“The Orient – Expressed”

By Pamela Dillon – Contributing Writer

Dayton Daily News

Be inspired by the simplicity of Asian beauty when you view a series of four by Diana Marra: Serenity Series, Sumi-e Series, Elements Series, and Designer Series at the Middletown Fine Arts Center. Also included with the four collections are smaller works and notecards.

“The Orchid and the Butterfly” is an example from her Serenity Series. Her watercolor on rice paper is mostly untouched, with the elegant lines of the orchid leaves enhanced by a beautiful butterfly flitting among the delegate golden petals.

“When I first started my business In 2011, I visited art fairs … and noticed too many mixtures of design color, and framing. I wanted a more unified and contemporary twist on the ancient art form of Chinese brush painting,” said Marra, a Cincinnati resident. “The simplicity of brushstrokes and design … gives one a feeling of peace and tranquility.”

Marra was able to follow her lifelong dream of becoming an artist when she retired from Formica in 2008. The former global product manager started studying brush painting at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. She has also studied art techniques with Karl Feng in Montgomery, Ohio, and Ning Yeh in China.

“Happy Dragon” depicts a work in her Sumi-e Series. With the single color of black, Marra is able to make her subject come alive. The ebony of the dragon’s back spikes and long claws make a nice contrast to the lighter touch of the scales. One almost senses the dragon will jump off the paper.

“Centuries ago, this art form was created with tones of ink on rice paper. I wanted to honor the tradition and create some works with only ink, and the absence of color,” said Marra.

Her Elements series were tucked in among the others, as MAC had four large walls for her to use. The series was a collection of abstracted small studies, not final artworks. The title of this series was a grinning nod to her very first concert, Earth, Wind, and Fire.

“I found I wanted to hang the show with less art/more wall space, and kind of blurred my delineations of each series,” said Marra. “Combining basic elements with Feng Shui; I wanted to create the five elements with Earth-Wind-Fire-Metal-Water as a theme.”

The Designer Series was a practical use of color, design, and contemporary trends.

Some in the series use splashes of brilliant trending colors of national brands, like Sherwin Williams. “Golden Floralbunda,” a work reminiscent of Georgia O’Keefe’s macro florals, is an example of this.

“Oftentimes I was giving the client that which they did not even realize they needed,” said Marra. “The utilization of Asian materials, various rice papers, are used to create a collage of materials, more so than an actual painting. As I love to do custom works, bits of memorabilia from the client could easily be included in these collages.”

Four of her paintings now showing at MAC will be exhibited at the Atrium Medical Center in Middletown directly after the exhibit. Besides working in her studio, she continues teaching art and has recently completed a Japanese Garden “to support her aesthetic.”