We had the good fortune of connecting with Diana Abouchacra and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Diana, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Fundamentally, the word ‘risk’ means the “possibility of loss or injury” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Risk is something that we all undergo as human beings, in fact, just by being alive. The possibility that something ‘bad’ might happen to us as a result of an action we do is probable with every decision we make. Consequently, risk can yield positive or negative results which all fall on a spectrum. Furthermore, the intentionality behind a choice made is important and should be considered when reflecting on the effects of the decision.
The question that beckons to be asked: Is our complacency with the reality we know preventing us from further development, or will our experience be put in jeopardy in the pursuit of growth?
Over the course of my life’s journey, I have moved around quite often. My aim is to attain a deeper understanding of myself through Art. A couple of memorable moves for me were from my home state Connecticut to my parents’ home country, Lebanon, and most recently to Louisiana – all in the span of six years. I quickly realized that opportunities opened up when I took chances on myself. By saying ‘yes’ to these unexpected prospects, I was able to build momentum in my career.
When I think of risk, I consider the amount of trust that must be put into the process. To make a decision without knowing the outcome is to immerse oneself into the unknown, which can be destabilizing. There must be a transaction, a surrendering of oneself to the unfamiliar, and this can prove to be incredibly challenging.
I have passed through exceptionally difficult times that even made me question if my dream as an artist was worth fulfilling. With all the trials that I have faced along the way, I can say one thing in full confidence: in every risk taken, whatever the outcome, I have gained invaluable insight of myself and the world we live in. Not to say that I haven’t faced loss or injury, but the challenges that presented themselves to me in retrospect have helped me in becoming a more well-rounded person. Risk-taking is intrinsically a pathway to growth and has played an immense role in my life. Without making decisions that were wrapped in uncertainty, I could not have reached the heights I am now in my artistic career.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
About My Art: Art making is an intuitive exploration for me that helps to process emotions where other approaches tend to fail. It is a safe space where I can delve into the depths of my wounds – to witness, understand, reflect, and perhaps find resolve. Themes that revolve around my artwork include grief, vulnerability, ephemerality, multiplicity, and transformation. I am interested in moments of interaction between people and how fleeting and transient they are. Questions I ask myself are: Can forms of personal interaction be translated tangibly? How can material act as memory? Do process and method bring forth altered and expanded meaning?
Shifts in perception intrigue me, they can encourage new mental connections and a possibility for expanded growth. I am particularly enthralled with the link between our emotions and memories of a departed loved one. They are constantly shifting in relation to one another and take on different forms of meaning. I am drawn to creating immersive environments that incorporate components that activate the senses of the viewer. Thus, my work often takes the form of installations.
I am fascinated when auditory components are paired with my installations, specifically in their capability of triggering memory and feelings of nostalgia. Sounds when created and linked together in a rhythmic pattern can create meditative and calming environments. Repetition and layering are also formal elements that are present in my work and can further add therapeutic and meditative experiences in the installations. My aim for the spaces I create is to envelope the viewer, allowing them, if only for a moment, to transcend into my constructed world. With my most current work, I share my personal story with grief and present the viewer a lens into my coping strategies.
Come August 2021, I am proud to say that I will have graduated with my Master’s in Fine Art from Louisiana State University. I am incredibly proud of myself to have gotten this far in a field that is widely not accepted as a ‘real’ career in mainstream society. The path to earning an M.F.A. has been immensely difficult and is an incredibly competitive field. I remember clearly in the middle of my graduate studies in Fine Arts, I had a massive artists’ block. There were many nights of pacing in my studio, where I questioned why I was studying art and if I really was an artist for that matter. I kept comparing myself to others and I realized over time that this approach was not conducive to my creativity. I began to find strategies that would help pull me out of my stagnancy, such as meditation, surrounding myself with a trusting and loving support group, and adopting a cat companion.
Over the course of the years, a question that seemed to resurface which I found amusing was, “What are you going to do with an Art degree?” At first, I did not know how to respond to questions of this sort; I had a passion for art and wanted to pursue it, that is all I knew. People did not care for that response however and I found myself overextending my energy in explaining myself to strangers. I transitioned to frankly saying, “I am going to make art with my Art degree.” In a perfect world, I would be only making art to sustain myself. Realistically, I had to make peace with the idea that I will most likely end up working a career that I did not intend on in order to meet the budget for my art studio practice.
Above all else, as a creative, I have come to accept the uncertainty that comes along with choosing this career path. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that with passion, persistence, and focus, anything is possible. I remember reading a statement in my early university years that put things into perspective for me, it went somewhat along the lines of this: If you discovered that your current life is in fact a dream, what would you choose to do?
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my best friend was visiting me, I would show her a good time. I currently live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and would start off by taking them to see Louisiana State University’s enormous stadium. I’d give her a tour around the campus, stop at Highland Coffees for a cool matcha tea latte and take her to Chimes to eat! I live a plant-based diet and they offer the impossible burger which I find so inclusive, especially for those who are not frequent meat-eaters as well. An evening stroll around the LSU lakes and a view of the beautiful sunset on the clear horizon is how I’d end our night.
The next couple days, I would take her to see New Orleans, a short 1.5-hour drive, and explore the French Quarter. I’d take her to Café du Monde to try their world-famous beignets. Later we’d dine at Breads on Oak, an amazing vegan-friendly café. We’d take a stroll through Jackson Square and end the night at a jazz bar called the 21st Amendment, where we’d order Moscow Mules. We’d spend a few days in New Orleans checking out museums such as the Ogden Museum of Southern Arts, National WWII Museum, New Orleans Museum of Art, and Contemporary Arts Center.
I’d take my friend to go kayaking in the bayou with New Orleans Swamp and Bayou Tour where we’d see alligators and other swamp critters! Whatever we do, I’m sure my friend would love the live oak trees that are native to Louisiana’s landscape.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Since I was young, art was always something that I was excited about. Looking back at my notebooks while in grade school, I had so many doodles and drawings on the margins, I learned from my mother who really had a love for the arts. I went on to take advanced art classes while in high school and I found myself to be somewhat skilled in the area. I discovered art to be an expressive tool and was always encouraged by my mother to pursue it.
When I started university, I had no idea of what career path to choose from, the act of making a decision that could affect the rest of my life was daunting. I wanted to continue with art, but I felt heavily criticized by my peers and extended family. While still trying to choose my major, I remember a relative saying to me something along the lines of, “it’s a shame to go to school for art.” I had a phone call that day with my mother that I will never forget, she asked me what I really wanted to do, and I outrightly said, “art”. She advised me to just do what I loved and that she would support me wholeheartedly with any decision I made moving forward. A little background information on my mother, she was an artist herself. She was incredibly creative in everything she did but did not have the same opportunities as I did to fully explore her passions. In a way, she lived her dream of being an artist through me. On August 15th, 2016, she passed away quite suddenly. I know she would be so proud of how far I have come in my art career.
This shout out goes to my mother, Amal Shamseddine Abouchacra, who blessed me with a love so unconditional – thank you for your unwavering support, your memory guides me.
Other: email: email@example.com
Four McCarley, Maya Abouchacra