For over 40 years Diane Burko’s practice has focused on monumental and geological phenomena throughout the world based on her ability to investigate actual locations on the ground and in the air from open-door helicopters and Cessnas with cameras as well as sketchpads. Traveling from the temperate zones of America to those of Western Europe, from rain forests to regions of ice and active volcanoes, she has created paintings and photographs that merge a vision that is at once panoramic and intimate.
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1945, Diane Burko graduated from Skidmore College in 1966 where she received her B.S. in art history and painting. She continued her study of painting earning an M.F.A. in 1969 from the Graduate School of Fine Arts of the University of Pennsylvania. She continues to live and work in Philadelphia and Bucks Country. After graduating, Burko went on to be professor of fine arts at the Community College of Philadelphia where she taught from 1969-2000. During her time at CCP, Burko founded the transfer art program.
In 1974, she founded the all city festival: FOCUS: Philadelphia Focus on Women in the Visual Arts – Past and Present as part of her ongoing commitment to the Feminist Art movement. In 1976, Ivan Karp offered Burko a “Dealer’s Showcase” at OK Harris Gallery in New York, NY, which attracted the attention of critic David Bourdon, who reviewed her solo exhibition in The Village Voice. The following year, while flying with artist James Turrell in his Helio Courier over the Grand Canyon, Burko captured her first aerial photographs of the landscape. Since 1977, she has produced thousands of photographs, many of which have served as source material for her landscape paintings.
In 1989, the Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Fund awarded Burko a grant to fund a six-month residency in Giverny, France, which resulted in a series of new paintings. Back in the states, The Washington Post praised Burko’s Giverny paintings and her “distinctive approach to composition.” In 1993, Burko was awarded a residency at the Rockefeller Study and Conference Center in Bellagio where she painted en plein air for five weeks. This culminated in her 1994 Locks Gallery exhibition, Luci ed Ombra di Bellagio (The Light and Shadow of 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. Installed in the interior of the Marriott International Hotel in Philadelphia, Wissahickon Reflections is a suite of three very large canvases – fourteen by thirty-four feet, seven by eighty-five feet, and seven by ninety-five feet. In 2000, a $50,000 Leeway prize enabled Burko to travel to Hawaii, Italy and Iceland, which led to a series of photographs and paintings on volcanoes.
Additional awards and fellowships include: two NEA Visual Arts Fellowships (1985, 1991); two Individual Artists Grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (1981, 1989); and a WCA/CAA Lifetime Achievement Award in February 2011.
In addition to teaching at CCP, Burko has taught at various schools across the country such as Princeton University, Arizona State University and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts as well as lectured at numerous museums and university galleries.
Burko has had more than thirty solo exhibitions in galleries and museums across the United States including recent solo exhibits at the Tang Museum, Tufts University Art Gallery, James A. Michener Art Museum and at Princeton’s Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School. Her works are in numerous private and public collections including: the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Delaware Art Museum, The James A. Michener Art Museum, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Woodmere Art Museum. Her artwork also appears on the Fairmount Park Art Association Public Art Tour in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She has been represented by Locks Gallery from 1976 to 2012.
In 2000 Burko began studying volcanic tectonics and glacial geology, as well as climate change, which have led to her current imagery. Since 2006, she has been developing Politics of Snow, a project investigating the historical comparisons of global climate change through images culled from glacial geological data recorded throughout the world. The intentions of her practice today are rooted in confronting issues of geological/chronological time – past, present and future. She continues to invent strategies to that end that remain rooted in the tradition of painting while simultaneously integrating 21st century informational sources to address climate concerns.