Diane Samuels: The Whale and Other Texts

February 7 - March 15, 2018

Diane Samuels: Moby Dick, Or The Whale, Herman Melville, 2015 Ink on handmade paper, 96 x 564 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Pavel Zoubok Gallery. Photo by: Thomas Little
Moby Dick, Or The Whale, Herman Melville, 2015. Ink on handmade paper, 96 x 564 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Pavel Zoubok Gallery. Photo by: Thomas Little

Closing reception: Thursday, March 8, 6:00 - 9:00 pm; Artist Talk 7:30 pm

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Exhibition at UMass Dartmouth University Art Gallery in Downtown New Bedford, “Diane Samuels: The Whale and Other Texts” is centered around the 8’ wide by 47’ long artwork Moby-Dick, or The Whale. This mesmerizing large scale piece appears to be floating on the gallery floor and spilling off the wall, reflecting on the ocean nearby, the location for the Melville’s famous novel.Pittsburgh based Diane Samuels who often uses text as a element in her visual vocabulary this time creates waves with her meticulous hand-transcriptions created using all of the 701 pages in the novel. Remnants of archival paper and drawings have been recycled and painted over and, in places, drawn and collaged using images that pertain to the specific text. Each page of the book (also exhibited at the gallery) is hand-written as a horizontal row of the drawing, starting with “Call me Ishmael” at the top of the artwork.

Samuels chose Moby-Dick, or The Whale because of Melville’s descriptions of confrontations with “the other” and his archiving and cataloguing of information about whales and the world. In Chapter Three, Ishmael and Queequeg share a room and a bed at the Spouter-Inn. Ishmael describes his terror in meeting Queequeg. Despite cultural, racial, and language differences, the chapter ends with Ishmael’s statement, “I turned in, and never slept better in my life.”

Accompanying this installation is the compressed sound of the artist reading out loud and hand-transcribing each page, creating a layered “audio block”; a dense sound comprised of words and pages, along with the ambient sounds of the artist’s studio. The audio block is the length of the longest page of the book. 

Other artworks also surprise visitors with their intricate hand-transcription in microscript. The Arabian Nights traces the stories told by Scheherazade over 10,000 fragments of papers painted in shades of indigo and crimson and edged in gold. The piece is a literal and figurative “magic carpet” whose central panel is bathed in the blood of the book’s unfortunate heroines and cloaked in the mysterious glow of night. Salman Rushdie’s “Midnight’s Children,” also visually reflects the content of the book, creating a unique composition made from 1001 pieces of paper made in India and joined to form a map of India on August 15, 1947, its date of independence. The “midnight’s children” of the book’s title are the 1001 children born in the first hour of Indian independence.

The exhibition is open through March 15, 2018, with the reception on Thursday, March 8, 6:00 - 9:00 pm. The artist talk, as well as audio recording will begin at 7:30 pm. The Whale and Other Text was curated by Viera Levitt, UMass Dartmouth Gallery Director, born in Slovakia, where she had assisted Diane in her 1998 sound based site-specific installation for the Synagogue - Centre for Contemporary Art in Trnava. 

Thanks to Kris Nuzzi and the Pavel Zoubok Gallery for their wonderful collaboration on this exhibition. 

Biography

Diane Samuels is a visual artist, with studio and public art practices based in Pittsburgh. In both she uses other peoples’ words and handwriting as her literal and figurative raw material. She builds works that accrete from community engagements, layer by layer: layers made of words from interviews and informal conversations with people on the street, in cafes, in their homes; layers made of places from castings, drawings, photographs, audio, maps; and layers made from archival documents, narratives of events, histories, memoirs, folk tales, and literature. She has made drawings by writing out the texts of entire novels in micro-handwriting, converted a two-story glass pedestrian bridge into an anthology of phrases about looking at the world closely, and created artist’s books from sessions transcribing storytellers.

Diane's permanent site-specific artworks include Luminous Manuscript (Center for Jewish History New York) and Lines of Sight (Brown University). Luminous Manuscript was awarded an IFRAA/Faith & Form Award for Religious Art and Architecture in 2005 and is included in Judith Dupré’s 2007 (Random House) book, Monuments: America’s History in Art and Memory. Her exhibitions include the Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Mattress Factory Museum, the Leo Baeck Institute, the Center for Book Arts, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the Contemporary Arts Center of Cincinnati, the Municipal Museum of Art (Gyor, Hungary), the Synagogue Center (Trnava, Slovakia), the Bernheimer Realschule (Buttenhausen, Germany), and the Czech Museum of Fine Arts. Diane's work is in public and private collections including the Carnegie Museum of Art, Bank of New York Mellon, Reed College, Municipal Museum of Art (Gyor, Hungary), the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry.

Samuels holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University, a diploma from the Institute in Arts Administration at Harvard University and has received honorary doctorates from Seton Hill University and Chatham University. She is also co-founder of City of Asylum Pittsburgh, which provides sanctuary to writers in exile. Samuels is a former board member of the Carnegie Museum of Art and the National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education, and is a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania. In 2013 she was recipient of a Rockefeller Bellagio Residency in Italy and an American Academy in Jerusalem Fellowship.

Diane Samuels works with the Pavel Zoubok Gallery in New York City.


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