Diane Stemper, “Coral Ghosts”


Diane Stemper
Cincinnati, Ohio

Coral Ghosts
Etching and letterpress
32″ x .05″ x 10″ open; 8.25″ x 10″

Artist Statement

I am an artist and have worked in the non-profit arts sector for many years. I received my B.F.A. in printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute, an M.A. in interdisciplinary arts from San Francisco State University, and an M.A. in art education from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. I have exhibited my artist books, prints, and
drawings regionally and nationally, and have displayed and sold my work at Codex V, VI, VII & VIII Book Fairs, and Pyramid Atlantic Artist Book Fair in 2018. My artist books are in private collections, and in several public library and university special collections. I am a member of Tiger Lily Press in Cincinnati (artist-run print studio)
where I do the printing for my artist books. Recently, several of my artist’s books were featured in the exhibition, Symbiotic Affair, Walter E. Havigurst Special Collections, King Library, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

My art aligns itself with science and many times reflects an intersection between the natural world and human activity. I have several sources for my artist books which reference science and natural history collections, back yard specimens and scientific illustration. My work can be inspired by human endeavor, natural
occurrences, or by encounters with specimens/species (live or not). I begin with research, reading, and observation. My prints and artist books are informed by preliminary drawing, photographing and recording of subjects. As I engage with printing and the book structure, the two aspects, images and three-dimensional
book form, work together to transform into a final piece. Drawing is fundamental to the intaglio printmaking process and I enjoy adding text with letterpress. I work back and forth between small edition artist books, petri dish construction/books, charcoal drawing and intaglio prints.

Approximately ten years ago, I happened upon dozens of petri dishes and had already been thinking about Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. The petri dishes inspired a whole new direction. I constructed two suites of artist books about Darwin and his travels to the Galapagos Islands that were built into Petri dishes.
Additionally, I made several small edition and one-of-a-kind artist books about Charles Darwin (Darwin’s Collector Box, 2014).

My interest in Darwin and my own travels led to a focus on specimens. One example is Waggle that was inspired by a Linden tree on my property, its inhabitants included lighting bugs, wasps, moths along with an array of different North American bee species. One species leads to another and I made a series on birds,
found in nature, in my backyard, and in the drawers of natural history museums. My 2019 project, Mussels:

What Was / What Remains came out of an invitation to participate in Miami University’s 2019 Library theme – Building STE(A)M. In response I made, a small edition artist book inspired by a collection of mollusks at the Hefner Natural History Museum at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

Just prior to the pandemic shutting down the world, I had visited a museum just outside of London, the John Horniman Museum that houses an old collection of specimens and oddities among which is a case of coral from various parts of the world. Coral Ghosts was inspired by the skeletal coral I saw that day and reflects my
own personal concern about the degradation of our natural world, the rapid extinction of species and the loss of the vibrant colors of a coral reef. The pink text expresses a wish for remembrance, hope and revival.