WHEN Savannah State University’s classes begin on Aug. 13, Cal Wood’s art awaits them in the Kennedy Fine Arts building’s gallery.
“Transition: From One To The Next” is a ten-year retrospective of his work and shows a thoughtful progression of Wood’s artistic style.
“I finished my first painting in 2005 and had my premiere show in 2009, and about five of those are there now,” Wood explains.
Since then, Wood has worked hard—and it shows. Savannah State’s gallery director, Eric Clark, met Wood through a Friends of African American Art meeting with the college. Wood came more than prepared.
“He was super professional,” recalls Clark. “He brought his whole packet with his work, and he reached out to contact me several times. He’s super ambitious and full of energy. His work is in so many different restaurants in town.”
This is Wood’s first solo gallery show, and picking the work he wanted to show was easy for him.
“I like minimal, and I really wanted to do an entire series of that,” he says. “I’m probably going to have to buy a hundred canvases and 10 will work out. I want to pour one drip on the canvas—I lay my canvas flat, I don’t use easels. I love splatters and splashes.”
Wood’s earliest pieces are grids, and through the ten years they evolve to more minimal.
“The layers on layers, there’s a lot going on there,” notes Wood. “There are some where I thought, ‘I don’t like that, I’ll just do a different color scheme.’ One piece, I didn’t show it and I probably technically finished that piece ten years later. I just put it aside. There are only a few laying around that I haven’t finished.”
Wood points out one piece in particular, titled “Window of Opportunity,” as being particularly inspirational to him. One of his earlier grid paintings, there’s one rectangle of bare canvas in the corner of the piece.
“So I hate untitled paintings. I really do! But it has to, as people say, speak to me,” Wood explains. “I make fun of people that say that, so I can make fun of myself, too. I was just looking at the painting one day a year after I finished it and I saw that untouched canvas, and I said, ‘Oh my God, window of opportunity.’ That’s my window into the painting, my window into being able to talk about that piece. I feel like my layers on layers—that’s history. When you get to know a person, you ask them questions. When you ask questions, you’re peeling back those layers to get to know them. That’s how I feel about those layers in my paintings. When I look at a heavily gridded piece, I’m looking through it; I’m not looking at the top surface. That’s what that one was about.
“I’ve been thinking about donating that one to my school [in Wrightsville, Ga.] and giving a speech because I want them to know, right then and there, that’s their window of opportunity and make sure they do their best while they’re there. It’s a powerful piece to me.”
Through his artwork, Wood is focused on inspiring others, particularly students.
“Get involved with your local colleges. Support them,” he urges. “There’s always opportunity for local artists to give back to the community. I feel these students will be looking at my art, studying my art, talking about my art. Maybe that’ll inspire them to be an artist. Some of them may be students who are just in an art appreciation class and they’re not art people.”