Lille Diane is positive she was born with a crayon in her hand.
She never put it down – rather, she added to her artistic toolkit – and now visitors can indulge in her paintings on view at the Mancos Public Library through October.
The paintings on display are part of her personal collection and have never been seen in public before. Two provide first glimpses at completed BurroFest works.
People often refer to Diane as “The Human Sparkler” – a term she coined for herself because of her love of encouraging others.
“I like to uplift others and help them add some feathers to their wings to fly a little bit higher, farther and believe in themselves,” she said.
Art is entwined with the fabric of her family. Her father played music with classic Western country musicians, including Hank Williams, Johnny Horton and Hank Snow, and her love for music and other forms of art has been passed down to her children.
She’s a firm believer that you can design your own life.
“We sometimes get stuck,” she said. “We get to do these fun things after we do the boring things.”
Like many, Diane found herself in the corporate and business worlds – but they weren’t for her. Her mind was constantly reeling with ideas for creative projects.
For instance, she would find herself asking questions like, “What do you mean I can't open up this flower garden on this beautiful corner?”
It was at every corner of life, it seemed, that she was overcome with such inspired visions.
“Most everybody said no to my wonderful dream because they couldn't visualize it,” she said.
Her flower dream in particular ended up coming true in the town of Ojai, California. To her, it was a beautiful and romantic notion to operate a cart selling blossoming bouquets.
She was born in Durango but spent her middle and high school years in Southern California, where the influences of nearby Los Angeles and Hollywood seeped into her creative upbringing.
There, she was exposed to many varying mediums of art –from filmmaking to leather workings to clay.
“I was really in heaven,” she said.
The only times she was truly engaged in school were when lessons had to do with art or music, she said.
The culture of the West is deeply rooted in her artwork – and in who she is.
The logging industry brought her family to Southwest Colorado, and she also lived in northern New Mexico and Arizona.
She did, however; live in the Midwest for 15 years. There, she worked for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh while living in Cleveland, as well as for culinary schools doing cooking demonstrations.
She met her husband in Ohio, and in 2015, the pair made the move to Mancos. Diane always had the urge to return to the area, and her husband fell in love with it, too.
“My goal when I came back this time was not to change anything here, but to enhance and grow and share what I’ve learned in my travels,” she said.
And she has. Since her return, Diane has immersed herself in such projects as leading students at Mancos High School in the creation of the mural at the library there, and in helping with the launch of the new Zu Gallery on West Main Street in Cortez.
She believes that society is in the middle of an art renaissance.
“People are seeing that art is a way to communicate,” she said. “It tells a story much better than words, and it can be heard around the world. People understand art and music, so I think it’s a language and a good balance. For our planet right now, making art is healing and medicine.”
Now, she sees a piece of herself in the young women of Montezuma County who are embarking on their own creative endeavors, like opening up flower and antique businesses and making their own jams and jellies.
“I love cheering on that community around me in this area,” she said. “It’s good to see that it’s repeating itself here. It’s like watching myself 30 years ago.”
You can keep up with Diane on her YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/LilleDiane/videos.