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Diane Samuels
By Gala Bent
Monday, November 20th, 2006

Artists like Mary Kelly, who documented her baby’s poopy diapers and sleep schedules for the gallery walls, shook things up a bit in the seventies. Before her, Robert Rauschenberg is said to have taken disciplined walks around the city block, returning to his studio with the elements for a single collage. Since then, and certainly before then, there have been many, many approaches to this intricate documentation of a single person’s tiny corner of the universe. Some are truly and maddeningly mundane, while some get a corner on a conceptual blanket through small things and lead us to contemplate a bigger picture.

What I don’t need to see any more of is a grid of photographs of an artist taken every day for a year. What I would like to see more of are things like Diane Samuels’ mapping of an alleyway ( http://www.mattress.org/index.cfm?event=ShowArtist&eid=50&id=253&c=Past), where the result is elegant, accessible and thoughtful. "Mapping Sampsonia Way", installed earlier this year at Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory, zeroes in on the small alley where the artist lives. By obsessively casting the cracks and photographing a long detailed section of the street, I’m sure Samuels attracted those head-wagging, eye-rolling, leave-it-to-an-artist looks by people passing by. But it would be hard for many of them to miss the beauty once Samuels takes the "evidence" into her studio, adding tiny wandering lines of text that document the overheard conversations of the alley, or once they see her almost sacramental filling of one long crack with gold leaf. Her actions reveal a love for this specific place, yes, but are easily seen as a call toward a more thoughtful attention to place and space in general.

Gala Bent is a mother-artist-teacher living in Seattle who enjoys, among other things, this thought: between thesis and antithesis arcs the ever-loving synthesis. www.galabent.com

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