I had the pleasure of chatting recently with the lovely Miss Diane Irby, artist-photographer and proprietor of Good Mourning Glory Studios, based in Detroit, Michigan. Miss Irby's grandly Gothic spectrum of graveyard photographs, collages, prints and artwork reveal a deliciously dark sentimentality that is the perfect counterpoint to the bright fall spirit of Halloween, and in our chat she shared some of her deepest thoughts with yours truly. Delight forthwith in the musings of Diane Irby as you read on.
Darling, thank you for participating in our little soiree. Please tell us about yourself and what you do.
Thanks for having me! Well, first and foremost, I'm a mom to two beautiful girls, Zoë and Trinity Rain, two very precocious kitty cats, Pumpkin and Shadow, and also a pretty red fish named Oskar. They keep me pretty busy but, in my spare time I like to create mixed-media artworks, make jewelry with postmortem photos from the 1800s, take photographs and express myself in any other sort of way that strikes me at the moment. I spent a lot of time this summer exploring and taking photographs of street art and abandoned places in the Detroit area and had the time of my life doing it! The weather is turning now though, so I'll be shifting my focus until the spring comes. Right now I'm working on several projects, including one I recently started called "After The Monsters", in which I create mixed-media pieces from photographs I've taken of ceramic portrait plaques found on tombstones in the many cemeteries I've visited over the past few years. In this case "Monsters" are symbolic of Life and what it can do to us. I find the posed "smile" portrait fascinating, as it reveals really so very little about its subject… or perhaps so very much.
What inspired you to become an artist? What inspires your work?
I was inspired to become an artist because I really just couldn't contain my love of the beauty in what most people consider "dark" any longer. I felt the need to reveal to others that longing, pain, loneliness.. that craziness you feel when you can't be with someone you adore - it's all a derivative of the very thing we are put here for, our very purpose - to feel love and to be loved. I think Charles Baudelaire said it best, "I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy."
Of course some of my art is just for fun, but I tend to have a running "theme", although not intentionally. I'd have to say what inspires my work the most is my knowledge of and deep connection to the fact that one day all of this will be gone, and eventually everything and everyone will just become a memory.
Indeed. Do you have any artists who have influenced your photography and artwork?
Well, my two favorite artists would have to be Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol - both for very different reasons. I wouldn't say that either one has directly influenced the content of my work, but they've definitely inspired me to just feel free to express myself and not worry what others think, and to see art everywhere and in everything, and to incorporate it in everything that I do - to not just make art, but to live art.
A most eloquent statement, Miss Irby. But your photographs seem to indicate a fascination with cemeteries. Can you elaborate? Is there a historical interest?
(Smiles) I get that a lot actually. A lot of people seem to think that I have a fascination with death because I love cemeteries. But really, I have a fascination with life. Death is just a chapter in life. To some it is the final chapter, to others a segue into another kind of existence.
No historical significance for me, the dead just make the best company if you ask me. They are truly at peace - a state that is nearly impossible to achieve while you're living. Walking through a cemetery gives me the feeling of no worry, no pain, no stress, no fear. I leave a cemetery feeling refreshed and recharged and ready to make the most of the life that I've been given.
I know that our Mad Doctor owns a few of your prints. Where may we find your work?
Right now is actually a very exciting time for me because I have a new website, dianeirby.com, launching soon; hopefully by or before the first of the year! But in the meantime, you can find me on Facebook at facebook.com/TheArtofDianeIrby. Right now my artwork is available directly from me, or from my shop goodmourningglory.etsy.com.
You apparently own your own hearse. How did you acquire this lovely vehicle?
Well, I don't want to bore you with the whole story but... I'd always wanted one since I was a little girl. For a few years I'd been looking on Ebay and Craigslist, just window shopping, thinking to myself that I'd never really have one. Until this past year when I turned 39 and decided that I would have one before I turned 40 - that this was one of those things that I was just going to have to make happen. So I did. I found her on Craigslist about an hour away. She'd been parked behind a barn for several years, but when I put a new battery in and primed the carburetor she started right up! So I drove her home on rotting tires with rotting hoses and belts and she did me just fine! Next day I took her in to get all that replaced and she's been a gem since!
OK, she's a little rough on the eyes but I love her like that!! In fact, she just won her first "How In The Hell Did You Make It Here?" award this past weekend! She also was part of a new World Record for longest hearse parade on September 17th in Hell, Michigan--number 41 out of 51 hearses! People ask me all the time when I'm going to get her painted, but I'm not. I'm going to have her lightly sandblasted to take away any peeling paint and then sealed just the way she is to keep her creepy always!
Delightful. What is your favorite memory of Halloween?
My favorite memory of Halloween...? Oh, it's so hard to choose! You know, each year is just as special as the last, I don't think I can decide! It's truly my most favorite holiday of the year! There's no pressure; it's just fun! My most favorite thing to do on Halloween is pass out candy. I love seeing all the costumes and especially the little kids who are trying to figure out "Is all this creepy scariness OK?" and then watching them discover that yes, it is! Thankfully there are still a lot of families that come out for Halloween in my neighborhood and they know I like to give out only the best candy to my trick-or-treaters!
Thanks again for having me! So lovely to chat with you, Bethany!I assure you, the pleasure is all mine, and thank you for sharing with us, darling!
Diane Irby's work is available at her shop on Etsy, which can be accessed by clicking our title link above. Do ramble through her online studios and view her beautiful works, and do return soon for our next installment of The MonsterGrrls' Thir13en For Halloween. I believe I shall prepare a nice cup of dark chocolate cocoa (spiked with a good B-positive, which is just the perfect blood-type as it doesn't disturb that wonderful coffee-esque bitterness) and view the gallery in Castle Ruthven. There's a spot on the wall near the alcove that's needing a print...
NOTE: We extend special thanks to Diane Irby for allowing us not only to interview her, but allowing the use of much artwork for this post. All the prints shown here can be found at Good Mourning Glory Studios; merely click the link above to arrange a purchase. --B.R.