Colorful, life-sized and vibrant are words that may describe the artwork of Ann Wood. They may not, however, describe what you expect from a gallery show called Deathbeds on view at Kirk Hopper Gallery in Dallas.
Most of the works on view, as was explained at the gallery, were created after the death of the artist’s parents. Now residing in Galveston, Ann grew up in California where she recalls time spent in her mother’s flower garden. Those flowers are the inspiration for the works at the gallery which include a single-metal hospital bed covered with foam and plastic flowers and other similarly-treated household furnishings. They allude to how and where we might die.
And then when nature takes over.
Lots of people like colorful art, but few outside of museums and the morbid collectors among us are interested in filling the living room with works about death. This is the work of an artist getting something out of their system.
There are other famous paintings about death, but outside of various crucifixions, few came to mind. And unlike these works, those are dark. Ivan Albright’s haunting That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door) at the Art Institute of Chicago is one.
But Ann Wood’s works seem to mark death, as gruesome as it can be, by celebrating life. The gallery notes suggest the works have a disturbing underbelly housing vignettes of danger, death, deception, and decay. There’s a bear rug facing a puddle of blood, a painting of crows pecking away at dead deer, and other elements some gallery goers might find disturbing. Nature itself is at once awe-inspiring and disturbing and death unavoidable and hard to comprehend. It’s far away from the flower garden and yet all around us.
For comfort and understanding, we look to words and art. To me, this work is about that trying to come to understanding. Even when the subject is death, art is about life.
As Confucius says, if we don’t know life, how can we know death?