For over 40 years Diane Burko 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 planes with cameras and sketchpads. Traveling from the temperate zones of America to those of Western Europe, from rain forests to regions of glaciers 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 receiving a 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. Burko went on to become professor of fine arts at the Community College of Philadelphia from 1969-2000. Burko has taught at other schools such as Princeton University, Arizona State University and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. She continues to lecture and conduct studio crits nationally.
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, 1977, while flying with artist James Turrell in his Helio Courier over the Grand Canyon, Burko captured her first aerial photographs of the landscape. Since then this has been her preferred process of securing landscape imagery as source material for her paintings. However, since 2000 she began making photographs as art works in themselves. 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 where she painted en plein air for five weeks. For 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. Wissahickon Reflections is a suite of three monumental canvases installed in the interior of the Marriott International Hotel in Philadelphia. In 2000, a $50,000 Leeway prize enabled Burko to travel to Hawaii, Italy and Iceland, funding a project on Volcanoes, producing a series of photographs and paintings. In 2013, The Independence Foundation supported her travels to the Arctic Circle with an artist fellowship.
Since 2006, Diane Burko has focused on issues of climate change situating her practice to the intersection of art and science. In her Politics of Snow and Polar Investigations projects she continues to invent visual strategies to make the invisible visible and visceral to the public. She has participated in a series of panels and colloquium on art and science, been an invited speaker at the AGU, and most recently lectured at the Academy of Natural Sciences in DC. She is an affiliate of INSTAAR, where she will interact with glacial researchers next fall.
Last September she voyaged to Svalbard in the high Arctic with a group of 26 other artists. Before that expedition 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 compliment6ede her earlier expedition to Antarctica in January. Witnessing melting ice as a key indicator of climate change continues in 2014 when she visits Greenland this summer and Antarctica in December as a member of the educational team of Students on Ice.