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Jan 21, 2023
Diana Woods Artist Interview: Extravagant Dreams

Diana Woods is a painter and sculptor living in Western Colorado, inspired by her surroundings on the border of the Colorado National Monument. Originally from Nebraska, the stories and inspiration behind her work stem from her childhood memories spent on the back of a horse and listening to her grandfather’s tall tales of the Wild West with ‘Bruno the Bear’ as the savior. As a result, her work is full of narrative and allegorical imagery, illustrating the parallels between human experience and the natural world.

Enjoy this Q & A with artist Diana Woods as part of Extravagant Dreams on view at Ann Korologos Gallery in Basalt, CO.

How does your art make you feel?

My art is my prayer and meditation.  The studio is a healing place for me, a refuge from the everyday craziness of life. When I paint, I lose myself.  If I am able to achieve what I set out to create, I feel amazing! 

What inspires the dream-like quality of your work? What is your intention?

I have always found my inspiration from the natural world. Animals, especially, come to me in my dreams. Much of my work is narrative and stories are woven into each piece. The stories may be from my own experience, folklore or memories from my childhood where my grandfather ignited my imagination with his tall tales. It is in nature that I feel my connection to the sacred. The world is a magical place if we just pay attention.

Diana Woods - Ravensong

Ravensong is the story of the symbiotic relationships between ravens and wolves.  They develop lifelong friendships, as well as help each other find food.

How do you feel when looking at a blank canvas or page? How do you approach a new idea?

The blank canvas is full of possibilities.  When I begin a new piece, I usually have a story in my head that I want to tell.  I have a sense of the feeling and the message I want to express. Colors, composition, references are sketched out. Often times, I can see it in my mind as a finished piece. It is important for me though, to allow the painting to have its own voice and allow it to emerge.

Tell us about a featured work in Extravagant Dreams.

Moonrise was inspired by the doe, Tulip, who visits me. She loves to eat tulips! She brought her twins to my garden daily, to hide them while she went about her foraging. There is something very magical about the night and the moonrise.  The dimming light and the glow of the moon make everything shimmer.

Diana Woods - Moonrise
Diana Woods, “Moonrise,” Oil on Panel, 40 x 30 inches

Tell us about the evolution of your style?

We are energetic creatures and this new work is representational of this.  Animals are especially sensitive with their energy which protects them from danger and helps them move through their world, sensing subtle frequencies.  The Abstract Expressionist movement has had a powerful impact on my work over the years. The spontaneity and freedom of working this way is gratifying and exciting. I am also interested in contrast and the push and pull of a piece. I asked myself what is the opposite of expressionistic, loose brushwork; and the geometric, hard-lined shapes in subtle, transparent forms emerged. Experimentation is important for my growth as an artist and keeps things fresh.

You moved from Nebraska to Montana to Western Colorado. How did it feel to move West, and how did it inform your work or perspective as an artist? 

My beloved grandfather told such amazing stories of the West.  He ranched in Montana, and I always wanted to move there. When I was 18, I got a job on a remote ranch outside of Whitefish, Montana where I was a wrangler. I knew then that I wanted to paint the western landscape, horses and wildlife.

Diana Woods
“My grandfather and grandmother, Pace and Olive Woods, moved from Nebraska to Whitehall, Montana in 1917 to build a life as ranchers. It was called the Diamond P Ranch. It was truly the Wild West back then, and he had so many great stories. As children we would sit with him while he told us of great adventures and many near death experiences.”

When I graduated from college in Missouri, I headed west to live in Whitefish. Life there was good!  I painted, skied, kayaked, hiked and soaked in the beauty.  I met my husband there, and we moved to Grand Junction to work at the Bureau of Land Management in the forest fire program. The high desert landscape was so new to me, but I grew to love it.  It was here that I was introduced to the wild horse herd on the Little Book Cliffs. These wild herds sparked my imagination. As I raised my two boys and went through a divorce, I painted when I could and eventually built my own little studio. It was a test of perseverance, but I kept working on my art.  At 50, I decided it was time to have my own horse again. With the proceeds of my art sales, I saved up and bought a beautiful, dapple gray Thoroughbred gelding named Finnegan. We have spent many years on the trails, observing the wild horses, wildlife in the red rock canyons. The West is in my soul.  There is no other place I would rather be. 

Diana Woods - Friends
Diana Woods, “Friends,” Oil on Panel, 16 x 16 in

What would you want a viewer to know about your work?  Or what feeling do you imagine your work evokes in a viewer?

When someone views my work, I hope to invite them into a world that inspires a sense of wonder, mystery, and connection to nature. Upon seeing an animal in the wild, I always feel a sense of awe and transcendent awareness, which I try to create in my work.

Do you have anything to share – stories, symbolism, intention, rose, thorn – about the works featured in Extravagant Dreams?

Diana Woods - Old Friends
Diana Woods, “Old Friends,” Oil on Panel, 40 x 30 inches

Old Friends represents the connections between species fascinates me. My beloved Bruno the Bear and Pie the Magpie are old friends. The bear is symbolic of strength and protection while the Magpie represents hope.  I raised a Magpie that was orphaned and named him Pie.  He was incredibly smart and had a funny sense of humor. He appears in my work and it is always a joy to paint him.

Diana Woods - Sisters
Diana Woods, “Sisters,” Acrylic on Panel, 36 x 48 in

Sisters was inspired by the three does that visit my yard every morning.  They remind me of my three sisters.

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