Originally from Nebraska, the stories and inspiration behind the work of Diana Woods stems from her childhood memories. From these childhood experiences, “Bruno the Bear” was born of tall tales her grandfather would share of the Old West. But later in life, when Woods was raising her own two boys in western Colorado, they met Pie. Myths and archetypal symbols often surround the stories in the work of the artist. Below, Woods shares the origin of “Bruno” and “Pie.”
I love to paint animals of different species together. They develop friendships and connections just as humans. Some relationships are symbiotic while others are genuine companionship. I enjoy exploring these relationships in my work.
Pie was my rescued Magpie that I raised with my boys who were young at the time. He showed up as a baby one day at my front door. He was standing there with my cat, Elvis, and my lab, Jake, and squawking to be fed. Somehow he must’ve been orphaned and was really hungry. I called the Dept. of Wildlife and they said to ignore him and his mother would most likely return. I went to my studio to work and he followed me. A few hours later, I opened the studio door and there he was again, and he was looking really scared. I took him in and fed him and he immediately became part of the family.
They are very social birds and our family loved him. He would stand on my shoulder as I worked in the studio and taught art classes. He liked to pluck on my son’s guitar. Pie loved it when I worked in the garden and would jump through the sprinklers. I never have felt comfortable keeping wild animals as pets so after he learned to fly a bit, I took him to a wildlife rehabilitation center and they put him in the fledgling cage with other young birds. The next day, they saw a flock of Magpies surrounding the cage so they opened the gate and he flew out with his new family!
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.
Somehow, this big bear he called Bruno would somehow appear on the scene to save my grandfather from terrible fates. In some stories he would get lost while out hunting or getting firewood and Bruno would get him home safe. Other times he would keep him warm when a blizzard blew in while he was in the mountains. Bruno even fought off the bad guys when my grandfather was threatened. We all grew up loving this bear and believed for many years he was real. His stories have sparked my imagination and helped to keep his memory alive.