Diana Stelin: “Bring art into your space”

When you choose art for your space, don’t just look for color blotches to match your couch or rug. Think of ways you can bring in pleasant memories, to teleport yourself back to precious moments in time. As part of my series on the “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More […]

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When you choose art for your space, don’t just look for color blotches to match your couch or rug. Think of ways you can bring in pleasant memories, to teleport yourself back to precious moments in time.

As part of my series on the “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Diana Stelin.

Diana Stelin is an Award-Winning Professional Landscape Artist who managed a national art gallery, DTR Modern Galleries, for over seven years and helped establish collections of Kanye West & Jason Biggs among others. She specializes in invigorating homes through art, restructuring placements of pieces to optimize their power to become conversation pieces, oasis areas and ways for clients to battle stress and burnout.

In her commissioned landscape work Stelin focuses on important places in peoples’ lives, destinations that spark incredible memories and bring us all to center and gratitude for the opportunities we have had. She utilizes a unique approach of applying layers of professional grade oil pigments and wax to her pieces, building up to five layers of harmonious color in each of her works. Her signature element is the melting of certain sections of each piece with a heating lamp, simultaneously adding in gold leaf and paper elements to further highlight the textural elements of her “living and breathing” landscape work.

Stelin’s pieces are in dozens of private and corporate collections all over US. She exhibited in important art fairs in Miami and Santa Fe, and numerous gallery and museum shows. Stelin has authored a published novel. She has transformed some of her art to fabric design and a new fashion line. She still holds virtual and in person workshops for children and adults in her Best of Boston teaching studio.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I believed in the healing power of art ever since it aided me as a new émigré from the Soviet Union who was bullied in a New Jersey high school. Artmaking was my solace and a way to find a reprieve during a turbulent transition. Later on, traveling through Europe on my year abroad, I discovered that art viewing and art appreciation act similarly. There were times when artworks literally brought tears to my eyes and I realized that there’re very few things that can reach so deeply into our souls and visual art is definitely one of them.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I love helping people find artwork that speaks to them but we rarely talk about the profound effects that it has on their psyche. Just a little over a month ago, in the midst of the pandemic, I got this message from a former client and it brought what I do to a true focus: “I feel so grounded when I look at this piece. All the while the wind is blowing in so many directions and there is such fervor in every day these days — but the center is there holding it all together! Art can give strength. This is proof.” Petra, Brookline, MA

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My meeting Kanye was the funniest story of my career. It was during the Holiday season when lots of folks were walking around asking for donations for varied causes. When he walked in with his manager, I assumed they were one of those fundraising teams. He asked me to see a Jeff Koons sculpture I had in my window. I proceeded to ask him the regular qualifying questions before bothering with it.

“Are you involved in the arts?” I asked.

“Yes”, he said. “On the music side of things.”

“Did you go to school for art?”

“Yes, but I dropped out,” he proceeded.

I had no clue who he was. This was not a great start, but reluctantly I showed him the piece and told him a bit about it.
“I always loved Jeff Koons,” he said. “It would be great to collaborate one day. Can you send me more info on this piece?”

“Definitely a Pop Star to be collected,” I said and started writing down his private email information to send him sizing and other pertinent info. In the meantime, my assistants were all huddling in the back, giggling as I butchered the spelling of his name, still completely clueless as to who he was.

I was invited to his concerts later on, worked with him for many years, but I think it’s that initial conversation and my ignorance of his stardom that established our great relationship. The lesson I learned is to never judge a book by its cover. You never know what you can learn from the next person you meet, or someone you had in your life all along and taken for granted.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

In these tricky times when we cannot visit places that bring us joy and help us rejuvenate, I’ve been getting a lot of requests to create mementoes for people: their honeymoon destinations, a site of their most memorable family vacation, retirement and birthday gifts, Holiday and anniversary treats. We need to be able to teleport ourselves to our most memorable moments in a heartbeat, to have areas in our homes that can become an oasis of calm, peace and centering. I’m also working on collaborating with commercial architects on large wallpaper design and prints to have my work accessible in large corporate spaces, hospitals and hotels. Additionally, I’m researching manufacturers to create wallpaper and fabric designs, to bring some of my whimsy and color to more people.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Any idea that’s held in the mind, that’s emphasized, whether feared or revered, will begin at once to clothe itself in the most convenient and appropriate form available”, Andrew Carnegie

There were tons of adversities and challenges in my life and yet I held steady to my big dreams and things have manifested faster and faster. The more actions I took, the more bold I was in my expectation of what is to come, the easier it was to see things come to fruition.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

A few years ago, I met a woman at a conference. She was wearing the most gorgeous DVF dress and we started talking about it, about how she loves to treat herself to these beautiful gifts and experiences. I responded with tons of blocks about owing things to family first, about not having time to myself, etc. She caught my fears and doubts and family pacts straight away and it got me to working with her through her varied programs. Amira Alvarez is an incredible business and mindset coach and I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am without her hard love and nurturing teaching.

Thank you for that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Bring art into your space. It completes each room, creates comfort and brings back memories of special moments.
  2. When you choose art for your space, don’t just look for color blotches to match your couch or rug. Think of ways you can bring in pleasant memories, to teleport yourself back to precious moments in time.
  3. In installing art, be mindful of wall space. Don’t put a tiny piece on a large wall — it gets lost. Similarly, do not put a larger piece on a wall where less than a ¼ of its width remains on each side. It will not have enough breathing space otherwise.
  4. Look for similar color palettes and try to stay away from battling prints in your décor. Opposite colors like red/green, blue/orange or purple/yellow create too much contrast. If your art is bold — go for subtler hues in your furniture and area rugs. Alternatively, if your furniture has lots of bright prints, aim for artwork that is more abstract and soft.
  5. Intersperse family photos, artwork from friends and family, and more important art pieces in your home collection. This way, every time you go through your space, it will spark more memories and feelings of joy.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think the healing power of art is not apparent to many people and it is my purpose in life to show how powerful it is to be living with art. It has been statistically proven that exposure to visual art even for a half hour a day decreases our cortisol level, and that is our ‘stress’ hormone, by 75%. Art is essential and crucial for our mental health and I intend on drawing this parallel with all of my endeavors.

I’ve already started thinking along those lines by organizing my first fundraising auction to bring funds to mental health charities. I partnered with Hollywood, called on all of my artist acquaintances and past clients, and had an amazing virtual evening full of music, culinary presentations, and a live and silent auction where artworks were purchased by collectors from all over the country. Full proceeds from this event were donated to OneMind, an organization that researches brain disorders, and the Brookline Center for Mental Health, which specializes in outpatient services in my local community.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I would love for my next event to be held in collaboration with Glenn Close. I love all the amazing work Gwyneth Paltrow is doing and I would love for her to be a presenter at my next fundraising auction. I miss my chats with Kanye and wish him all the best with his new school endeavor. I would love to have breakfast with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as they’re just the coolest Boston folks.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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