This world is but a canvas to our imagination ~ Henry David Thoreau
Born and raised in my hometown, Timisoara, Romania, Diana Toma has her artistic roots deeply planted in the richness and beauty of the European culture, traced through her entire art. Moving to America only enriched and expanded her art vision with new influences, her artist’s portfolio turning into a unique and vibrant blend between the classics and street art.
Traditional yet contemporary, Diana loves to explore across mediums observing the psychology of the human body and organic forms through the sensorial filter. Her art is meant to be an open dialog with the audience, to challenge the spirit and find new meanings even in the most unpretentious subjects. Always smiling, Diana graciously accepted my recent interview request; I am convinced that her answers will take you, the reader, into the brilliant world of her exquisite art, and at the same time, help you discover a true and talented contemporary artist.
Mara Circiu: Dear Diana, please tell us a little bit about yourself...
Diana Toma: Well, I’m a mom, and I love to create beautiful things. That’s my whole life in two conjugated sentences.
Mara Circiu: When did you start to paint?
Diana Toma: As soon as I could hold a brush! My dad told me that my first full sentence was “May I have a pen to draw?” I also remember that I got a ten (equivalent of an A+) in Arts in my very first day of school, 1st grade. The teacher said she never saw a first grader drawing fingers on a human figure quite like that. I wonder what kind of drawing I did, would be so much fun to see it now.
Mara Circiu: Being an artist in the XXI century, does the title come with a price?
Diana Toma: I’m not sure how it is for other artists but for me it mostly opened doors (with just one or two occasional eye roll!). The art community is so special by its very own nature, and my perception is that people generally love to get involved with artists.
Mara Circiu: How hard was it for you, an Eastern European artist to "break the ice" - euphemistically speaking- in America?
Diana Toma: It was quite hard – I had no connections, acquaintances or relatives here in the United States when I relocated here. Back home in Romania with over fifty international collective and group exhibitions participations and about five solo art shows, I was well on my way into my art career, and got quite a buzz around my work. I had a great relationship with the local press and my connections with my collectors were growing rapidly. So when I first arrived in New York City it was quite intimidating to see the immense art offering and seemingly never-ending competition. It impacted the proficiency of my work and it felt like starting over yet again. It took quite something but step by step, once I’ve started familiarizing myself with the environment and made new connections, I eased myself back into the art world. There’s opportunity everywhere if you are willing to open your mouth, say yes and then show up.
Mara Circiu: Your watercolors are simply amazing, is this your favorite medium?
Diana Toma: Thank you! Actually, I just started exploring this technique, we never studied watercolors in school. Thou I spent five years in the Fine Arts college, we trained mostly in traditional mediums such as oil, charcoal or engraving.
Mara Circiu: I recognize familiar faces in your paintings, your daughters...I am sure having them as your sitters creates a special bond, not just mother-daughter, but artist-subject, what can you tell us about that?
Diana Toma: I find that motherhood has rounded me as an artist, because it opens me up to notice, to observe, to contemplate in a way that nothing else does. There’s this amazement and sense of pride that comes with having children. They became the centerpiece of my existence, and that is bound to reflect in my work. Of course, I also happen to have gorgeous looking girls, so that helps, too. Because beauty inspires me!
Mara Circiu: Can you tell us your biggest influences in art and how they have affected your work?
Diana Toma: The biggest influence was going to Art College – growing up in communist Romania, art wasn’t a career one cared much to peruse, with some little exceptions. So I struggled through a mathematics and physics high school, like a fish out of the water. Luckily enough after the fall of communism, my folks paid for a year of fine art training with a local mural painter, who was also a professor at the University. He tought me from how to hold a charcoal in my hand to complex color understanding, and so my life exploded as a firework. I just bloomed after I got in to Art College with a scholarship. I know one usually names famous artists as influences but for me was actually the environment who influenced me the most. It still does. Becoming a mother also did. I’ve started using more color right after having my children. If you look at my work before motherhood you’ll see just black, white and brown. I see life in colors now!
Mara Circiu: Is there anything you consistently draw inspiration from?
Diana Toma: I browse a lot online, looking at other artist’s work. This incites me to try new things. I go on websites like Pinterest, Etsy and Deviant Art - it is amazing what other artists create. I am inspired by everything beautiful that’s touching and genuine. Nature also is absolutely extraordinary; I dwell in contemplating my surroundings, from the little plants I grow in home to the incomparable beauty of a pink sunset or a ray of sunlight through the window. There's inspiration everywhere, we just need to take a little time to look for it!
Mara Circiu: Are there any contemporary artists who you really admire?
Diana Toma: There are so many, it’s almost impossible to name all of them! I love Dean Crouser’s watercolors, Michael Shapcott’s portraits, there is Belgian artist Benjamin Verdonck who created a huge nest on a skyscraper, New York artist Jason Hackenwerth who creates amazing art pieces out a balloons, artist Peter Root who creates cities out of staples, Body-painting artist Emma Hack, artist Brian Dettmer who carves in books – he is actually based here in Atlanta. And this is just scratching the surface: there are so many contemporary artists I admire!
Mara Circiu: What are your current projects?
Diana Toma: I’m just finalizing a project with the United States Tennis Association – they are going to create a line of T-shirts with my one of my works of art for the US OPEN 2013 Championship extravaganza. This past year, I was selected among 36 hand-picked artists to compete for the creation of this grandiose event’s theme art. I did not win but I got close, I made it in the top three. The T-shirt line came out of them really loving one of the art proposals I created for this competition. It is the first time in their history that they picked a second artist to create a product line with their work (they only hire one artist every year). I’m very happy to have worked with them, it was one of the best times I had as an artist. They are amazing professionals, they know what they want, and it was a privilege to collaborate as an artist with such a great team.
Other than that I am always exploring unconventional ways to integrate art in the real world, outside the gallery system. There are people who never walk into a gallery - and I care for art to be part from their lives, too. This weekend I will be auctioning 28 works of art – a collaboration with Monte Murphy, a fantastic open minded real estate agents who invited me to be featured at his Open House event for one of his high-end rental listings in the new urban and desirable community of Glenwood, East Village, Atlanta. It is amazing how hanging art in a house transforms it into a home, making it so much more welcoming and attractive. Through this event I hope that people who won’t necessarily walk into art galleries will have access to contemporary fine art, by just attending this Art Auction.
Mara Circiu: Thank you so much, Diana, for taking the time to participate in this interview! I hope you will always find something new to inspire you, and many, many beautiful paintings in the future. I know that you would also like to extend an invitation to all of our readers.
Diana Toma: First of all, thank you for reading this, I am not taking it for granted. Even though I may not know you yet, you matter. Come connect with me on my Facebook page, and don’t be shy to drop me a line at www.facebook.com/ArtByDianaToma. I’d really love to hear from you. You can also preview my recent artwork at www.artbydianatoma.com
Ultimately, I want to leave you with this: REMEMBER THAT LIFE IS MORE BEAUTIFUL WITH ART IN IT!