was selected for exhibitions such as Feelers at the Mills Gallery, Bouncing in the Corner at subSamson, and The 26th Annual MassArt Auction in Boston as well as New Print Horizons at offLine Central Booking Gallery in New York City. Her collaborative project with Brittany Marcoux has been selected for shows such as All Visual Boston at the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston and Reclamation: Emerging Female Artists at Nave Gallery in Somerville, MA.
Diana’s work is featured in publications, including The Drawing Center’s blog The Bottom Line, The Record, NJ.com, and Vellum Art Magazine.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.