“To be a human being does not mean knowing all the answers; our faith tells us that we cannot see everything, cannot know everything, cannot predict everything. It tells us that ultimately, we live in mystery. Such is life, such is creativity.”

Paraphrasing a quote from an Episcopal Advent Series, Dianna Woolley relates to Christian life in general and to her life as an artist specifically. 

What makes an artist is defined by the person’s own determination. After living through the prerequisite chapters, and all that came with it, Dianna takes the mystery of life and translates it into paint. 

Raised in small town Bethany, Okla., to a family with little interest in what the world offered, she was a happy kid who took for granted a loving home life. Since then she raised fabulous kids, lived in New York and Hong Kong, inhabited a major company’s corporate office overlooking New York’s Central Park, traveled abroad for business and pleasure, became an avid art collector, and a practicing artist.

As Dianna says, she “morphed purposefully into abstraction.” Avidly reading books, looking at 20th century abstract expressionism and post painterly abstractionists, taking on workshops, private tutors, mentors and self care, Dianna embodies her hard work. Using her skills from past lives as an executive and a mother, she outlined steps from her education in realism to make the transition over the last two decades, while living in Walla Walla.

At 76, often with a dash of the perfect red lipstick, she maintains, “I have no other choice than to do what I do … the compulsion to create has been innate since childhood. Discovering the richness of possibility as an adult makes the application of art all the more fulfilling and fun for me.” 

Dianna is constantly pushing herself within her art practice. In particular is her resolve around the artist residency experience. 

She has participated on the Island of Nantucket — 2016 and 2017 in residency at the Nantucket Island School of Design and Art. In 2018, Woolley was awarded a two-week October residency for independent study by the International Encaustic Artists, at the renowned Castle Hill Arts Center’s Edgewood Farm, Truro, Mass.

“Artist Residency definition — an incredible opportunity and force in the universe resulting in the action of pushing, shoving, kicking, coaxing, enticing, intoxicating, incentivizing, encouraging and blessing one’s artist self through and into a new dimension of productivity, courage, selection, perspective, confidence and well-being — a blessing for which I’m ever so grateful!”

How long have you been in the Walla Walla Valley and what do you like to be called? I’ve lived in Walla Walla for nearly 20 years with the love of my life, Steve, and like the use of my full first name, Dianna. I’ve never yearned for a nickname.

A hug or a handshake? I prefer a handshake over a hug and have a habit of saving hugs for special occasions with close friends and family.

How does fear play a role in your work? The principal fear I face as a creative artist is that I’ve not gone far enough yet in my practice to flush out all I have to offer the universe. I work on that ...

Titled work or untitled? I don’t enjoy naming my artwork as I adore engaging with observers about what they see in the work regardless of its title. Sometimes I feel naming a work may limit a viewer’s feelings or engagement with the image I’ve created. 

Describe a pivotal moment in your artist life. Pivotal moments in my artist’s journey involve memories of my first drawing and painting classes in New York, the first time I wrote down my intention of a one-woman show and the 15 years hence in which that first one-woman show became a reality. In those moments of positive intention I knew I was an artist, not a wannabe, an artist.

How do you handle rejection? Not loving rejection a single bit more than anyone else, I generally frame it in terms of “not being accepted this time” rather than rejection. I do not save rejection notices.

Where do you make your work? I paint in my home studio regularly and work at eating three meals and taking a nap every day. My body loves the challenge of strength and flexibility. Yes, I practice yoga, have a personal coach, a nutrition adviser and a trusted painting mentor. 

Share someone who is politically, historically, intellectually, artistically or emotionally significant to you. As far as persons I admire and who’ve influenced my life strongly, the first was a fictional heroine in the 1978 best seller, “A Woman of Independent Means.” In 1998, through her memoir, “Personal History,” I became an avid admirer of Katherine Graham, head of The Washington Post, as a political, historical and intellectual model. Mrs. Graham, having led a sheltered, solitary childhood, though with every financial advantage, played second fiddle to men most of her life until thrust into a situation that was do or die in her life of taking over the helm of The Washington Post. Through her own fortitude she discovered strength and sense of self through mastery of personal and professional crises. I’ve read her memoir several times. 

The artist I’ve admired most of my adult life, once I began poring over art historical documents and images in my early 20s, is Georgia O’Keeffe; not necessarily for her images, though lovely, but her dedication to becoming her own person in body, mind and spirit. I would like to be remembered and honored in this life and the next as these two women, whom I’ve mentioned, managed to do in their own time — as woman, in my case mother, wife, friend, colleague and gifted artist — successful in all roles striving to use God-given talents to their best possible use.

Augusta Sparks Farnum is a resident artist at Studio Two Zero Two, 202 Main St. To learn more about her work, see augustasparks.com. For more about the gallery, see studio202gallery.com.

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