BRUCE HAINLEY I was talking to someone about Willem de Kooning and learned that throughout his life he was obsessed with certain colors of oil paint, in particular alizarin crimson and a certain green—maybe phthalo green? Do you have particular colors that you gravitate toward or that you actively try not to use?
DIANNA MOLZAN That makes sense. Those are two especially accosting colors, very strong. And yes, I do seriously obsess about color and often return to in-between, paradoxical types: colors that can be called warm/cool, sharp/mild, appealing/repellent or high/low. You could say a single color that can be read as discordant in itself. Maybe it has less to do with a few persistent colors for me, and more to do with always seeking a complicated one that isn’t easily assimilated or expected in a certain context.
BH In terms of seeking those discordant and even self-discordant types of color, do you find solutions or inspiration just as frequently in nature as in culture? Or, to be more specific, in qualities of weather, ocean and desert light; variegations of sages, heathers and other flowers, and/or fashion—for some reason Jean Muir comes to mind—movies and design, like Memphis? Do you keep a sketchbook to track the discordant, among other things?
DM I like the bougainvillea that grows all over LA because the same plant will explode with different clashing clusters of hot fuchsia, cool red and bleached-out orange, and it always looks “wrong” to me. But when it comes to my paintings, human-design choices and attitudes about color are what inspire me most, and not color for the sake of color and not the givens of nature. Having said that, Henri Fantin-Latour’s floral paintings are some of my favorites. The quality of the diffused somber light he captures is much like the overcast light of the Pacific Northwest where I grew up. So it’s not that I am indifferent to qualities of nature or how other artists have been inspired by it, it’s just that I’m more interested in exploring the unspoken rules of what governs a floral still-life painting.
Why do we assign special significance to certain flowers and compositions and colors while viewing others as more or less desirable, both in and outside of art? I have a lot of iPhone pictures of flowers as visual notes, and most of them lack a clear central point and have a full-frame claustrophobic composition—much like my floral paintings. But the floral paintings are always a vague amalgam of “flower” that never corresponds to an actual type or existing image.