Whimsy Family Portraits

VISUAL ART by Gabriel C. Dietz

Artist’s Statement: This series, my first that is strictly acrylic on canvas, represents a departure for me from the more three-dimensional and abstract mixed-media work that I have done in the past. The characters in these works were largely inspired by hallucinations brought on by severe and inexplicable fevers I experienced in early childhood. They first appeared as line drawings that began in my notebooks, made their way into love letters and correspondences, and then swallowed the margins of my class notes. The patterns became more ornate and the population grew more diverse, as new characters introduced themselves to me on scraps of paper. This went on for many years before I took up the task of painting them.

Done in the style of the static family portrait, the work is meant to capture the lighthearted and colorful whimsy of childhood imagination while at the same time exploring the more sinister elements of that faculty. The juxtaposition of warm, inviting colors with strange, and uncanny figures captures the sense of alienation implicit in early childhood, and the collision of internal and external realities that is so prevalent in that period of life.

Gabriel C. Dietz (MAPH’14) has been a performance artist, jeweler, metal arts sculptor, and mixed media visual artist off and on for more than 16 years. He graduated from University of California at Berkeley with a BA in Classics in 2013, and continued his studies in the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities at the University of Chicago, where he wrote a thesis on the mystification of ancient Greek alchemy. His intellectual project entails tracing the history of the occult sciences from antiquity to early modern esoteric movements.