Diane Burko focuses on monumental geological phenomena throughout the world. To that end, she has investigated locations on the ground and in the air from open-door helicopters and planes with cameras and sketchpads. Traveling from the temperate zones of America to those of Western Europe, from rain forests to glaciers and active volcanoes, she creates paintings and photographs that merge a vision that is at once panoramic, intimate and sometimes provocative.
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1945, Diane Burko graduated from Skidmore College in 1966 with a B.S. in art history and painting. In ‘69 she earned an MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania. Burko was a professor at the Community College of Philadelphia from 1969-2000 and also taught studio courses at Princeton University, ASU, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1974, she founded FOCUS: Philadelphia Focus on Women in the Visual Arts – Past and Present. In 1976, Ivan Karp offered Burko a “Dealer’s Showcase” at his OK Harris Gallery which attracted the attention of critic David Bourdon. He who wrote about her in The Village Voice leading to gallery exhibits in New York in the 80’s. From 1976 to 2012 the Locks Gallery in Philadelphia represented her. She is now an independent artist represented on the West by LewAllen Gallery in Santa Fe NM. In 1977, while flying with artist James Turrell over the Grand Canyon, Burko took her first aerial photographs of the landscape - thus establishing her lifelong process securing material for her paintings. In 1989, the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund awarded Burko a six-month residency in Giverny, France. In 1993, Burko was awarded a residency at the Rockefeller Study and Conference Center in Bellagio. For her 1994 Locks Gallery exhibition, Luci ed Ombra di Bellagio, Robert Rosenblum, who first took an interest in Burko’s work in 1976, wrote the accompanying catalog essay. In 1996, Burko won a $200,000 Public Art Commission for a suite of three monumental canvases installed in the interior of the Marriott International Hotel in Philadelphia. In 2000, a $50,000 Leeway prize funded a project on Volcanoes, enabling her to travel to Hawaii, Italy and Iceland. In 2011 she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Women’s Caucus for Art. In 2013, she was selected for a residency to Svalbard. The Independence Foundation supported those travels to the Arctic Circle with a $10,000 artist fellowship.
Since 2006, Diane Burko has situated her practice at the intersection of art and science focusing on climate change. In her Politics of Snow and Polar Investigations projects she invents visual strategies to make the invisible visible through her paintings and prints. She also participates in outreach activities – appearing on panels and colloquium on art and science, speaking at the AGU (American Geophysical Union), GSA (Geological Society of America), and the Academy of Natural Sciences, as well as at INSTAAR where she is an affiliate. In September 2013 before embarking in her high Arctic residency voyage she was invited to join a research team of geologists in Ny-Alesund (Northern most research station in the world), as they flew and landed on top of Glaciers Kronebreen and Kongsvegen. This complimented her earlier expedition to Antarctica in January. In August 2014 she explored Ilulissat and Eqi glaciers in Greenland. In December 2014- January 2015 she returned to Antarctica as a member of the educational team of Students on Ice and then traveled to the Southern Patagonian Ice field in Argentina to photograph three major glaciers. She sees melting ice as a key indicator of climate change. Thus she devotes her time to bear witness, creating art as an antidote to doubt. Since that expedition she has been focusing on developing a new body of photographic prints and paintings.
A collection of 40”x60” prints are being prepared for a show of Diane Burko’s Polar Investigations project for Kean University to be on exhibition from February 1 to April 30, 2016.