If one were asked to guess David Woodie’s profession, one would likely guess fishing, logging, construction or some other similar career based on his grizzly beard, plaid shirts and work clothes. Woodie, the juror for the upcoming Juried Student Show in the Student Union Gallery, however, has been a life drawing art professor at University of Alaska Southeast since 2003.
His rugged mountain man look does hold some truth to what he did when he first moved to Alaska from Eugene, Ore., though. Woodie arrived in Alaska in 1976 and lived on Prince of Wales Island.
“I worked in the woods, logging and doing forestry contracts there for 13 years before moving to Juneau to pursue art making in 1989,” Woodie said.
Woodie also maintains interest in the outdoors in addition to his teaching.
“I still do some commercial halibut fishing and I love to go camping,” he said.
Woodie is a primarily self-taught artist. He had only taken a few classes in art before becoming an art professor, but his artwork doesn’t suggest that he doesn’t know what he’s doing — it actually says just the opposite. Jane Terzis, one of Woodie’s art professors at UAS, who later became a mentor and friend, took notice of Woodie’s abilities and offered him a job as an art professor at UAS in 2003.
“He seems to have a complete understanding of human anatomy and a passion for working with the figure,” fellow art professor Anne Wedler said of Woodie.
His artworks include sketches and paintings, and much of his art is Baroque inspired. He also loves the artworks of Lucian Freud, Alice Neal, Julie Heffernan and Walton Ford.
“I am primarily a narrative painter. I don’t illustrate stories, but rather make paintings that suggest stories. I have always loved the art of the Baroque era, and oil paint, drawing and engraving are my preferred media,” Woodie said.
Woodie has very profound themes that he likes to work with in his artwork as well.
“Recurring themes in my work include the classical ‘vanitas’ theme, the brevity of life and beauty and the intersection of human and non-human nature,” Woodie said.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “A vanitas painting contains collections of objects symbolic of the inevitability of death and the transience and vanity of earthly achievements and pleasures; it exhorts the viewer to consider morality and to repent.”
His past in the outdoors has also affected the subjects and themes of his work. Most of his works have landscapes with human elements on top of the natural setting.
“I had lived all my life around old growth logging in the Pacific Northwest. Many of my relatives had been loggers. The impact of human activity on nature has always fascinated me, and I have very ambivalent feelings about it. On one hand the destruction can be appalling, on the other, this is the landscape of my earliest memories. The powerful feelings this landscape evokes in me is a huge influence on my work. The entire time I worked in the woods I saw the landscape through painter’s eyes. Hard work is a form of meditation, and when my head was cleared of thoughts and opinions and politics I found myself responding to this destruction on the edge of wilderness as a poignantly beautiful thing; destruction, loss, and rebirth, all written on the landscape.”
Woodie’s artwork has been displayed in both the Anchorage Museum and Juneau-Douglas City Museum.
Emily Wall, an author and assistant professor of English at UAS, commented in a blog post about one of Woodie’s untitled works that was on the cover of a Juneau-based journal called “Tidal Echoes” that Wall is the faculty adviser for.
“I go to gallery walk and look at art like any respectable Juneau citizen, but it rarely really bowls me over, and this one really did,” Wall said in her post. “I just love this. Somehow it captures exactly how I feel about Juneau.”
His artwork has now even gotten him attention at UAA and has made him the selection for the Student Union Gallery’s upcoming Juried Student Show.
“David is known for his outstanding presence as a Life Drawing Professor at UAS. David is loved by his students in and out of the classroom. His enthusiasm for teaching and for art was something we really wanted to share with UAA students,” said Student Union gallery manager Tess Forstner regarding why Woodie was invited to be the juror for the show.
Woodie said that his students are among his best friends and that they are the best part of his job at UAS.
Woodie will be the juror for the Juried Student Show opening April 16 in the Student Union Gallery. The opening reception is from 5-7 p.m. April 16, and the midday reception is 1:30-3 p.m. April 17. The show is open until May 2.