Corvelle Uses Art as Activism, Speaks to Students

February 23, 2022

Diana Corvelle, a primarily figurative artist, views art as a form of activism and will be discussing this idea in a virtual artist talk on Thursday. This talk comes in advance of a series of demonstrations she will be giving to Marshall art students.  

Originally from New York, Corvelle currently lives in California. She has practiced art professionally since around 2003, when she graduated from college. She currently does a lot of work with portraits and occasionally incorporates paper cutting into her pieces. 

“She’s trained as a figurative painter, so she also has a lot of technical skill and knowledge of human anatomy,” associate art professor Hanna Kozlowski said. “So, a lot of her works incorporate the figure or really portraits. I would say she’s more of a portraiture artist. She mainly works with paint on paper, so everything is done by hand. She also incorporates the technique of paper cutting into some of her pieces.” 

“I majored in illustration in undergraduate school and have a real love of design and the decorative, but I also really love realism,” Corvelle said. “So, I’m combining the two things usually into one. Not every piece of mine has the cut paper element to it, but I’m definitely using that as a decorative component sometimes when I’m doing a portrait—maybe to add to the narrative and to really just have it feel like a fully realized piece. So, I’m using it almost as a drawing element even though its cut paper.” 

The artist talk is entitled, “Art as Activism: Portrait Miniatures” and will be hosted via Zoom. Apart from the virtual talk, Corvelle will work virtually with the art students in two sections of Art 217. She will also do demonstrations and afterwards the students will create portraits of themselves that convey their pandemic experiences. These portraits will then be installed in the student gallery of the Visual Arts Center.  

Corvelle believes that art has the ability to raise awareness about social issues and be a form of activism. 

“I think that artists play a critical role in society,” Corvelle said. “We are able to show things to people—show perspectives to people—in a way that maybe they hadn’t considered before. We’re kind of… inviting people to see things through our eyes. So, when I talk about art as activism, it’s really you paint or you draw or you create what you care about.”  

“So, in terms of a lot of the social issues we’re seeing today, artists play a big role in showing us those issues in a way that they want us to think about them,” Corvelle continued. “So, that’s what I do with my work. I’m trying to engage people through the things that matter to me that I care about.” 

“I think a really basic way to say it,” Kozlowski said, “is that Diana is not interested in just creating realistic portraits or pretty paintings, drawings, or paper cuttings. She is so much more interested in the meaning behind the work and how she can contribute to, for instance, the Me-Too movement. So, she’s really making what I would call ‘socially engaged artwork.’” 

“So, it’s encouraging the viewer to spend time really acknowledging the fact that sexual violence and harassment and also racial violence is sadly an ongoing issue in our society,” Kozlowski continued. “So, it’s like drawing attention to that, but it’s also celebrating and raising the voices of those who have experienced these kinds of situations. So, in that way, it’s a form of activism because it’s trying to highlight something in our society that needs changed.” 

Corvelle will also be giving a presentation on professional practices in relation to being an artist on Mar. 4. 

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