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Diane Pribojan


Striped Sky and A view of Akron


Shadow at Sunset 2022, Blue Sky II 2922, Classic Colonial 2022, House with Elm 2020

About the artist 

Pribojan earned the Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Master of Fine Arts degree from Kent State University. This painting was selected for the Summa Collection for its potential to lift the spirits of beholders.

Where to see more of this artist’s work:

More of Pribojan’s paintings can be seen onlineShe is represented by, and exhibits work at galleries in Akron and Cleveland.

More about House with Elm-Shadow at Sunset-Blue Sky II-Classic Colonial


Titles, date: Summer Shadow, 2022

Materials: acrylic on canvas-wrapped panel, 24" x 24"

Location at Summa:  Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion, south waiting room on second floor. This work was specially commissioned by Summa Health for this location.

About the art:

The artist entitled this painting Summer Shadow, which sets up a kind of mystery, since that shadow seems to be generated by a leafless tree, similar to the leafless red trees deep in the background, all of which suggests we're in late fall or early spring rather than summer.

That sense of mystery is heightened by the sense of vacancy in the house itself: We see windows but no door, and those windows are blank, shaded.  Moreover, the side wall of the house that faces us seems curiously blank itself, its three windows echoing the shape of the gabled roof above but almost lost in the flat expose of wall.  The contrast with the shutters that decorate each of the visible windows on the other wall seems deliberate.  We feel a kind of emptiness, which makes Pribojan's title here seem to indicate a summer memory, now faded.

Diane Pribojan's work has played variations on the theme of Midwestern domestic architecture such that it is quite recognizable.  Yet each painting tends to deal with its own set of interests and problems.  In this work, she uses the simplified, geometric forms of house, basement level, roof, chimney, and windows as foils to the organic, natural forms of the tree trunk and limbs that we don't actually see but infer from its cast shadow.  Where is that tree?

We also notice that Pribojan explores color with sensitivity:  While the overall blue tonality of the painting may be arbitrary, not necessarily a "real life" description of this particular house, blue becomes another theme with variations here. If we just concentrate on that mysterious shadow, again, we see it relatively dark below, then somewhat lighter as it falls across the wall of that side of the house.  Then the artist has to have another blue for the blind window, and one more, too, for its frame.  That would seem to demand a fair amount of planning and then of control over the palette (the colors chosen and worked out by the artist) in order to manage something so complex, while making it seem simple.

The artist worked with Summa Collection Curator Meg Harris Stanton to adapt ideas from earlier paintings in order to create the grouping you see here, with three new commissions as a result.  This arrangement brings out certain shared themes and interests that Diane Pribojan explores, creating perhaps even a kind of conversation among the works.  Taken together, they permit us as beholders to notice things that we might have missed in a single work: For example, no people.  And they create a mood of stillness - they're houses, after all! -- that is yet inflected by mystery, formal inventiveness, and subtle color relationships.  They are as familiar as our own neighborhoods, and we realize we have to look at them anew.

Title, date:  Blue Sky II, 2022

Materials: acrylic on canvas-wrapped panel, 24" x 36"

Location at Summa:  Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion, south waiting room on second floor.  This work was specially commissioned by Summa Health for this location.

About the art:

Blue Sky II just might not be about that blue sky, although its color dominates this painting and has a soothing effect.  Artist Diane Pribojan takes us up close to this two-story clapboard house with attic in order to emphasize the layered triangular shapes of the gables of house and garage.  Then she plays a kind of joke by echoing those in the much steeper, more irregular triangles at the apex of the two cedar trees behind the house: Their irregular, wavy contours contrast subtly with the more geometric and regular features of the house ('though you might notice that Pribojan does show us how the layers of clapboard make for slightly wavy verticals on each side of the house itself - again, I think this is a kind of visual joke - we just have to look closely to appreciate it!).

Typical for this artist, "information" about the house and its environment are reduced -- the close-up view concentrates our attention while jumping over things that we assume are there but that might distract -- in order to create a more serene image.  Yet there is some ambiguity here: The intense blue of the sky doesn't really read like daytime, and the blind windows suggest night. And what color, really, is this house?  It seems to absorb some of that blue from the sky.

Pribojan says she paints to allow for the unexpected or for ambiguity, leaving details for the beholder to supply from her/his own experience, but she also leaves us formal clues as to what intrigues her about any particular house and its setting.

Title, date:  Brooklyn Colonial, 2022

Materials: acrylic on canvas-wrapped panel, 20" x 20"

Location at Summa:   Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion, south waiting room on second floor.  This work was specially commissioned by Summa Health for this location.

About the art:

Anyone familiar with Midwestern middle-class housing stock, particularly in the greater Akron area, will immediately recognize a number of distinctive house types, houses that we grew up in or walked past on our way to school, in the work of painter Diane Probojan.  She doesn't set out to do anything as formal as cataloguing them systematically, but she has found that concentrating on local domestic architecture enables her to play variations on a theme. 

She makes sketches and notes, takes reference photos, and observes and records her impressions, as well as factual details.  From such "data", she begins to intuit what particularly interests her in any one house.  She simplifies, which is a type of abstraction, the forms of what she paints in order to express what intrigues her: color, sunlight and shadow, the effects of time passing...

In this painting we intuit that the artist was probably first struck by the shadow of that bright green tree on the left as it blocks that yellow wall. Playing with color and contrast, Diane Pribojan flattened the tree so that it's almost a cut-out, echoed by its near-black shadow against the sunlit rear wall of the two-story "Brooklyn colonial"-style dwelling. 

This flattening effect she extends to the rest of the house and to the background foliage, all in deeper shadow and muted hues.  Then color becomes her tool to suggest different volumes in space (back and sides of the house, the faces of the chimney, for example).  And she apparently is having such fun with the complex outlines of that green tree (and its shadow) that she made a much more subtly patterned outline with the shadow beneath the overhang of the roof (clapboards of the gable?).

This work, as well as two others in this grouping, was commissioned by Summa Health for this location.  It's summer - the bright sun and foliage tell us that -- but there is also something timeless about the simplification and the artist's concentration on only a very few details, leaving broad areas of color that set the scene but do not distract.  Diane Pribojan tells us that this is how she interprets the world around her.

Title, date:  House with Elm, 2020

Materials, size: acrylic on canvas-wrapped panel, 36" x 24"

Location at Summa:  Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion, south waiting room on second floor.

About the art:

This house in this painting seems to turn its face to the left, making it a very good end-bracket for the sort of conversation with Diane Pribojan's three other works that we experience here. But its gradated, red-to-pink sky distinguishes it, as does the slightly queasy feeling we first experience in looking at it and realize originates with the fact that the house itself appears to be leaning back from us so that its verticals are not, in fact, entirely 90-degree walls.

The artist has made this a painting about a tree as much as about a house. In fact, in this grouping, Pribojan seems to have made four very different kinds of paintings that insert trees in each as a sort of mystery guest, or at least one that raises interesting questions.

Here, the elm of the title has no roots nor terminal branching, for the artist's viewpoint brings the canvas too close to include those.  As a result, the tree becomes the dominating figure, with its limbs and branches imposing an irregular web on the surface of the painting, crossing the basement, walls, windows, and roof of the house as well as the unusual sky.   And if you approach closely enough, you'll observe that the painting of those branches continues around the stretcher, as the artist wraps her canvas over the stretcher, suggesting an unending picture plane.

We see Pribojan working with shadows cast by trees in two other paintings in this grouping, but only here does the tree itself dominate the composition, becoming almost the protagonist.  It is certainly a figure on which she varies basic color, sets up relationships among foreground and background, and suggests just the slightest amount of three-dimensional volume: Notice the hint of roundness in the tree trunk where a subtle yellow adds a warm note that advances toward us.  And then the graded area of charcoal-grey shadow that broadens or narrows to a mere line as it articulates the contours of limbs and branches. 

You might also notice the slight tension between the artist's interest in 3-dimensionality in this tree and the assertive flatness of the geometry of the house.  And also, the emphatic graphic nature of the crisscrossing branches, creating jewelry-like cloisons, in the upper left.  The artist tells us that the abstract potential in her subjects reveals itself as she works.  Her task is to then transmit that as "short-lived moments of pure aesthetic for the viewer."


More about A View of Akron

View of Akron  2018

Materials: acrylic on canvas-wrapped panel 24" x 36"

Location at Summa:  Akron City Hospital, Ground Floor, Volunteer Services Office


About the art:

In contrast to this artist's more familiar works, which concentrate on midwestern domestic architecture that is often viewed fragmentarily and in playfully colorful settings, here Diane Pribojan collects selected downtown Akron high-rises into a sober bouquet of modernism. 

Highly abstracted - that is, details reduced, forms simplified, spatial relationships obscured -- yet still recognizable, iconic buildings are presented from a medium height, eliminating ground level, which doesn't interest the artist.  What does, as you can see, is how the grouping lines up their blocky planes, emphasized by the tight grouping (downtown, you'll find these same buildings much further apart).  That compactness allows Pribojan to play with shadow and color: Look at the shadows on those receding planes and then at those cast by one building onto another.  She does this all within a very narrow range of blues, with a bit of purple and dusty ochre as contrasts, colors which, again, are abstracted from what you can see on the same structures in downtown Akron at various hours of the day.

Those same colors are repeated, in different proportions, in the vertical background stripes.  Pribojan often uses this device [as, for example, in Colonial with Striped Sky, her first work in the Summa Collection] and decorative patterns to emphasize her dedication to abstraction as well as the play with color relationships.  Here the stripes emphasize the abstract intent of the painting and especially reinforce the sense of verticality that seems to intrigue her (note that, compared to any view of the "real" skyline, she deliberately omits lower, more horizontal buildings).  She claims American painter/photographer Charles Sheeler as an influence on aspects of her painting style, but her subject matter is distinctively her own.

From almost any vantage point (north, east, south, or west), the city of Akron skyline spreads out, feels more relaxed than in this painting.  She has selected and re-arranged a smaller number of downtown buildings based on reference photos and sketches. This narrowing down is also a kind of abstraction, along with the simplification.  We might read this painting as a comment on vertical aspiration in twentieth-century American architecture, or as one artist's fascination with the possibilities of line, volume, and color found in the built environment of American's Midwest, which she re-presents in order that we see it anew.


More about Striped Colonial

Striped Sky, 2018

Materials: Acrylic on canvas-wrapped panel, 36 x 24”.

Location at Summa Health:  Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, second floor hallway outside patient rooms H2-306 and H2-307.

The flattened forms of Striped Sky have been created in exuberant color and with a sense of whimsy, which we infer almost unconsciously from the bright, balloon-like simplification of plants in the foreground. Diane Pribojan, who emigrated with her family from the former Yugoslavia as a child, builds her paintings around architectural forms, especially private houses, that she observes throughout Northeast Ohio. She describes her fascination with domestic architecture and her graphic approach to re-presenting it on her blog.

By abstracting shapes and color, Pribojan can express facts, as well as her own moods, by means of subtle changes in relationships, particularly of light, size, and proportion. For example, we “read” the right angles of this house from the simple contrast of the two greens representing its front and receding walls. Her repetition of the simplified, familiar forms of houses encourages us to look with new eyes at our surroundings.


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