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Arts icon bears his soul before taking his leave

By: MARK ARNEST THE GAZETTE
October 6, 2006
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If you’re part of the region’s arts scene, it’s easy to think you know Rodney Wood. He’s been everywhere: Owner of Thunderstruck Gallery in Old Colorado City, director of Manitou Springs’ Business of Art Center, curator of Chaos Studios Artspace.
And he’s held a dozen other arts jobs. But nothing will prepare you for the 14 paintings that make their debut this weekend at Rubbish Gallery. “These just feel more true to my soul than anything I’ve ever done,” he says. “You know more about me looking at these paintings than engaging in conversation.” Unfortunately, Wood’s debut as a painter is also his farewell. In a few weeks he’s moving to Santa Fe, the better to pursue his newfound artistic passion. The 55-year-old Wood had a creative life as a jeweler and a sculptor before he started painting 2½ years ago. He was inspired to return to painting after uncrating a work by Norwegian realist painter Odd Nerdrum at Pueblo’s Sangre de Cristo Arts Center in 2003. “Holding that painting in my hands reminded me of the power of art,” says Wood. He decided he wanted to challenge himself and create art of an emotional power that he believes has been neglected in post-modern painting. Wood hadn’t painted in decades — “I did two bad oil paintings in my 20s,” he says — but his eye was ready for the challenge. As he worked, he’d forget to eat, sometimes painting for eight hours at a time. The images that began to take shape were dark, yet calm. The techniques harked back to Flemish masters, using what Wood called the “learn-asyou-go” method. The scenes are strange and suggest storylines that Wood leaves to our imagination. Most of the subjects are women: Three of them stand calmly while a ruined town burns behind them; one holds her arms out while a flock of blue birds swirls around her; another huddles calmly in a straight-jacket; yet another reaches toward us while lava bubbles from the ground around her and a flock of crows fills the sky above. Wood distinguishes his approach, called magical realism, from traditional surrealism. “This could happen,” he says. “It would be one damn X-Files weird moment, but it could happen.” The detail may be the first thing that strikes a viewer, but Wood wants the skill to be secondary. “Monet said you could have paintings about light,” Wood says. “Cézanne said you could have paintings about color. These are about emotion.” details “Magic Reality,” by Rodney Wood When: 1-10 p.m. today-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday, opening reception 5-10 p.m. today Where: Rubbish Gallery, 17-B Bijou St. (in alley between Tejon Street and Cascade Avenue) Admission: Free; notheman@ hotmail.com Also: Artist talk/discussion, 2 p.m. Sunday
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