Beauty Amidst Decay

Beauty Amidst Decay

Artist hopes ‘to haunt the viewer just a little’


“With photography these days, in order to stand out you need to present your work in new and exciting ways — so I went BIG,” artist Diana Michelle says of her show “Darkness Through Light,” hanging now at Arsaga’s at the Depot in Fayetteville. “My canvas pieces are 5 feet wide. I absolutely love it at that size. I also have several pieces on metal — which looks really great.”

The images themselves would almost certainly have been compelling on their own, coming from the photographer who documented the evocative story of reclusive artist Tim West. “I am more attached to the ones that creep people out,” Diana Michelle admits. “I hope to haunt the viewer just a little bit.

“The art I am making is my personal style,” she continues. “I only make art that I love. I do not make art that I hope to sell as much as I hope for people to see. People find it interesting, but it may make people uncomfortable enough to not put in the house, you know?

“These are my feelings stated outwardly. It is just the way I express myself, which is safer and saner to me as an artist,” she adds. “Also, there is a lot of fear in these images, and I think it shows. I am always fearing for my life when I trespass.

“After it is all over with, there is the exhilaration, the rush for having conquered a place. There are many places that I stalk for a while before I work up the nerve, just to go back and find it torn down. That makes me sad, and I never forget those places, those missed opportunities and stories I will never be able to tell, pictures untaken.”

Originally from Little Rock, Diana Michelle moved to Hot Springs first to go to school, then came to Fayetteville to finish a degree in biology.

“I stuck around because it is so nice here and eventually got another degree in fine art with an emphasis in photography,” she explains. “I will probably never use that biology degree — just paying for it for the next 20-plus years!”

She can trace the fascination with abandoned places back to childhood drives to her grandparents’ home in Hattieville, Ark., “and paying special, close attention to all the abandoned houses nearby. I guess there has always been a connection there. I was always curious as to what was inside and how incredibly beautiful those houses looked in a state of decay, showing the passage of time. There is just something about that.”

Other female photographers have also inspired Diana Michelle, “especially Mary Ellen Mark, Diane Arbus and Sally Mann,” she says. “The difference in my work is my subjects are not people. I generally find my muses inside these old houses and, while I feel they have emotions like people, they are not people — until they become alive to me. If I don’t have that, then I do not have a picture.

“These images come few and far between as I am very picky in my selections. If the image does not sing to me, then no one will ever see it.”



‘Darkness Through Light’:

Photographs By Diana Michelle

WHEN — Through June 1

WHERE — Arsaga’s at the Depot in Fayetteville

COST — Free; artwork is for sale


Categories: Cover Story