South Haven Center for the Arts is celebrating Diane Lynn Cheeseman’s art with an exhibit called Water Works. Diane Lynne Cheeseman is a long time resident of South Haven and has lived by at least one of the Great Lakes for almost her entire life. She says she is interested in how the water is ever changing with the daily differences in color and texture on the surface, but also in what goes on down below.
“There are differences in temperature that create currents and eddies and flows under the water," says Cheeseman. "Water can come together, underwater, and make waves crash, settle, relax. Water can stir itself up, way down deep and make it self very opaque and of course, up north can form very large sheets of ice. So, underwater and my imagination of what’s going on underwater, is one of the things that really makes me want to keep painting water. To keep thinking about what’s there, what emotion does this stir up in me?”
While water serves as a subject of her work, water also directly informs and affects her work.
“I’ve always been interested in how water media, which is what I call what I use, can drift and layer," Cheeseman says. "I use acrylic paint which can be thick and solid and even comes out of the tube like toothpaste. But, it can be thinned down to incredibly thin watery stuff, with water or with acrylic medium or with a combination of both things. So, by doing that it makes it easy to put a layer on top of a layer. The only hard thing about it sometimes is waiting for the first layer to dry.”
The art in Water Works spans 40 years of Cheeseman’s career as a painter. Some are figurative works and some are landscapes. Some have titles and some don’t. She encourages viewers to look at a piece of art without always trying to identify what it represents.
“It’s a way of being open and deciding what’s what or what’s not what,” she says. “And is what’s not what fine? Is it important always to be able to identify. I want to backtrack from the idea that you must because I think the longer you look at art, the less you need to be able to identify. Again, you’re absorbing emotion. You’re absorbing the emotion that maybe the artist intended, or you’re absorbing the emotion that you brought to it with your life and your life experiences.”
Cheeseman says some people identify more with her work than others.
“The people that identify with my pieces the most are often people who are children," she says. "They identify with the colors and it doesn’t matter what it is. It’s pretty because it’s got bright colors. The other people who identify with it are people who are willing to stay in front of it and look a little longer.”
Cheeseman teaches painting in workshops. She says she welcomes both advanced artists and those just beginning.
“Even if you’ve painted forever you’re always out of your comfort zone when you start something new. I had an instructor who said…look at this piece of white paper…it’s as beautiful now as it’s ever gonna get…go ahead mess it up. And, I thought that was really good advice. Not to be intimidated by the innate beauty, but to do what comes out of you," says Cheeseman. "Beyond that you need to be satisfied if what comes out you don’t like. So what? It’s one piece of paper…toss it out. It’s not the end of the world.”
Water Works: The Art of Diane Lynne Cheeseman is on display in the galleries of the South Haven Center for the Arts through September 23. The center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m.