Diane Simpson
by John Corbett

When I stand in front of a Diane Simpson sculpture, something strange happens to space.

Like all sculptors, Simpson’s acutely involved in parsing the mysteries of dimensionality. One walks around her work, feeling it change in the process of circumnavigation, sensing it open up, exposing its fundamentals, pushing against quotidian ontology. Making a thing more than just a thing. Animating the supposedly inanimate object.

But, more than routine sculptural attention to the third dimension, it seems that Simpson has been quietly devising a system for the subtle subversion of space. Starting with drawings on graph paper, on which she plots her soft spatial revolution, she’s established an alternate universe, a place somewhere between the flatness of two-dimensions and the fullness of three.

It reminds me of the central conceit of Edwin Abbott Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884), in which a two-dimensional being, a square in this case, struggles to perceive a three dimensional being, a globe, and can ultimately only do so by seeing it as a sequence of two-dimensional images: a point, then a widening circle, then a diminishing circle, finally another point, and then nothing, all sensed as the globe moves gradually through the plane of the square itself.

In Simpson’s case, we are caught somewhere between dimensions, in a sort of netherworld that encompasses both the Flatland of the drawing and the Spaceland (Abbott’s term) of the sculpture. Deploying a secret recipe of geometry, particularly sensitive to the perspectival richness of 45-degree angles, she’s created an oeuvre, starting with her cardboard wall-works of the 1970s and continuing with this exhibition’s brand new entries, that operates in this simultaneously foreshortened and expanded space, a liminal zone full of arcane and archaic fashion, the vanishing point of Renaissance portraiture, Artschwagerian architecture, and other submerged components.

Formally rich, and enormously allusive, Simpson offers us a body of work that challenges us to experience space anew. To flatten out in order to fall back in love with volume.