Local artist and UCSB alumna Ann Diener will showcase her latest project today: a mural painted directly on a wall in the University Art Museum.
The wall-sized work depicts the evolution of Southern California’s farmland and will premiere to the public tonight at 5:30. The reception will take place in the art museum’s Nachman Gallery.
Titled “Ascent,” the drawing is a mixture of abstraction and realism created from a combination of colored pencil, graphite, paint and collage. Running along the 50 by 20 foot wall, the towering composition incorporates earthy elements like blades of grass and a flock of birds.
Elyse Gonzales, the University Art Museum’s Curator of Exhibitions, said Diener’s work is unprecedented, marking the first time the museum has hosted a resident artist.
“This is the first site-specific wall drawing we’ve had here,” Gonzales said. “[It’s] one of the first times we’ve had the museum open to have people watch an artist at work.”
Seven undergraduate students from the Department of Art and the College of Creative Studies — Madalina Mihalache, Shanti Harris, August Edwards, Sasha Karlova, Matthew Reeves, Robbie Zant and Norah Eldredge — assisted the artist during her residency. The students were not only given the chance to offer fresh insight during the nearly month-long creative process but gained first-hand experience by actively participating in the drawing’s actualization.
“I’m excited that it’s here, and I’m really happy that UCSB students were able to participate in the work,” Gonzales said. “It’s kind of lonely now that they’re gone, but it’s lovely to have Ann’s drawing there. It activates the space in a way that it’s never been activated before.”
Diener, who received her M.F.A. from UCSB, said she has been involved in similar projects for many years, although not on this scale.
“I’ve never done anything physically this big before,” Diener said. “I would not say it’s daunting, it’s just physically large … I’ve figured it out — I guess that’s the best way to say it.”
Despite the sheer amount of effort that went into creating “Ascent” — Diener devoted about five hours a day to the piece during her residency — the artist expressed pleasure at being able to work with such talented students.
“I think it’s been a wonderful experience,” Diener said. “[The students] have worked really hard, and they added a lot to the project. It’s really collaborative.”
“Ascent” will be on exhibit until June 20. Diener will also give a free lecture at the University Art Museum on April 23 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. to discuss her latest work.