Thursday, September 16, 2010
Diana Woods has been an integral member of the Western Colorado arts community for more than 20 years. She is a celebrated visual artist and arts educator. Yet, making the commitment to be a full time professional artist and mother was a difficult decision with few female examples to follow.
"I looked at the choices many of the most famous artists made," says Woods, "Most of them were men who, look at Picasso, had little to know family life. I knew I didn't want to sacrifice my family, but I also needed to make art, needed to be an artist."
Woods received her B.F.A. from Williams Woods College in 1980 and moved to the Grand Junction area in 1984. For many years she supported herself with work in arts administration. She managed art education and exhibitions at the Western Colorado Center for the Arts where she developed a name for herself as a watercolor instructor. Additionally, Woods was the Artist in Residence for the District 51 after school art programs and taught classes in her own studio.
In 1996, Woods was raising her two young sons and was offered a lucrative job that would have taken her away from fine art. That is when she decided to go ‘all in’ for her career as an artist. She tells the story with a grin. After she declined the conventional, though well paid, job she was looking everywhere for reassurance that it was the right decision.
"I was driving one day and worrying about things like tuition and health insurance. I thought: 'I just need a sign.'" Suddenly, she noticed the license plate on the car in front of her. It was a 'vanity plate' that simply read: ART.
Roaring Fork Valley and Santa Fe, New Mexico. "That's when I took a leap in terms of technique as well. I became a better artist and consequently a more prolific artist,” says Woods. Showing away from home, she says, gives her the chance to stretch beyond what her local audience has come to expect, too. "I can be more exotic," she muses.
Often, the faith and confidence required to face the risks of being a full time artist will keep most straddling two worlds between what pays the bills and what is most fulfilling. Talking about the choice, Woods laughs.
"It's strange to me when people just declare: 'I'm going to be an artist.' It's just not that simple. Like any craft you have to work really hard at it," says Woods. "You don't just create. You have to study and spend time in the studio and out of 200 paintings you might get 10 that work."
Dedicating oneself to being a professional artist is difficult especially for generations of women who were not encouraged to pursue career first - let alone a career in art. Woods says: "You feel selfish knowing that you're responding to a personal need. But in the long run my boys have benefitted from it. I have dragged them to all my art classes and they learned a lot from what I had to endure. Nothing of value comes easy in life."
Woods channels that focus and determination into her artwork, which includes painting, sculpture, assemblage and encaustics. Her fortitude is present in the traditional, elegant sculptures and somehow transforms into subtle imagery and sensual colors in her evocative paintings.
Woods imparts a great deal of 'feminine energy' into her work, as well, and points to the influence of artists such as Beatrice Wood. Wood, a woman who dedicated her life to being an artist, was making art until her death at age 105.
"I met her when she was 100 years old. My whole life I've wanted to be an artist like her; not in art style, but in life style." Woods adds, "If I could be 100 years old and still be running out to my studio and excited about my work, that's huge."
Although, Woods describes herself as non-religious, making art is a meditative process for her and her relationship to nature, a frequent subject in her work, is a spiritual one. Paintings and encaustic by Woods have an iconographic quality with representational flora and fauna interspersed within abstracted environments like forests composed of copper trees and inky, graphic designs.
She says of her work: "I like people to pick up on the deeper meaning. I hope they will see and feel what I was feeling when I was working."
Among her many awards and accolades, in 2009, Woods was selected by Southwest Art Magazine as one of the 21 Over 31. Her artwork can be seen in Colorado at the Schilling Gallery and the Blue Pig Gallery.
About the Author: Wood is owner of the Blue Pig Gallery in Palisade, Colorado. She is being remunerated by the Wine Country Inn for her contributions to this blog.