When I first encountered the work of artist Diana Hobson in Venice, I was not very familiar with abstract art generally nor Hobson’s works in particular. But the large, bold canvases seen at her studio on Abbot Kinney intrigued me, and so I began to learn more about the artist and more about abstract art. The challenge for a novice about abstract art is learning to look beyond our instinctive representational response to see just what the artist has focused on. Diana Hobson makes her works emotionally accessible. She can capture the attention and make you look over the work again and again, exploring the sensibility embedded in the painting.
She is an impressive personality to meet, someone who has a clear vision of herself and a confident determination. The story of her art career shows that determination. She obviously enjoys life and that enjoyment is infused in her paintings. She stays connected to the community of artists, as well as continuing to paint every day. The works from the span of her career display a progression of distinct styles, each demonstrating a signature Hobson vibrancy.
When she was eight, she chanced to see a reproduction of El Greco’s “Toledo in the Storm.” The painting inspired her to pursuit art. She promptly began expressing herself visually then and hasn’t stopped in all the years since. She was educated at the Connecticut College for Women and Trinity University. After that, she began pursuing her desire in creating art. She had some early showings in New York, and then moved to the West Coast, staying bi-coastal as an artist.
She settled in Venice, and in order to finance her life as a single parent and artist, she worked in real estate. That sense of determination pulled her through, for she continued painting while raising her children. She plugged into the art community in Venice and became one of the major participants in the early days of the Venice Art Walk. She continued painting regularly in her studio, establishing herself on the renowned Abbot Kinney Boulevard, in the heart of Venice. Her work has been shown in various exhibitions in the greater Los Angeles area such as exhibitions presented by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in 1977 and 1978. She has also had her work shown in New York venues like the Merchantile Exchange and in international exhibits, such as being the featured artist in a display at the Nagoya City Museum in Nagoya, Japan.
Learning more about abstract art generally and Diana Hobson’s work in specific has made me appreciate her paintings even more. It is possible to see the inspiration of El Greco in her bold, idiosyncratic style. She has also pointed to Wassily Kandinsky, considered the father of Abstract Art, as a significant influence on her work. “Much talk is heard in these times about art as a tool of self-expression. I would hold that it is at least equally important as a means of recording an era,” she commented in one interview. Her abstract works do the recording in an elemental fashion, focusing more on color and energy than on strictly representational impressions of their subjects.
One reviewer has called her work “quasi-architectural.” There certainly is a sense of careful planning in her compositions. She has said, “My paintings are usually about something, despite their abstract character. Their meanings are frequently alluded to by their titles. I particularly emphasize psychological states as produced by color and combinations and composition.” Understanding this aspect of her approach has increased my appreciation of several of her pieces, where the title of the work leads me further into a sense of what the visuals convey.
For nearly 50 years, Diana Hobson has produced a staggering body of work. She continues to paint regularly, working in oil paint on large canvases. “My work is definitely made to make you feel emotions,” she has explained. I think she is successful in that: there is nothing boring or excessively puzzling about her abstract art. It is vibrant and sly, catching your eyes and then drawing you further into it. From her early works to the latest canvas, there is a powerful, assertive sensibility that is full of life. Her commitment to her art goes on, with more large works being added to her collection of hundreds of works. A selection of the latest pieces are on display in her Venice studio, continuing her participation in the art life of the beach community.