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A year of Artist in Residency at Anne O Art Gallery

Diana Toma

By Diana Toma
Spring 2018 arrives and I’ve been dreaming about creating large-sized paintings for quite a while. Problem is: my home studio is not adequate for painting and storing multiple large pieces. It must be my lucky day – as I scroll through my Facebook feed I notice a friend’s post. It says gallery in Buckhead is looking for a new Artist in Residence and lists a phone number. I call immediately. An interview gets set up, and I go to meet a bright-eyed wondrous woman. It’s Anne, the founder of Anne O Art. I discover quickly that it’s very important for her to find an artist whose character and work feeds connection, belonging, trust and positivity. We immediately click.
Anne O Art describes itself as a gallery of inquiry and illumination. It is where artists’ voices are shared through their work in ways that light the hearts of those pondering what they see. “We all walk through life with unanswered questions – the purpose here is to provide a venue and opportunity to consider answers we may never have heard before.” Gallery artists work the space in exchange for visibility. Guest artists become a part of the fabric of the team, sharing in the on-going public/private conversation.
I am welcomed with enthusiasm as the new artist in residence and I start right away. I have a giant wall to use as I please. My most favorite part? People can walk in from the street and strike up a conversation with me. You see, I am one of those artists who gets lit up by conversations, by connection, by sharing. This studio space fits me like a glove. 
The use of the gallery’s studio space is organized in such a way that I am there 7 hours in a row, and this structure gives me what I was missing in my home studio. It’s difficult as an independent artist to have the discipline to reserve long blocks of time for pure investigation, though that is exactly what is necessary for taking a stand for the uninhibited use of playfulness, creativity, and ingenuity. “Play is the highest form of research” Einstein said. The work I’m taking on is a fast, free-flowing painting release, designed to support creative un-blockage. The goal is to experience a jubilant new found joy, transforming my state of being through creating art. Painting this way is an opportunity to be intensely present in the moment. I discover that when observing wholeheartedly, I relate. I experience a communion with my subject’s essence: there is profound meaning to be found in the place where we overlap. My paintings become glimpses of such extra-Ordinary moments, bringing a sense of wonder, engaging me at an emotional level. 
My year of residency is now coming to an end. This experience has been teaching me so much about myself as an artist, about how others view art, about what matters to people who walk through a gallery door. I’ve been having conversations with countless visitors while fulfilling my dream to create large paintings. My biggest piece is 6 by 6 feet – a bird’s eye view cityscape of spaghetti junction, a classic landmark for Atlantans. I’ve been investigating painting multiple pieces at the same time in acrylic, and I’ve been testing the possibilities of painting a soft medium like watercolor on very large sizes. This time at Anne O Art has been offering me the unique opportunity to immerse myself in pure investigation for the sake of artistic exploration. The studio space at the gallery has become a sacred space of growth. 
To my delight my proposal to have a solo art show to showcase my work done at Anne O Art was warmly accepted. On May 18th I invite you to come to the art reception and witness my one year of adventure with paint. The solo show will run from May 18 to June 30th. When you stop by the art reception make sure to come and talk to me – mention that you read this article. This is what artists like me love most – have open, unpretentious conversations with the viewers. I hope to see you there!
You can find Diana everywhere online @ArtByDianaToma / www.ArtByDianaToma.com

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