color [is] something I find appealing. I feel that a lot of times if it’s not on a wall in a museum or gallery, it’s not considered art. I wish it were treated with a little more respect on both sides — that people might take the time to notice it and see it for its strengths. But I also wish the artists themselves would be a little more respectful of the property and environment they place it in.”
Evidence of the various influences in Wood’s art extends beyond stylistic applications to specific references in the subject matter. For instance, a grid of nine graffiti paintings called Booger Masks is based on traditional Cherokee masks worn as part of a dance that developed in response to the unease resulting from European settlers encroaching on Indian land. The series is done as multiples in a reference to Andy Warhol. Another painting depicts a field of cornstalks with exposed kernels exploding into popcorn. “It’s my way of blending Indian art and Pop art,” Wood said of the painting, titled POPcorn! “I wanted to show that Indian art draws on a whole world of different influences. I think there is plenty of room for traditional and more modern takes on Indian art. I’m excited that there are so many Native artists working with a more modern spin, opening up new doors and ideas and drawing on those different influences.”
In addition to the Pop-art paintings, Wood’s show includes three large ceramic vessels that incorporate the hand-built slab-and-coil method he learned from Osti. The reduction of floral design elements to flat, basic shapes is in keeping with a Pop aesthetic. So, too, are the vessels’ vibrant colors — a look that seems to carry over from his paintings, which are rendered flat, having more to do with shapes painted in uniform colors than with varying tones and details.
This kind of look translates well in Removal, a reimagining of Picasso’s Guernica that Wood based on the Trail of Tears, the forced displacement and relocation of southeastern Indian tribes in the 1830s to what is now Oklahoma. Picasso’s original painting was named for a Basque town bombed by German planes in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. How Wood came to paint Removal is a testament to the enduring power of Guernica. “I was over in Spain at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid,” he said. “I forgot the painting was there. I turned a corner, and there it was. It just stayed with me, and I wanted to do my own take on it. I started researching Guernica and researching the Trail of Tears. I was trying to draw reference points to the Cherokees’ removal.”
By divorcing the original painting from specific historical markers or reference points, other than the title, Picasso’s statement became a general
Stephen Wood: POPcorn!, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 inches Below left, Jessica’s Flowers, 2010, mixed media, 17 x 14 inches