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Constance Alexander: Murray artisan Diane Daubert engages ancient tradition to create unique works

In November, Murray artist Diane Daubert entered two small sculptures into “Impressions,” a juried art exhibit sponsored by the Ice House Gallery in Mayfield. Her hand-crafted creations were competing with more conventional forms, including paintings in oil, acrylic, and watercolor, as well as three-dimensional works rendered in marble, glass, and wood.

A gourd artist, Ms. Daubert submitted “Quiet Repose,” featured in the accompanying pictures, and “Going Tribal,” which won an Honorable Mention award. Both works portray exotic places Daubert would like to visit someday.

She got hooked on the ancient tradition of gourd art through a workshop in 2012 at the Calloway County Public Library, where she works at the Circulation Desk. Workshop instructor Johnny McDougal lit the spark, and Diane was inspired

“Quiet Repose” (Photos provided by Diane Daubert)

“I always loved to paint, draw, and make things but didn’t know you can make beautiful art from gourds,” she said.

Now she grows some gourds herself and also secures additional raw material from the annual Gourd Fest at the Ice House. ”There are gourds by the wagon load,” she said, adding that the range of shapes and sizes always sparks her creativity.

“You work with the shape that nature gives you and make it your own,” she explained.

At the Gourd Fest every October, artisans and crafters set up under tents and sell their artworks along with farmers selling mums, pumpkins, apples, jams, and gourds. With plenty of food to sample and live music in the background, a Gourd Prince and Princess are crowned and a Gourd Derby Car Race is run.

Impressions” was scheduled to end on December 18, but on December 10 – 11, the Ice House Gallery took a direct hit from the tornadoes that came through Mayfield. As a result, the future of gourd art and other Ice House community arts activities and exhibitions was jeopardized. The structure itself was razed and scores of artworks in the gallery and the gift shop were destroyed. Some were unrecognizable in the aftermath; others were simply gone.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

Diane Daubert’s “Going Tribal,” the piece that earned an Honorable Mention award, was damaged, the base almost detached from the sculpture. The gallery emailed Daubert when they found it and she drove over there to retrieve it.

Observing the ruins of the city was awful, according to Diane. She was devastated.

“Then I got another email,” she said. The other piece was described as “badly damaged,” but she wanted it back.

Reflecting on the chain of events, Daubert recognized “seeds of hope” in the pieces that survived, however altered. She is philosophical about the experience and is not deterred in continuing to explore her creative impulses.

“I always have pieces in progress,” she said. “I’m always thinking and working. It’s my obsession.”

She is not planning to restore the damaged work but plans to keep them in her private collection.

Diane Daubert credits the Mayfield/Graves County Art Guild and the Ice House for the role it has played in the well-being of the community and in providing opportunities for artists to learn and exhibit their work. The Ice House was the Guild’s home, where they held classes, exhibitions, events, and summer camps for kids.

A recent internet search for Mayfield/Graves County Art Guild showed “before” shots of the facility and the tagline said the place was “permanently closed.” Nevertheless, Guild Director Nanc Gunn, aided by devoted volunteers, continues to sift through the ruins, a landscape described in a piece by the Louisville NPR station as looking like it has been through “a blender.”

“Smaller artworks, including what looks like a collection of brightly colored gourds,” the story went on, “are tangled up in piles of siding, wood, and other debris.”

“We are just going to try to survive,” Gunn said. “I don’t know if we’ll be able to survive here or if we’ll find a new location.”

The Mayfield Graves County Art Guild is accepting donations to rebuild. Tax-deductible donations to the 501(c)(3) can be sent to Ice House Gallery, 41 Joy Lane, Hickory, KY 42051.

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