Chemainus’ Diana Durrand is a multi-talented artist, but has a unique specialty.
Durrand, 70, is well-known for her paper dolls portrait series.
This is where an explanation is in order from her: “As children many of us played with paper dolls, carefully cutting out with scissors the costumes and folding the white tabs around the cardboard forms. The paper doll becomes the metaphor and the fabric a new palette, which I use to explore physical, emotional and intellectual perspectives about what it means to be human in our complex world and how we reveal and conceal ourselves in our ‘second skin’. Through collage, I want to echo the fabrics’ patterns, strength and beauty in often vibrant backgrounds that envelope and embrace the subject in time, mood and place.”
She originally wanted to do about 40 in the series, but it’s taken on a life of its own.
“That’s always fascinated me,” Durrand said. “I use fabric and I collage it on the canvas and I work on the portrait. I’m always experimenting. I usually have something in mind and I have to figure out how to build it.”
She’s developed quite a following on Facebook for the paper doll series. In most cases, each piece requires a closer inspection because it’s very hard to even spot the fabric from a distance. It all blends in nicely and just looks like a vibrant painting.
Durrand was born in Revelstoke and moved to Victoria at the age of 12, graduating from Claremont Secondary School before attending UVic where she obtained a Fine Art degree.
“I ended up doing a lot of mixed media,” she pointed out.
Durrand got into sculpture but not in the traditional sense and also used a lot of found objects in her art.
She went to England for a couple of years before returning to Victoria and settled in Chemainus in 2015.
“I’ve always painted, but I’ve always had jobs to support my painting,” Durrand noted.
In Victoria, she always belonged to cooperatives, artist-run galleries like the Gage Gallery.
That’s where a Durrand art exhibition called 100 Sleeping Dandelions took place in April of 2018.
She portrayed the common dandelion using bold paintings, delicate drawings and elegant sculptures to shed new light on the much-maligned species.
“From root to flower the dandelion is an edible, useful plant, its medicinal properties common knowledge among herbalists the world over,” Durrand said at the time.
“With this eclectic body of work my goal is to represent the many aspects of the dandelion I have experienced, from my earliest delights as a child, to the nihilistic adult attitude that has been cultivated by the home and garden industry. I’m hoping viewers can tap into some of their own childhood memories of picking, smelling, tasting and exchanging dandelions.”
Since coming to Chemainus, Durrand became a member of the Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society and has been a featured artist at Rainforest Arts.
“All the visual artists have 1-3 pieces in the gallery at all times,” she noted.
Durrand has also teamed up on projects with husband Craig Spence, a former editor of the Ladysmith Chronicle and also a member of the CVCAS.
“I’ve done illustrations for him before,” she said. “We cross over a lot.”
They’re working on a book collaboratively with words from Spence and pictures from Durrand that started out short but has developed into a longer story. “I think we might divide it up,” Durrand indicated.
The first stories Spence had published were children’s books for the 9-12-year-old age group.
“We help each other a lot,” Durrand added. “He helps me out with my bios and artist statements for shows.”
Her artwork became famous in the neighbourhood with the colourful touches she made to a book box at the corner of Cook and Humber Streets.
“That was wonderful and people are using it a lot,” said Durrand. “The turnover is incredible.”
With COVID, life has been quite different for artists used to the camaraderie that comes from sharing their trade with others. Even though there’s been more solitude, it’s still a saving grace to have that pastime for so many.
“It’s the only thing that’s been consistent in my life is art,” said Durrand.
“I work just about every day.”
Portraits are something she’s always wanted to do, but not strictly realism. That’s where the paper doll method worked wonders.
“I’m a very late bloomer,” Durrand confided. “At 70, I finally figured out how I want to portray people. That, for me, it was perfect. It was always something I wanted to do. I’m never short of ideas, I’m fortunate that way.”
You can check out www.dianadurrand.com to view the evolution of her art over the years.