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Artistic vision: Markeith Woods - Message, bright colors dominate in artist’s work
By: Aaron Brand - Texarkana Gazette
For Pine Bluff, Ark., artist Markeith Woods, vibrant colors and symbolic crowns are part of an artistic expression that carries spiritual significance.
Woods, a young artist whose bold, captivating work is now featured in a one-man show at the Regional Arts Center through March 7, creates portraits that largely capture special relationships in his life.
Woods also explores famous African-Americans with whom he feels a kinship, such as the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, a groundbreaking graffiti artist who rose to prominence in New York City during the 1980s.
In his artist statement, Woods writes that his work arises from his observations of people close to him. He says painting merges his own experiences with “the harsh realities of life.”
“I capture their feelings and moods while trying to communicate the social and economic disparity of life,” he wrote. “I integrate symbols, words, and photographs into my mixed media works.”
As he shows these disparities, he explains, he aims to also express the qualities of character and strength.
“I illustrate this through the use of bright colored hues. I paint because it moves me spiritually, and transports me to a different place. This allows me to express myself fully. Painting is my therapy and salvation,” Woods says in his statement.
During an interview earlier this week, Woods explained that his commitment to portraying a message in his portraiture grew from what he learned at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he graduated with a visual arts degree. Part of the Arkansas Arts Council’s roster of artists, Woods now studies in a graduate program at the Memphis College of Art.
Woods was urged to consider expressing a personal message in his work. He started painting portraits of people close to him. “It was based on the connection or the moment that we shared,” he said.
This interest and his own studies moved him to also portray historical figures, learning what other people endured as they sought to live. This area of knowledge became a passion for the young artist, something with which he identified.
With Basquiat, he identified with the famous artist’s struggles being homeless and yet, ultimately, “having the courage to meet Andy Warhol and show him his drawings.”
In his own life, Woods recalls three events that were out of his control but influenced him: grandparents falling ill to cancer and diabetes, and his own father being in prison when the artist was in 3rd grade.
Woods flashed talent and interest in art as a youngster at that time. Naturally, he drew action figures and other things of interest to him. His mother bought him a tracing desk. Vincent van Gogh was the first artist he paid attention to while in school.
“It’s always been kind of a passion,” he admitted about art, but after taking classes during his school days he didn’t really take it seriously until he landed in college, which led to research and discovering where he could take his gifts.
Woods hopes to teach in the future and indeed already gained experience at the Arts & Science Center and Lighthouse Academy Charter School in Pine Bluff. Artists like Charles White and A.J. Smith now serve as inspirations to him. Looking at their work and his, it’s easy to see a shared fascination with the character shown by a human face.
Woods’ work employs an unusual medium: milk carton paper. It’s what he uses instead of watercolor paper. He applies gesso, which gives him a texture he likes, making the paper richer and finer.
“Right now, I’m dealing with the process of life,” he said about incorporating the line into the figure and face, indicating the passage of time. “Everybody can relate to time, but eventually time does run out.”
Strong, bold colors represent qualities like faith, courage, hope, strength and guidance in his work. Sometimes, his faces wear crowns with a cross—“the crown of life,” Woods said about a Biblically-inspired symbol in his work.
If people pursue their talents in the right way, he says, God will bless them with the crown of life.
“Each individual has a spiritual gift,” Woods said about this symbol.
Woods previously had an exhibition of his work at the UAPB. He will attend an opening reception at the Regional Arts Center on Saturday, Feb. 14.
Hosted by the Texarkana Arts and Humanities Council’s African-American Committee from noon to 3 p.m., the reception is held as part of TAAC’s 4th annual Special Saturday Afternoon Exhibit Opening Reception and Children’s Reading and Arts Program.
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