Kristen van Diggelen Sloan’s paintings and sculptures aim directly at the eternal. They are visual remnants of an unrelenting pursuit of the invisible – truths well hidden in both the physical and psycho/spiritual realms. Sloan looks to natural science, poetry and various religious traditions and histories to unravel the mysteries of nature, and the nature(s) of reality.
Her often large-scale oil paintings employ Baroque virtuosity and illusion, anthropomorphizing natural elements, to create monumentally scaled portraits of a spiritual journey or condition. Whether an adulterated landscape or a figurine amidst precarious circumstances, Sloan’s paintings are sites of pleasure and pain, anxiety and tranquility, mirroring the human interior where one is both revitalized and victimized by their own psychological surroundings. She uses imagery – complex in signification and often steeped with literary, symbolic or historical reference – purposefully to keep secret and/or to reveal narrative.
Her more recent ceramic work is inspired specifically by the Southern craft tradition of the face jug, and the early desert mothers (women often portrayed as both harlot and heroine, Babylon and Jerusalem) who mastered what the poet/philosopher John O’Donohue called “the art of inwardness, or pedagogy of interiority.”
Sloan looks to the material lavishness of Dutch and Spanish Baroque still life painting to peer, dimly, into the riddles of common experience; Rembrandt for instruction with creating divine light and enchanting darkness; Jay DeFeo for combining representation with abstraction, refinement with expressionism. The monumentality of her work functions within a similar discourse that Mark Rothko used to describe the scale of his larger pictures: “…you are in it, it is not a reducing commanding experience, but one that is human and intimate.”
Each artwork or body of work within my art practice is an exploration within a larger conceptual framework. That said, I do not aim for a distinct style, but invite different mediums, techniques and subject matter, as well as my surroundings and the changing world to impress upon my interests and processes.
My current paintings and sculptures are visibly shaped by my move from San Francisco to rural South Carolina. After learning of the Southern face jug ceramic tradition in our region, I began sculpting figurative stoneware vessels; mediating, mourning, still. They are inspired by various female characters, and are adorned with circular forms including, sacred geometries, mandalas, labyrinths and various iconographic “halos.” I construct them using multiple techniques, including wheel-throwing, hand building and plaster mold-making. The palette is controlled, white glaze over a dark or light stoneware clay body, with selective luster or gold leaf applications.
My oil paintings range in scale from monumental to easel size. I employ Baroque virtuosity and master oil painting techniques from building the canvases all the way through to the final layers of finish. I bring found objects, both man-made and from nature, as well as my own sculptures, into the studio where I construct still lifes to paint from. For example, the chair and doll depicted in Me Too Girl are from an antique store in Chester, SC, and the barbwire from a fence by the creek behind our house. The Wise and Foolish Virgins were painted from small gold sculptures I made from thistles found on my neighbor’s farm. Self Portrait with Desert Amma I depicts of one my ceramic face sculptures along with articles of my own clothing.
Kristen van Diggelen Sloan received her BA in Visual Art from UCLA in 2006, and her MFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2009. She has exhibited her work nationally at Next, Art Chicago, the New Wright Gallery in Los Angeles, in San Francisco at The Headlands Center for the Arts, Root Division, SOMArts, The Diego Rivera Gallery and locally at Anne Neilson Fine Art in Charlotte. She has received numerous awards and nominations, and her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, 7×7 Magazine, Works and Conversations and CHome. She currently lives and works in rural York County, SC.