ANDERSON — Enter the room, and you feel the heat. Suited up with oversized leather gloves and safety glasses, Diane Burrell opens the door to a red hot furnace. She carefully wields a tool to reach into the 1500-degree space and pulls out her latest work in progress — a three-dimensional enamel and metal creation.
Burrell’s eyes twinkle. The 68-year old artist lights up the room with a delighted enthusiasm. The paintings, oil pastels and enamel works of the artist exude color, life and, very purposefully, hope. Burrell’s creative energy flows happily today, but it is informed by an all too personal look at darkness.
Sixteen years ago, Burrell was thriving. She had raised three children and was happily married to her husband Joel. After earning her degree at age 43, she taught in the Daleville schools. She was having the time of her life making art and teaching. She and Joel broke ground on a new house on a lake. Then, in the summer of 1997, it all suddenly fell apart when Burrell suffered a breakdown.
“I hit bottom. It was a disaster,” said Burrell. “I couldn’t think, couldn’t function very well, couldn’t plan. All my strengths were just sapped from me. My brain just stopped.”
The formerly vibrant wife, mom, artist, and teacher lay on the couch while her husband, sons and family laid the bricks on the new house. Family brought meals, packed for her and got her moved. Burrell lay on the couch for three and a half years.
It was long road back for Burrell, but she tenaciously chased her recovery down, and won.
“I pushed and pushed and pushed to come out of it,” said Burrell, who succeeded through her own sheer will and help from a psychiatrist who believed in her.