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October 27, 2013

Peace by pieces: MSU English professor, author, artist unveils first solo art exhibit at SCC

MSU English professor, author, artist unveils first solo art exhibit at SCC

The small crowd moving around the gallery could hear the distinct sound of small wooden blocks clacking against a tabletop.

Jenga blocks, the medium of the artist currently on display, were set out for guests to take home as keepsakes. Wrapped in vintage art from magazine clippings, the students, faculty and other viewers of Diana Joseph’s first solo art exhibit couldn't help but to play with the toys.

The sound of the blocks falling from stacks gave a strangely appropriate soundtrack to the exhibit, filling the air with the playful spirit and child-like quality that her art portrayed.

Like most art, however, there is more to the colorful blocks than what meets the eye. Despite being game pieces typically used by children, Joseph used them to overcome personal strife and make discoveries about herself as a person.

The result — her exhibit, “Jenga Block Collage Factory” — is on display at South Central College through Nov. 22.

Joseph's inspiration

It was a spring day when Joseph, an associate professor of English at Minnesota State University, was sitting on the floor of her living room with her 2-year-old son, Teddy.

Playing together with Jenga blocks, Joseph would build a tower and her son would knock it down. It was while rebuilding one of those towers that she realized she could use the blocks as a base material for collages, which she had been making a lot of from other materials for a while.

Teddy was born Nov. 19, 2010, and in February of 2011 Joseph was diagnosed with postpartum depression.

“What I remember most about that time was how confused and sad I felt. I felt disconnected from my baby, from my family and friends, and from myself,” Joseph said.

It was around that time that Joseph came across the work of Lynda Barry.

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