Artist Profile: L. Aviva Diamond
By Genie Davis
“My work is how I process the world. It’s how I see, how I feel, how I heal myself,” L. Aviva Diamond, says. The artist creates astonishing photographic art work that is painterly in style, cosmic in nature. She also draws, both black and white and color images that seem to literally throw themselves from her fingers to the page. And she’s a burgeoning jazz musician.
In short, this Diamond has many facets, and she shines in all of them.
She began creating her art in her senior year in high school, when she took a photography class and fell in love with making images. She also drew, sang, acted, and wrote poetry. “But my parents didn’t want me to be an artist. They forbade it and threatened to disown me,” Diamond relates.
If that wasn’t traumatic enough, she convinced herself the reason for their ire was her own lack of ability. “I thought it was because I had no talent. But towards the end of their lives, they told me they’d just been scared. My dad had survived the Holocaust, and my mom lived through the Depression – turns out they just hadn’t wanted me to starve…but forgot to tell me that for about 35 years.”
So, she channeled her sense of purpose into becoming a journalist and then a media trainer. That doesn’t mean she ignored her artistic gifts, however.
“I still did art because I go nuts if I don’t, but it was relegated to my spare time in a very busy schedule. Then in 2014, my mom – who was my lifelong best friend – was paralyzed in an accident, and I dropped everything for months to be with her.” When she returned to LA, everything she’d devoted herself to for years was gone.
From that void came a new direction. Having received an invitation to apply for juried entry to the Los Angeles Art Association, she filled it out. And she was accepted.
“Since then, I’ve been a full-time artist. Being accepted gave me the faith to keep going,” she notes. “When I first started shooting, and for many years after that, I loved documentary photography and street shooting. But more and more over time, my spiritual life has migrated into my work. So, my photography has become more abstract, more intuitive. My drawing is almost entirely intuitive.”
Diamond’s images are astonishingly lovely, Zen-like, meditative. She ceates images such as the delicate framework of a leaf, as fragile as a breath; a feather with beads of water passing from it, in a shiver of motion. Water, cloud, seascape, black and white and opalescent: these are among the images that Diamond creates photographically.
“I love when you don’t know whether you’re looking at a photo or a graphite drawing, a sumi-e painting or a high-contrast photo. I love line and following the line. I love light and following the light. I love the spiritual aspect of human creation,” she shares. And with that light and spirit, there is also a meditative quality to her photographic work that transcends medium. It is not an isolated transcendence, but rather one that is connected to Diamond’s personal beliefs. She began a daily meditative path more than 30 years ago, one which deeply influences how she sees the world and how she creates.
“I often meditate for quite a while in a location where I’ll be shooting. And then I look, but my vision has shifted, and – when I’m lucky – I sense the universal energy that lies just beneath the surface of the everyday.”
Her meditation practice has also brought her patience and an innate sense of calm, which also reflects in her art. “I work on the light and shadow in the photos sometimes for months, painting digitally to make the image come as close as possible to what I felt in my heart. Much of my work represents moments when I get glimpses of transcendence, times when I see stars and nebulae in crashing waves, the elemental forces of creation and destruction in the flow of a stream, a tree and stars in dewdrops on a leaf, the cosmos in corroded paint on a car hood.”
Viewers can see that beauty, that cosmic consciousness, for lack of a better word, for themselves. “I want to share those moments, and I work towards that consciousness,” she asserts.
As to her drawing, the same intuitive quality applies. “About twenty years ago, I suddenly out of nowhere felt a deep need to pick up a pen and sit down with some blank paper. I went into a meditation and started drawing. It was automatic drawing. I don’t know why it happened, and I’ve felt shy about sharing or showing that work because I don’t know whether it’s art or just part of my own spiritual process – and whether there’s a distinction,” she adds.
Regardless, she has hundreds of the drawings and she says that creating them help her, and inform her process. “I love mark-making. I love the purity of line. Some are very abstract; it almost feels as if I’m drawing energy. Some represent the struggles in my own psyche. It’s a very different practice from my photography.”
The drawings are also a way to rid herself of frustration, she feels, having created a number of works to rid herself of anger during the 2016 election.
She says she’s not quite sure what to make of it – the intuitive, rapid creation of drawn works versus her meticulous, precise photographic art. But she hopes to combine photography and drawing in the coming year. Drawing, photography, and – music. Diamond discusses how she began to learn to sing jazz at around the same time she began to devote herself more fully to her art.
“The difference is that I’ve been making at least a little art most of my life, and I had never sung jazz. So, I was a true beginner. And after a lifetime of teaching others, I was suddenly in the very vulnerable position of knowing absolutely nothing.”
This has been both thrilling and nerve-wracking for Diamond. “Singing jazz brings up more insecurity than anything else I’ve done in my life, and it is teaching me – little by little – how to live in the moment, how to collaborate with people, how to trust myself and others. Everything I learn in jazz comes through in my art. I’m becoming more spontaneous, more able to play with motifs, more present. And I’ve been told that what I learn in art comes through in my singing.”
How so? “Sometimes I’m lucky enough to feel the energy of each note. Sometimes I hear lines and colors in the music; sometimes I hear music in the images I make.” Diamond’s synesthesia when it comes to the different aspects of her art goes beyond the art itself. Her sense impressions are also teaching her “about kindness,” she attests. “At the beginning, I was terrified of musicians and artists, imagining that people who had devoted their lives to their art form would recoil at someone of autumn years and almost no training trying to jump into their world. But it was just the opposite. These consummately skilled, huge-hearted people opened their wings and took me in. Their kindness brings me to my knees.”
But the profound beauty of her photographic art, its celestial quality; the mesmerizing rapid-fire drawings; and the dulcet quality of her voice all raise her up to stand tall in the eyes of viewers and the ears of her listeners.
Still, Diamond is humble to a fault. “I’ve been very lucky this year to be included in Tree Talk, an exhibition curated by Paula Tognarelli at the Griffin Museum of Photography and in Illuminate 2018 at the Center for Fine Art Photography in Ft. Collins, Colo. About 25 of my bird silhouettes are hanging in Silverlake Coffee through June 2018 thanks to Dulce Stein, and I have a photo in Nina Zak Laddon’s spectacular CA 101 in Redondo Beach. Later in the year, I’ll have a piece in the Los Angeles Art Association Benefit Auction, will be showing in Perimeter V at Art Share LA, and will have a piece in the Black & White show at the Center for Fine Art Photography. And I’m absolutely out-of-my-mind thrilled to be scheduled for my first solo exhibition in the gallery at Moorpark College late this fall,” she says.