Perspectives on Life, at the Moosewood

Perspectives on Life, Paintings by Diana Ozolins  

Resistance 18x24 oil o/c

Resistance 18×24 acrylic

Through the month of September, 2014, I will have a series of paintings exhibited at the Moosewood Restaurant. This was a great opportunity to show several series that span a number of years. In the Cafe, there will be the most of the environmental disaster and political upheaval series – food for thought, along with information packets about the issues portrayed. In the large dining room, I have enough space to spread out the second Schoodic series, as well as paintings done at the St. Lawrence and some recent plain air paintings done in Ithaca. The following is the artist statement that explains this show. The Moosewood Restaurant is located in Dewitt Mall, corner of Seneca and Cayuga Streets in Ithaca, NY.

Artist Statement

I chose the pieces for this show with a mind towards balancing celebrating the beauty of life in this exquisite world, and keeping a thoughtful perspective on the outrageous violence and destruction that we humans can inflict upon nature and each other.

Fire and Ice 16x20 oil/canvas

Fire and Ice 16×20 oil/canvas

Half of these paintings portray political upheaval, natural disaster, and violent acts. I ask myself, how can life go on in a place where at every moment one can anticipate death; where people live in rubble, and have no way of meeting basic human needs for food, water, sanitation, education, freedom of movement and employment. People are fleeing unspeakable conditions, only to die on the way or to crowd into even more horrid conditions. In Ithaca, there are many families in diaspora, bringing with them stories of survival in conditions of war and oppression, having rebuilt their lives here. It seems that the capacity for inflicting misery on fellow human beings is only increasing. We commit thoughtless acts of violence against the natural world as well which endangers the beauty and resources that we take for granted but need so much for our survival and well being. Incredibly resilient creatures, we have a capacity for survival, but we are coming dangerously close to reducing the ability of the earth to sustain us. Do we have the capacity to change our ways? I paint these images to come to terms with the turmoil and despair that the daily news can stir up within me. I display them to keep these issues in the collective consciousness of our community.

Bill & Jack's Sunset #2 20x27 o/c

Bill & Jack’s Sunset #2 20×27 o/c

Clinging to life with little to no hope is not what life is meant to be. There is so much more possible by way of beauty and joy, music and laughter. The world is rich with resources to fill our basic needs and satisfy our desires. That is why the other half of these paintings celebrates the beauty that abounds in nature. Nature should not just be a balm to sooth our wounds or an elixir to make our spirits strong. We are not by nature weak and wounded creatures. We evolved within a system, though harsh and rigorous at times, that abounds with the resources we need for a beautiful life. Nature provides nourishment not just to grow strong bodies but also to please our palate. It provides not just materials to clothe and house us but to do so with art. We can continue to list the benefits, but it is more important to remind ourselves that we have the responsibility to treat the earth gently, not take more than it has the ability to replenish, and to distribute the resources equitably so that all can benefit.

I hope these paintings can help us think carefully about the way we use the world and whether every interaction with our neighbors and strangers is conducted with dignity and respect. Then, as you dine on the Moosewood’s fine cuisine, I hope you enjoy the beautiful landscapes.


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Up Close and Personal at State of the Art in August 2014

Artist Statement

October 21Lenore's Backyard in Newfieldoil on canvas, 12x24"$500

October 21
Lenore’s Backyard in Newfield

oil on canvas, 12×24″

I paint landscapes and figurative works, both on location from nature, and in my studio from photos. My work is about the paint – oil or acrylic, thick and luscious or thin and subtle, but always with a mind towards color. Working with a palette knife, the subject is broken down into chips and strokes of color, obvious up close, but snapping into focus as a detailed and realistic landscape when viewed from a distance. I start with composition, looking for an intimate landscape where I am close enough to the elements to capture the parts of objects where they intersect. I strive for intensity and a sense of depth and space within the flat surface of the canvas. My subject matter includes traditional pastoral landscapes as well as urban forms, and responses to environmental crises or political events. This show contains the best of my landscape paintings from the past two years.

Plein air painting provides a passionate engagement with paint, capturing a moment by being in the moment, surrounded by nature, and shaping a composition from it. The smaller paintings in this collection are done outside, usually in one session. The palette knife enables me to paint with speed and energy, necessary because I must be done in only two or three hours. The light changes in that amount of time and creates a different scene.

Winter's EndSapsucker ReflectionsOil on canvas, 12x12,$400

Winter’s End: Sapsucker Reflections
Oil on canvas, 12×12,

When I find a scene that inspires me, I start to rough in the paint, moving around the canvas so that the image takes focus gradually in all parts. At first I work with my largest palette knife, so no detail is possible, and work very thinly, scraping the paint into the surface. I like to lay down at least a sample of my lightest and darkest tones and a bit of my most intense color in order to establish the range. When the canvas is covered the first time, I can evaluate the painting for composition and scale. Almost always some things need to be made bigger, and others eliminated.

This requires scraping off paint, and applying fresh. Sometimes the whole scene can be repositioned. Then I start supplying complexity of color in order to create volume, depth, and light. I might apply two or three layers of paint on top of each other, using a light touch and lots of paint controlling where it sticks and where it slides. The earliest painting in this show was “Winter’s End: Sapsucker Reflections,” painted in March of 2013 at Sapsucker woods. It was the first beautiful day of spring, with a chill still in the air, but brilliant sunshine.

stream at Uppper Buttermilk, oil on canvas, 14x18"

Stream at Uppper Buttermilk, oil on canvas, 14×18″

The most recent is “Upper Buttermilk Stream,” painted on June 27 of this year, which was a hot mosquito slapping day.

The studio is important as a refuge to continue painting during the harsh winter months, and as a place of quiet reflection. The larger paintings on display here are done in the studio, either from photos, small oil sketches, or sometimes just from memory or feeling. As I work on those paintings I try to bring the same energy to them as in the smaller paintings, but these are more complex in their use of paint. I have to scrape them down at the end of each painting session, because texture at that point would interfere with making changes in composition or correcting proportion, scale, or perspective. When I get to the point where I know what I’m doing with the painting, in the final paint sessions, I build up the texture of the canvas as a whole. A painting could take one day or several months.

” Looking East” and “Woods in Pennsylvania” were both done in spurts of creativity and then weeks of observation and reflection. The first was inspired by the sunrise over my backyard in January. Snow was partially melted and I was intrigued

Looking East, oil on canvas, 18x28

Looking East, oil on canvas, 18×28

by the play of the cool colors of snow and warm colors of dried grasses of winter fields. After breakfast, I started it from memory and feeling. I later used photos to make sure the scale was correct. “Woods in Pennsylvania” was done as a commission using the client’s summer photograph of his favorite place. My task was to imagine the same place with fall foliage. I determined the species of the trees, and researched their fall colors. Both of these paintings were periodically hung in my living room where I could glance at them with detached interest. In this way it gradually became clear what needed to be added or changed.

Woods in Pennsylvania, oil on canvas, 20x30"

Woods in Pennsylvania, oil on canvas, 20×30″

Some of these paintings take years before they are resolved. “Plantations Patio” and “Mad River” are two paintings that I started two years ago. Putting a painting away and periodically looking at it with fresh eyes is important to getting a painting right. I continued to see potential in these two, but it took a while to be able to name and fix their flaws. The issue was scale. There were too many objects, and they were not the right size in proportion to each other. They could not fit within the space I was depicting. I removed extraneous elements making some larger, and the paintings came to life.

 Plantations Patio, oil on canvas, 12x16"

Plantations Patio, oil on canvas, 12×16″


I live and paint full time in Ithaca, NY. I studied art at Syracuse University, Cortland College, TC3, and afterward under the mentorship of Gillian Pederson Craig and George Dugan. I continue to learn and grow through the collegial relationships and invaluable support of my critique group and my association with fellow artists at the State of the Art Gallery. Another selection of my work will be at the Moosewood Restaurant during September. You can see more of the paintings in this show by by clicking on 2013-2014 at the top of this page.

Mad River, oil on canvas, 12x12"

Mad River, oil on canvas, 12×12″

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Getting ready for a Show

  cleaning  frames

cleaning frames

Having a show in a gallery requires a lot more than painting. While the paint is drying, we are busy photographing the artwork, preparing digital images, and producing publicity materials such as posters, postcards, rack cards, press releases for newspapers and website, and writing artist statements. And then there’s framing, which includes taking stock of what frames are already in hand, ordering, and biting nails while waiting for them to arrive. It is a time consuming and repetitive chore, but I like it because it puts the finishing touches on the painting. Continue reading

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August at the Gallery

Up Close and Personal

Looking East, oil on canvas, 18x28

Looking East, oil on canvas, 18×28

During August I will be showing landscape paintings at the State of the Art Gallery in Ithaca. I will be sharing the Gallery with Margy Nelson, and showing work from the past two years. There will be a collection of smaller canvases done outside, mostly familiar scenes from Ithaca and a few from places where I have traveled. I will have some larger works that took a longer period of time. Angel Wing Begonia was painted in my kitchen, looking out onto the front porch where the begonia was growing in a pot. Looking East was started from memory one day after seeing the pattern of shadows and light in my back garden early in the morning. The scenes from Taughannock and the Pennsylvania Woods were started and finished using photographs.

The show will be up July 30 to August 31, with an opening reception on August 1, from 5:00 tp 8:00 pm.

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eARTh: a Celebration. May 2014 at the State of the Art Gallery

This month, the State of the Art Gallery presents eARTh: a Celebration. The works examine the state of our changing planet and our role as artists and citizens. My three paintings respond to issues of climate change caused by our life style: over-consumption of fossil fuels and misuse of our land and water resources.


Swamps Burning

Swamps Burningacrylic on canvas, 20x20"$600

Swamps Burningacrylic on canvas, 20×20″

Drought, draining the swamp for agriculture, and over demand for water consumption are destructive forces. On my recent trip to Florida I saw these forces at work. Thick clouds of smoke obscured the highway as we drove through a wild fire, grass burning on both sides of the highway. I visited the beautiful Everglades and learned that it is being sustained by artificial irrigation and periodic flooding.

Michael Grunwald. Why the Everglades is Burning, and How We Sucked it Dry. 22 May 2008


Fire and Ice

Robert Frost wrote “How will the world end? Fire or Ice…” Perhaps the answer is both, in a paradoxical way – Global warming could plunge North America and Western Europe into a deep freeze. The melting of the polar ice caps can destroy one of the feedback loops – the Gulf Stream- that helps the earth maintain its temperature equilibrium. “Without the vast heat that these ocean currents deliver–comparable to the power generation of a million nuclear power plants–Europe’s average

Fire and Ice16 x 20 oil on canvas$550

Fire and Ice

16 x 20 oil on canvas

temperature would likely drop 5 to 10°C (9 to 18°F), and parts of eastern North America would be chilled somewhat less. Such a dip in temperature would be similar to global average temperatures toward the end of the last ice age roughly 20,000 years ago.”

A Chilling Possibility. NASA Science News.



In “Discontinuities” I was thinking about the need to reverse these devastating greenhouse effects. This painting started with the same colors and initial composition as “Swamps are

Burning”, but I turned it with every succeeding revision. I had never done that before, and it gave me a fresh perspective on the painting at every turn. I made changes that I wouldn’t have thought of had I stayed with my usual habit of painting in one orientation.


Discontinuities20 x 20 Acrylic on canvas$600

20 x 20 Acrylic on canvas

A quick google search on the internet uncovers scores of articles and lists of things we can do as individuals, as well as things we need to urge our government to enact to reverse climate change. We know what we need to do, or do we? Even though we may believe that we are destroying our environment and need to do something different, we struggle to keep our way of life unchanged. From the point of view of being immersed in our daily lives, it can be very difficult to imagine how life could be different, and yet very satisfying. We need to do a radical shift in our thinking and our way of life. Having unlimited quantities of invisible energy that we can just plug an appliance into whenever, how often, and for as long as we want does not let us imagine that energy is anything other than infinite. If we relied on wind or solar energy, there might be days when we would need to be willing to put off vacuuming or doing laundry until the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. Our water materializes seemingly from nowhere, and disappears after it is used and becomes waste. It is so hard to imagine water as being a precious and limited resource, easy to contaminate and difficult to clean. Our garbage disappears in the middle of the night when we put it out on the curb. We don’t get the chance to see the mountains  of landfills that grow far away from us in someone else’s backyard. It is hard to imagine what people did before the availability of plastic to wrap our food, and paper towels and tissues to clean up with. “Will we look into the eyes of our children and confess that we had the opportunity but lacked the courage? that we had the technology but lacked the vision?” (a quote from Greenpeace: Energy (R)evolution). We don’t have all the answers to the questions, or all the technological pieces to put together the solution. We definitely need some adjustment to our vision –by  looking farther down the road beyond now, and casting a wider glance beyond here. It is ironic, though, considering how we were exhorted in the 60’s to try to just “be here now”. We need to re-envision what life could be like as we go from thinking about where we are personally and locally in the present  to where we could be collectively and globally in the future.


Greenpeace: Energy [R]evolution 2010A blueprint for revolutionizing a broken energy economy.

 Naomi Klein. The Change Within: The Obstacles We Face Are Not Just External. The Nation. April 22, 2014

Michael Grunwald. Why the Everglades is Burning, and How We Sucked it Dry. 22 May 2008

A Chilling Possibility. NASA Science News.


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