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CanvasRebel Interview: Diana Jean Puglisi

Updated: Feb 26, 2023

Hi Diana, thanks for joining us today. How did you learn to do what you do? Knowing what you know now, what could you have done to speed up your learning process? What skills do you think were most essential?What obstacles stood in the way of learning more?

I learned how to sew and create patterns from my grandmother as well as during fashion design classes when I was young. I was an oil painter before I began working solely with textiles, so I very much still think like a painter in terms of color theory and composition. I first used textiles in my practice when I found myself deeply interested in Croatian lace because of its connection to my heritage—my grandmother was a lacemaker. From there, I realized bridging sewing with my work seemed right, and I began to use thread, clothing, sewing tools, and fabric in both traditional and nontraditional ways.

I consider myself an interdisciplinary artist since I explore sculpture, painting, drawing, video, performance, and textiles. There is nothing that could have sped up the material explorations and skills that I acquired. What I know and what I do take time and patience—that’s why I like it. Unraveling a knot, the repetition of a stitch, threading a needle, or fixing a jammed sewing machine is oddly therapeutic for me. I am interested in figuring out unconventional methods of sewing through experimentation like having a fabric form hold its shape with only a seam. I learned to crochet and weave during the pandemic, which feels satisfying to finally check those skills off my bucket list… but of course I am still learning these skills and figuring out how to integrate them into my work.

My deep passion for feminism and holding up traditions from my matriarchal lineage drive the concepts of my art. I am working concurrently on two series that I feel influence one another, titled “Body Cushions” and “Fertility Shelves.” Both are based on the female experience and the shifts that happen within our bodies as they become vehicles for life as well as debated and objectified in their own right. From speaking with women over the last few years about their experiences, I noticed a physiological pattern of fear, behavior, and almost ritualistic-like adjustments in their lives in trying to conceive or not conceive. Both series began prior to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and since then my thoughts and their meanings have shifted both concepts and the trajectory of the work.

Have you been able to earn a full-time living from your creative work? If so, can you walk us through your journey and how you made it happen? Was it like that from day one? If not, what were some of the major steps and milestones and do you think you could have sped up the process somehow knowing what you know now?

Although I have not been able to earn a full-time living from my work yet, I have had an increase in sales, grants, and opportunities since leaving my graduate studies by challenging myself to complete as many applications as possible annually—I set a goal of 100 applications.

I am privileged and fortunate enough to work in the arts educating young children and adults at the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY where I am the Curator of Education for Youth and Adult Programs. Museum education is part of who I am as an artist, and in turn, it has influenced how I think about my work as a vehicle to teach and be interpreted by multiple experiences, audiences, and viewpoints.

I also volunteer my time to emerging artists as a Co-Director of BOSSCRITT (, a critique and curatorial community that supports emerging artists. In 2021, we received a Collective Futures Fund Grant, administered by Tufts University Art Galleries and is a part of the Regional Re-granting Program of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, enabling us to work with peer consultants to create a critique menu and resource that aims to dismantle the harmful habits and dated structures of critique and offer inclusive and productive alternative possibilities. BOSSCRITT is a free resource for artists and is a collaboration between myself, Courtney Stock, and Janet Loren Hill.

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