An interview with artist, Diana Behl

Diana Behl

Diana Behl

Diana Behl is one of my favorite artists ever. Diana’s abstract print, collage and drawing work is visually poetic. Her pieces exist in their own universe and tell stories that skip language altogether and hit straight in the heart. It’s a huge honor to interview her and learn more about her art practice.

CS: Where do you currently live and work? How long have you been there?
DB: I currently live and work in Brookings, SD, where I am an Associate Professor in the School of Design at South Dakota State University. I moved here in August 2005, after accepting this job.

CS: Where are you from?
DB: I was born and raised in NE Ohio, just outside of Cleveland.

CS: How did you get started as an artist?
DB: As an early teen I was interested in writing and was involved in a creative writing program for young writers called Power of the Pen. Through this program I participated in writing tournaments during which we were given prompts. Although I was never able to finish my stories within the allotted time, it planted a seed and drive for inquiry and experimentation. I was challenged to build narratives, to interpret and react to the written word. The curiosity and playfulness sensed as a kid lingered—these are all characteristics practiced in my studio today.

Diana Behl,  middle way,  printed, painted and drawn collage, 16x16 inches

Diana Behl, middle way, printed, painted and drawn collage, 16x16 inches

CS: Tell me about your current artistic practice. Is there a routine or rhythm to your days and weeks?
DB: Different times of the year dictate my routine. In the summer I work primarily in the print studio at the university where I work. During the academic year I spend quite a bit of time in my home studio, which is a tiny bedroom. But I also view the everyday as part of that same practice...

CS: When are you most creative? When are you most productive?
DB: When I have larger blocks of uninterrupted time. There are different kinds of productivity. There’s the generation of physical objects or what is eventually shared with the world: preparing works for an exhibit or shipments, printing multiples, editing writing. There is also the sorting things out–weighing options–uncovering newness–frustration or acceptance of not understanding kinds of productivity. I think I am most creative when I am in the margins of those positions.

Diana Behl,  Maps (a key),  line etching with gouache/monoprint, 18x19.5 inches

Diana Behl, Maps (a key), line etching with gouache/monoprint, 18x19.5 inches

CS: What did your artwork look like when you first started in your career and how has it changed since then?
DB: The time spent in the print studio at Bowling Green State University is a place that was fundamental in forming who I am. Janet Ballweg created a space and facilitated a community of people who challenged and supported me. My experience at The University of Iowa was similar. It’s a place that attracts great artists and people. All of these spaces and people have affected me.

To answer your question more directly, I have always been interested in line and repetition—it started with etching and has developed further through drawing. The work has evolved as I shift the approach to content or project development.

Diana Behl,  letter after,  intaglio, 9x12 inches,

Diana Behl, letter after, intaglio, 9x12 inches,

CS: How does teaching impact your art practice and vice versa?
DB: Being a teaching artist is a reciprocal process. I learn new things by figuring out how to present them to other people, approaching topics through different angles, or by students’ questions and processes of discovery. Many of my philosophies as an educator are derived from my personal studio practice, and vice versa.

CS: What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
DB: This answer changes depending on when I’m asked… right now a mechanical pencil that uses .5 lead and black Le Pens.

Diana Behl,  and branching,  printed, painted and drawn collage, 22x22 inches

Diana Behl, and branching, printed, painted and drawn collage, 22x22 inches

CS: What were the toughest decisions and/or sacrifices you’ve made for your career?
DB: Moving to Brookings, SD—although teaching has shaped and taught me a lot about my work and myself.

CS: What would you do with an extra hour in the day?
DB: Exercise and sleep.

CS: Are you more of an introvert or extrovert?
DB: I am a blend of both, but generally need and enjoy a lot of alone time.

Diana Behl, in progress drawing

Diana Behl, in progress drawing

CS: How can people show support for the arts even if they might not be in the market to purchase artwork?
DB: Show up to events and engage with artists during those events. Ask questions, share their work, participate in and promote a dialogue and discussion about why art and our conversations are elemental parts of our lived experience.

CS: Do you have any upcoming shows or current events?
DB: I am working through the midst of new things, new work, slowly finishing a portfolio comprised of 26 tiny etchings… stay tuned!

Where to find Diana Behl and her work online
Flickr: Diana Marie
Instagram: @papersleuth