Diane Edison was born in Piscataway, New Jersey in 1950. She received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1976, an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986, having attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1984. She is the author of Colour Painting: Using the Full Palette, an illustrated guide to painting methods and techniques, published in 2008. She currently lives and works in Athens, GA, where she is a professor of painting and drawing at the Lamar Dodd School of Art, University of Georgia.
Edison makes portraits that derive from her personal relationships, choosing to draw those people she has a close kinship with, such as close family and friends. There is an overarching narrative in her work that derives from her experiences with friendship and motherhood, as well as her own understanding of herself as a black woman. This subtext is also influenced by the context she works in; she often plays music while she completes a portrait in her studio and will play the same songs repeatedly to create “a spiritual fiber that no one knows about.” Edison treats her portraits and self-portraits with equal attention, considering them both as part of the larger story of her life and the people in it. Her portrait drawings and paintings of others relate back to her self-portraiture in that she “translates and superimposes” the mood of the sitter onto the portrait. In this way, her work largely serves as a form of autobiography. In the same respect, Edison’s work also deals with chronological time and she uses her art to mark her own significant life events or milestones as well as those of her family. While her self-portraits are autobiographical, they also serve as studies in perspective and technique, particularly her use of white or colored pencil on black paper.
Edison has exhibited internationally and is the recipient of several major grants and awards such as the Lecturing and Research Fulbright Scholar Grant to Bulgaria from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board in 2010, the Anonymous Was A Woman Award in 2007, and a fellowship from the Milton Avery Foundation in 1995, among others. Most recently, she was named the 2019 Frances Niederer Artist-In-Residence at Hollins University. Her work is in many public collections such as the Arkansas Art Center, Little Rock; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; and the Greenville County Museum of Art, South Carolina, among others.