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  1. Monday, May 27, 2024

  2. Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Exhibitions

Wholeness: A Virtual Exhibition with Markeith Woods

About the Exhibition

 

Exhibition Statement:

Markeith Woods (b. 1987) is an Arkansas-based artist and art educator, painting people he knows, exploring his experience with rejection, his feelings surrounding being an artist, and the ways his relationships have impacted his sense of self. Wholeness examines what it means to make progress—what it means to come from a place of lack, and what it looks like to break through society’s expectations. “The way I feel I can become whole mentally, spiritually, and physically is by owning up to what I’ve experienced,” Woods explains. “It’s by owning up to who played a part in it, and putting it out there for the world to have a conversation about.”

Wholeness, an online exhibition hosted by 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville from June 15 to July 5, showcases twenty-two works by the artist, including The Annunciation Parts 1 & 2, which depict Woods’s grandmother, his mother, and himself. The diptych oil painting is inspired by Jay DeFeo’s and Fra Angelico’s work of the same name. The composition shows Woods seated on a chair on the front porch of the house he shared with his grandmother in Arkansas; his grandmother, meanwhile, waters the plants in the front yard, a symbolic beam of light dissecting the composition in her direction. His grandmother, watering can in hand, nourishes a plant; she does not visibly notice the artist’s mother, who is shown in the work as an angel. In the Bible, Woods references, a person is rewarded with crowns for exhibiting certain traits; he has collaged these crowns onto the painting, revealing that his grandmother has been rewarded in heaven for the life she lived on earth. Without his grandmother, Woods notes, he never would have met the mother of his first born; beyond that, this key figure in his life raised six children of her own and proved instrumental in supporting him as an artist. Behind the three subjects, the viewer takes in the house itself—windows and doors serving as symbols of transition. A lawnmower acknowledges Woods’s grandmother’s generosity; the owner of several rental properties, she would pay her grandson to mow the lawn in his early adulthood, preparing delicious meals for him while he worked.

The Games that Dismissive Avoidants Play hints at Wood’s previous relationship, which resulted in the artist learning about attachment theory. “I found out that due to trauma—due to how we are brought up as children—we develop these coping mechanisms,” Woods states. His last relationship was rife with dismissive avoidance, or the refusal to confront problems head-on; his ex-girlfriend struggled to fully process her emotions, instead opting to avoid them. The Games that Dismissive Avoidants Play uncovers the power of vulnerability, all while tying attachment issues to the longstanding impact of slavery on Black Americans. Generational trauma is real, the artist and educator emphasizes, and Black families must develop productive coping mechanisms in order to truly be there for one another and move forward. To drive this point home, Woods includes collaged images and a slave ship onto the African dashiki in this work.

Focused on Plan A and Thoughts of Freedom return to the idea of doors and windows representing points of transition. The artist remembers being in college and graduate school, and often feeling like he needed to manifest opportunities to solve problems or simply make progress in his life. “These two paintings are speaking to this moment of figuring things out,” he says. Yet not all of Woods’s subjects have it easy, and there’s an inherent struggle in that process of figuring it out, so to speak. Consider Just Another Worker, inspired by a moment of clarity Woods experienced before earning his degree, all while earning $9 per hour at Tyson Foods. Employed at Tyson in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the artist wanted to purchase a home—but it became clear this wouldn’t be possible on his current salary, regardless of the fact that he was working 40 hours a week. “I can’t even purchase a two-bedroom house, but I’m middle class,” he realized. “Something is wrong here.” The more Woods considered his predicament, the more he understood this was a serious issue throughout the United States. As an artist, he wanted to document the prevalence of financial hardship—to show how far too many people give their all to a company that can’t give them a living wage in return. Unemployed Again sheds light on this by depicting two men outside an apartment building, one seated—only half-visible in the composition—and the other leaning on the porch railing, looking off into the distance past the parking lot below. The work addresses this same topic of homeownership, reinforcing how important homeownership is in the way of building wealth and working toward financial freedom. It’s an important blend of access and stability, yet for so many Americans, it’s out of reach. “How do you carve out your own path in order to become a homeowner?” Woods posits.

Inspired by the Old Masters and Vincent van Gogh, the artist has long found inspiration in intricate oil paintings with almost translucent effects, as well as in thick brushstrokes. In his own paintings, Woods likes to mix layers upon layers of paint, or colors on top of layers, and ultimately expand the material. This sense of expansion is prevalent in Wholeness and integral to the artist’s body of work, as Woods experiments with collage and other textural elements that help to convey his message. From charcoal pencils to imagery, he’ll step in and make adjustments with ease, filling in those moments that could potentially expand his narrative. Above all else, Woods wants to tell stories—and through those stories, he hopes to provide faith, hope, and inspiration. Despite coming from a place of disadvantage, he started small and made a life for himself, and Woods encourages others to do the same.

-Charles Moore, Writer

 

Artist Bio

Originally from Pine Bluff, Markeith Woods is a working artist and arts educator based in Bentonville Arkansas. Woods obtained his Bachelor of Science in Visual Arts from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, studied painting and drawing at Memphis College of Art, and received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arkansas Fayetteville. and has shown work across the country including Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans, Historic Arkansas Museum in Little Rock, and Zinc Contemporary in Seattle. He is a recipient of the Artist 360 grant and has been featured in numerous magazines and journals including At Home Arkansas, Visionary Art

Collective Magazine, and New American Painting. Woods is represented by Art Ventures in Fayetteville Arkansas as well as MIXD Gallery in Rogers Arkansas.