Dyan Rey

Ink Wash Collage'

  Dyan Rey has taught in the Art Department at the University of North Dakota and currently teaches at Northland Community and Technical College, East Grand Forks, Minnesota. She maintains a studio/gallery in downtown Grand Forks.

Artist Statement:

In 2009 my husband Eliot Glassheim and I made a trip to China with a group led by the UND China Studies Program. When we returned, Laurel Reuter of the North Dakota Museum of Art offered to publish a book of the poems Eliot had written on the trip, accompanied by my artwork. It was titled, Foreign Exchange: American Encounters with China.

What follows is a description of the process I went through in producing the series.

At first I wasn't very interested in going to China but once we decided to go, I began to read about it and quickly became very fascinated by its history, culture, and contemporary life. After a couple of days on the trip, I realized that Eliot and I were looking at and for different things. We were both taking a lot of photos. He was particularly interested in the social, political, and economic stories. His photos always had lots of people or tall buildings in them. I, however, was looking for the aesthetic. I was looking for the beautiful, either in landscape or architecture or art. As an artist, when I travel I am always looking for the visual things that might inspire me. In the museums and galleries, I was particularly drawn to the bronzes, ceramics, calligraphy, and painting. I was impressed with the high quality of the work I saw, both ancient and contemporary. I had no idea if there would be any influence on my own work from the trip. At first I thought I would collect flotsam and jetsam to make a colorful collage when I got home. However, I soon discovered that in China there are street sweepers who pick up any stray papers. I resorted to asking the students to give me anything with interesting color and graphics. I came home with a pile of admission tickets and ice cream bar wrappings.

I didn't make one drawing on the trip but instead took photos. ...For me it was a long process after the trip of sorting through ideas including the beginnings of large collages with the flotsam and jetsam I brought back. 

It took considerable time before I settled on the black and white vase collages. At some point I began to cut a vase shape out of some calligraphic ink paintings that I had done many years ago when I was influenced by Abstract Expressionism. These ink paintings were intuitive and spontaneous explorations of mark making. I made a variety of vase shapes and moved them around the large papers until I found the design I wanted. At first I was only going to have the vessel shapes but later concluded they would be better with shapes of plants added to them. I started to think about "Ichebana," the Japanese art of flower arranging and drew inspiration from their asymmetrical compositions.

I've given a lot of thought to how these new works are connected to my other work: what most people don't know is that for many years in the 1980's I only painted with black and white. They were large, lush, plant form abstractions. Also, the vase shapes and plant shapes show up in other works over the years.

Just like Eliot took the form of the Tang Dynasty poems and put his Western content into it, I put the painting style of Western Abstract Expressionism into the forms of Asian vessels.