The art of Diana Hansen is a unique combination of the traditional and personal. Her paintings and prints use traditional techniques and images as a framework for Hansen's own experience of the world; a view of reality that goes beyond the individual to the universal. "As an artist, I am influenced by everything," she said, "but my work actually comes from another reality. It is another way of seeing."
For the major part of her life, that "other reality" has been closely aligned with the American Indian. Born in San Francisco in 1942 and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Hansen has been living and working in Rome since 1963. Her environment, however, has not influenced her art as much as her involvement with American Indian art and culture. She owns a large library of books on Indian mythology and has written a number of books herself on the American Indian. Having studied art at an Indian Cultural Center as a child, she feels strongly that "American Indian culture is the only official American culture."
Her richly textured etchings are reminiscent of metaphysical Indian sand paintings, and many of her titles refer to Indian rituals and religious ceremonies. But, like American Indian artists, Hansen is not interested in academic imitations. She simply allows her images to appear spontaneously from her unconscious. In this way, the traditional colors and symbols of the Navajo, Pima, Hopi and other Indian tribes become transformed into a contemporary vision that uses the past to illuminate the present.
As a printmaker, Hansen has experimented with a wide range of techniques and processes. Most recently, she developed her own technique of hand-painted relief prints. Each print is a unique image with a rare, sculptural elegance. Her etchings are even more subtle and intimate, with sand-like textures and touches of bright blue, yellow and red. Each print is a delicate and complex composition of geometric shapes with multiples of circles and semi-circles, interlocking squares and rectangles, triangles that become arrows and themes which dissolve into smaller and smaller variations.
While Hansen's prints are strongly influenced by American Indian motifs, similarities to European artists such as Klee, Miro, and Kandinsky can be seen as well. This influence is even more pronounced in her newer paintings, which are more completely within the European tradition.
Her decision to start working more directly from "real objects" came while traveling with a friend who is a photographer. He convinced her that there was "more abstraction in nature than in the human brain." "I was accused of being unrealistic by painting American Indian themes while living in Rome," she said. "The new paintings are very realistic, but they come from the same spiritual source as the American Indian work. I feel that subject matter is basically irrelevant."
As in all of Hansen's work, the images become gateways to a different view of reality, a vision of worlds within worlds that remains essentially timeless.