Wisconsin Woman Draws Artistic Inspiration in Face of Death

Diane Bresnan Fleming

“Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not.”

Such is the wisdom of Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher whose stoic thought, it could be said, is embodied in the passion and resilience of one Wisconsin artist, Diane Bresnan Fleming, a hospice care patient who, given only weeks to live last fall, began giving away her earthly possessions (including her kiln) only to realize that there was still work left to do.

The 68-year-old former schoolteacher and artist thinks her work has improved since she began making art again following her diagnosis last year.

“I just wake up each day wanting to do art, even if it’s just contributing something small to a project,” she told the Wisconsin State Journal. “When you concentrate on that part of your life — the creative part, or what I also consider my spiritual part — it allows you to put away the physical part for a while.”

Fleming, whose bowls and plates are now available for sale in the gift store of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, says she is planning a show at her home in December that will feature more than 40 works, all made in the last year.

“I respect her as an artist, and I marvel at her ability to be resilient through all this,” Lindy Anderson, a former student of Fleming at Madison’s Elvehjem Elementary School​ said. “She continues to inspire everyone around her and to demonstrate the value of approaching whatever you do with creativity.”

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