LACMA exhibition pays tribute to the fruits of alum and Grad Art chair Diana Thater’s ‘Sympathetic Imagination’

Diana Thater in Pripyat, Ukraine, 2010. © Diana Thater, photo by Volodymyr Palylyk

Diana Thater in Pripyat, Ukraine, 2010. © Diana Thater, photo by Volodymyr Palylyk

On the eve of her highly anticipated midcareer survey Diana Thater: The Sympathetic Imagination, opening November 22 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, we pay a studio visit to the ArtCenter alum and graduate department chair known for her groundbreaking film-, video-, and installation-based works.

She’s snorkeled with wild dolphins, regularly watches the Nat Geo channel and lives with four rescue cats. So it seems only natural that Graduate Art Chair Diana Thater (MFA 90) would use her empathy for animals as the foundation for a remarkable series of video and film installations dissecting the knotty dynamic between humankind and wildlife.

Sipping an espresso in the cozy Highland Park studio and home she shares with artist/musician T. Kelley Mason, Thater, dressed in a hoodie, black pants and sandals, says, “When I go on shoots, I find my relationship to the animals is very different from that of the crew. They’re not alien to me.”

As stray Spiffy insinuates himself alongside her on the sofa, Thater elaborates. “I’ve had very close contact with gorillas, wild dolphins, chimpanzees. I’ve had monkeys climbing all over me, I’ve petted a tiger. You have to be really open in order to work with animals in that way,” she laughs. “I hope I am.”

Diana Thater. Life is a Time-Based Medium

Installation view of Diana Thater: Life is a Time-Based Medium, Hauser & Wirth London, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Alex Delfanne

LACMA Director Michael Govan has championed Thater’s work since 2001, when he presented her bee-themed installation knots + surfaces at Dia: Chelsea in New York. After LACMA acquired several Thater pieces, the museum’s Christine Y. Kim, associate curator of contemporary art, began organizing The Sympathetic Imagination. Kim, who also curated light and space pioneer James Turrell’s 2013–2014 LACMA retrospective, believes both artists design environments that transform the way viewers perceive the world.

Read the full story in Dot magazine.


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