Di­nah Wor­man: Ba­sic Shapes

In­spired by the land and di­ag­o­nal lines, Di­nah Wor­man has es­tab­lished her­self on the edge of con­tem­po­rary West­ern art.

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS - By John O’hern

Di­nah Wor­man re­calls that when she was 4 years old, dur­ing a long re­cov­ery from an ac­ci­dent, her fa­ther built her a desk to fit over her bed—and she drew the things she saw around her. She refers to her draw­ing as “scrib­bling and then fill­ing in the scrib­bling.” To­day, an award-win­ning painter, she starts with a few slashes to es­tab­lish the ba­sic shapes and di­ag­o­nals. “I go to an­other place, a lit­tle eu­phoric state. When it’s done, I stand back and say ‘Wow! I did that.’ Once I’ve drawn in the ba­sic shapes and di­ag­o­nals I drop in with fat paint us­ing brushes and palette knives and work it un­til it’s right, some­times rough­ing up the flat ar­eas.”

She stud­ied art and did com­mer­cial work be­fore turn­ing to paint­ing her ex­pe­ri­ences of the land­scape— not nec­es­sar­ily the land­scape in front of her. “I want to paint from my eyes back rather than from my eyes for­ward,” she says. “My in­ter­pre­ta­tion is more im­por­tant to me than the scene it­self.”

She was first ac­cepted into the Coors West­ern Art Ex­hibit and Sale in 2011. In 2013 she was “driv­ing just east of Enid, Ok­la­homa, and as I looked at the land­scape,

the roads looked as if they were run­ning straight up and there were di­ag­o­nal lines for ranch­ers to get over to an­other hill. If you didn’t know the re­al­ity you would have thought that roads were like rib­bons cut out and laid on the land­scape.” It was the be­gin­ning of her “stacked land­scapes.”

“There’s some­thing about see­ing some­thing that moves you enough to pull off the road and paint or pho­to­graph it,” she says. “That ex­pe­ri­ence out­side of Enid was a shift in the way I looked at things. I can be at­tracted by a cer­tain light or a cer­tain scene. I’ve even driven off the road and had to be pulled out. I al­ways have a cam­era with me. Lately, I’ve been tak­ing old pho­to­graphs and reimag­in­ing them.

“You get a lot of pres­sure from what you’re sell­ing and I was tired of do­ing the same old thing—like re­al­is­tic land­scapes. When some­thing sells well, we can get in a fix. I also have an overde­vel­oped sense of meet­ing ex­pec­ta­tions,” she ex­plains. “I needed to loosen up. I was paint­ing with a group of artists here in Taos—peo­ple I re­spect—and when they saw the first stacked paint­ing they were shocked, but they loved it. I re­ally put it out there. I’d al­ways done art but this made me re­al­ize there’s some­thing within me that’s more im­por­tant than what I learned in dif­fer­ent art sit­u­a­tions. You need to go with who you are.”

She sent her first stacked paint­ing to Coors in 2013. It won best of show. She has been in­cluded in each sub­se­quent show and, in 2017, she was its fea­tured artist.

Some­times the scenes are, in­deed, flat—the side of a red barn with a cow peer­ing out of its dark in­te­rior. “The colors are fun,” she says, “and there’s a face­tious qual­ity to the cows with their plain­tive look. But I don’t want to be an­other South­west artist who does cute.”

Wor­man moved to Taos 22 years ago af­ter the death of her hus­band. She had been “primed with great South­west art” when her par­ents moved to Ok­la­homa and they vis­ited the Gilcrease Mu­seum in Tulsa. In Taos she fell in love with the paint­ings of Ernest Blu­men­schein, whose work she finds more vis­ceral than that of his fel­low mem­bers of the Taos So­ci­ety of Artists. At first it seems sur­pris­ing that she also ad­mires Fran­cis Ba­con, Clyf­ford Still and Richard Diebenkorn but, then, it makes sense. The Ocean Park paint­ings of Diebenkorn also re­sem­ble stacked land­scapes and his prac­tice of scrap­ing and lay­er­ing and leav­ing the his­tory of the paint­ing in its com­po­si­tion finds echoes in her new work. “I like see­ing the pro­gres­sion of his work,” she com­ments. “He grew in dif­fer­ent ways but he main­tained his in­tegrity. I kept get­ting tight and now I’m scratch­ing back and build­ing up and scratch­ing back again.”

She ad­mires Still’s aban­don­ing cau­tion and us­ing tar at one point in his ca­reer. John Updike writes in his poem Gra­da­tions of Black (Third Floor, Whit­ney Mu­seum):

While Clyf­ford Still, in his tall Un­ti­tled, has laid on black in flakes of hard­en­ing tar, a dragon’s scales so slick the viewer’s head is mir­rored, a murky hel­met, as he stands wait­ing for the flame-shaped pas­sion to clear.

Ar­range­ments of Barns VI, oil, 30 x 24". Cour­tesy Trail­side Gal­leries, Scotts­dale, AZ, and Jack­son Hole, WY.

Above: Band of Light, oil, 60 x 48". Cour­tesy the artist. Left: One Cow, One Bird, oil, 12 x 12". Cour­tesy Trail­side Gal­leries, Scotts­dale, AZ, and Jack­son Hole, WY.

Pur­ple Canyon, oil, 20 x 24". Cour­tesy the artist.

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