By Tom Wachunas
"I was educated in a professional art world that has been characterized by its shock value, biting social commentary, and 'in-your-face' commercial images. In contrast to that world in which I was raised, I am simply endeavoring to create in my art a respite for our weary souls." -Diane Belfiglio
EXHIBIT: Architectural Visions – acrylic paintings and oil pastel drawings by Diane Belfiglio, THROUGH FEBRUARY 16, 2018 / at Malone Gallery, in the Johnson Center at Malone University, 2600 Cleveland Avenue NW, Canton, Ohio.
MEET THE ARTIST at the CLOSING RECEPTION on Thursday, February 15 from 6:00-8:00pm.
While this exhibit of 15 acrylic paintings on canvas and 14 oil pastel drawings on paper is a retrospective of works made between 1997 and 2012, Diane Belfiglio’s aesthetic still feels elegant, bold, and fresh to me. I suspect it will always be so, which is a good thing. Hers is an oeuvre I consider to be a see-worthy vessel that remains buoyant and sturdy in turbulent waters – intact and unabashedly beautiful in our splintered culture too often floundering in pointless pop junk and ugly sensationalism.
And so in the same retrospective spirit, I offer the following excerpts from some of my past commentaries. I first encountered and wrote about Belfiglio’s work in 1998.
From New Art Examiner, May, 1998:
…In Angled Ascent, we look upward at an L-shaped concrete staircase to the entrance of a red brick building. A patch of geraniums grows against the brick at ground level. Most notable in this painting is the handling of the shadows from the ornate green railing cast upon the steps. The shapes of the shadows jump off from the steps like gentle graffito, a signature, a calligraphic sign of light. In the real world, we often take for granted such settings as this one—stairs to a building—as unremarkable and pedestrian. But in the hands of Belfiglio, a clearly accomplished technician in the realm of drawing and otherwise rendering reality, the common becomes the extraordinary…
From Dialogue Magazine, January, 2001:
…There’s magic in the minutiae. Belfiglio’s images are not frontal views of facades with panoramic surroundings. Rather, she focuses on an isolated corner or dormer here, an unusual window adornment or staircase there. The shapes of shadows cast by sunlight take on a distinct physicality, as if built into the surfaces on which they rest. In Victorian Vignettes IV, a steely blue shadow protrudes across the bright pattern of hexagonal shingles like a dancer darting along a tile floor.
For all of their meticulous faithfulness to something recognizable, the paintings never succumb to the often-pointless technical flamboyance so common in Photorealism. On the other hand, there is no liberal application of paint, no tactile surfaces, no frenetic brushwork. Yet the paintings are nonetheless sumptuous in their luxuriant light and playful rhythms of form and shadow. At times they conjure the spirit of Edward Hopper minus the angst, or the great Impressionists sans impasto.
There is something akin to reverence in the way Belfiglio approaches her subjects, as indicated in her statement for the show: “I was educated in a professional art world that has been characterized by its shock value, biting social commentary, and ‘in-your-face’ commercial images. In contrast to that world in which I was raised, I am simply endeavoring to create in my art a respite for our weary souls.” True to the works’ raison d’etre, these are contemplative visions for our thoughtless times. As such, they are acts of courage on canvas.
- From ARTWACH, July 2009,
…Belfiglio pulls it all together via a combination of highly skilled draftsmanship, masterful composition, and a remarkable (and absolutely necessary) understanding of color. And so it is that while the raison detre behind Belfiglio’s most recent work remains consistent with her past acrylic architectural series, the overall look has undergone a significant evolution, due in large part to her shift into oil pastels…
…Perhaps one way to fully appreciate the new direction in Belfiglio’s work is to think of her earlier paintings as boldly voiced sentences, or matter-of-fact statements articulated with muscular and cerebral confidence. These new pieces are quieter, though no less engaging. Like ballads beautifully sung.
PHOTOS, from top: 1. Installation view / 2. Angled Ascent, acrylic, 1997 / 3. Victorian Vignettes IV, acrylic, 2000 / 4. Lawnfield Reflections, acrylic, 2004 / 5. Digression into Detail V, oil pastel, 2
a portfolio of Belﬁglio’s work can be viewed on her website: