Diane Andrews Hall

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Artist Interviews: Diane Andrews Hall

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In 1969 Diane Andrews Hall moved with husband Doug Hall to San Francisco from the Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore where she had been studying with Grace Hartigan. “This was a tumultuous time for many of my generation that led some of us to imagine new social orders and, as artists, more radical ways of operating.” Joined by Jody Procter, Doug Hall’s college roommate, the three artists organized into a collective, which became, after a few name changes, T. R. Uthco. “Our intent was to be disruptive, aesthetically adventurous, to be relevant, although I’m not sure we would have expressed our aspirations that way in 1970.” During this period, the early to mid-1970s, the group expanded and contracted depending on the projects, and in relation to collaborations with other Bay Area artists and collectives. “With T. R. Uthco I assumed the role that was most comfortable for me, away from the spotlight, behind the camera, taking photographs, helping to stage events.” During the 1970s, Andrews Hall took all of T.R. Uthco’s iconic photographs as well as many of those for other Bay Area artists and collectives. “Photography, and to a lesser extent video and performance, helped me to visualize time, to arrest it in its fleetingness.” But as an artist whose process had included a materiality in conjunction with conceptual foundations, Andrews Hall found herself pulled back to painting and drawing, “activities that anchored me to the world and to myself.” 

Within this collective environment, a pivotal work, Swimmer, emerged in 1976. With a dozen or so 
artists, organized both individually and as collectives, Andrews Hall went on location to the Sea of Cortez in Baja, California to pursue aesthetic, social, and scientific investigations– some in the group were recording sounds from under the sea, some were attempting to play music to the dolphins and whales, while others were investigating ways to desalinate the ocean water, or simply taking inspiration from the surroundings. One of Andrews Hall’s projects involved having a member of the group take a series of photos of her swimming, a private performance that engaged the landscape with the intention of turning the images into a series of drawings. “The images embraced many of the things I was thinking about: light, transience, motion, and time – observations that I have continued to grapple with in my work ever since.” 

In these early drawings and others from this period, she felt that she had discovered a mark – not the expressionistic mark that is embedded in Modernism, but the restrained mark of acute observation – one that was compatible with her sensibilities and could stand in for what she was feeling and seeing. 

Combining the forces of painting and drawing, observation, and photography (all works are based on her own photographs), Andrews Hall integrated another passion into her practice: music. She started playing the piano as a child and continues to this day. “Painting and drawing share at least one thing with music: both mark time. Painting and drawing do so through the accumulation of marks, which, through our eyes, we combine into images; music does it through an arrangement of notes that reach us as organized sounds over time.”* In several of her paintings there are direct references to music. When included in the paintings, the musical symbols provide pauses or stoppages and “suggest analogies between looking and listening, between our experience of marks on a surface and sounds in the air.”* Her practice of introducing colored squares into the picture planes of some paintings, although lacking direct references to music, function similarly. “They are like obstructions or unexpected notes in the composition. They expand meaning beyond pure representation into the areas that really interest me: time, movement, and the transience of all things.”