Swing-Dancing with the World: A Profile of a Young Artist

Linh Dao

Following a life-threatening experience, Mac Wood decided to devote his life to self-expression. While studying in the VCU arts program, the up-and-coming visual artist focuses his talents on capturing beauty by straying from the norm and “dancing with the world.” Wood encapsulates the passionate spirit of young artists across the ages and provides a unique perspective on the world as we know it.

What inspires you as an artist?

“I am inspired to create by the people and things around me. When I leave my house and see a tree bending in the wind, I think “I wish I could draw the way the wind bends that tree”. The fact that I cannot draw it pushes me to work harder to become a better artist. I wish to one day draw everything that I experience. In terms of people, I am inspired by musicians like Panda Bear and King Krule, who use their mediums as a means to truly express themselves. I seek to use my art to engage with the world around me in a way that is unique to myself.”

Have there been any defining moments in your art career?

“I had a near death experience while hiking in Blacksburg. When I really thought I was going to die, I got the intense feeling that I didn’t experience enough of my own potential in my life. Since then, I have worked hard to make sure that my talents are being used to the best of my ability. Another defining moment was going to the Stuart Davis exhibition alone. I saw the dimensionality in his seemingly flat work, and the harmonies of his lines was something that I wanted in my own art. I realized that in order to create those free and youthful looking lines, I first had to work very hard to understand the world around me and how to draw it.”

Why/how did you get into art?

“When I was in elementary school, I didn’t get along with the other kids at recess. I guess I was too small or too introverted or something. So, during those hours, I would draw, or plant acorns, or make paper airplanes. Really anything to keep my mind busy, since I didn’t have any friends to do that. As I got older, I realized that I was drawing more than any of my classmates. That realization drove me to create even more as it became a key part of my identity.”

Does your general body of work have a meaning/purpose?

“Oh wow. I create art for so many reasons. It always seems like I come up with a different reason for this every day. I would say the main reason is that it is my way of dancing with the world. I love to engage in the act of creation. I live to observe the world around me, experience something beautiful, and then try to recreate that moment with art. In this act of creation, I am falling in love with that beautiful moment, and my love for the world pours out. During this moment, I feel about as complete as I’ve ever been. Also, I wish to share that feeling with others. Even if I completely isolate myself from the people around me, and everyone thinks I’m a total loser or weirdo, if I can get one person to say that my art inspired them to observe and create, I will feel like my art was not for nothing. Alternative to seeing the beauty in the world, I want to lead people toward questioning their own realities and their own notions of what is “normal”. Although this can be a scary path to walk alone, I believe that everyone has a desire to pursue the unknown. I want to somehow say with my art, ‘it is okay to be uncomfortable. There is safety and pleasure in the unknown even more intense than in the known.’ Shaking that foundation of the ‘known’ can allow someone to have a completely new experience. The person considered the most ‘normal’ is the person whose foundation I want to shake.”

Do you have your viewers interpret the meaning of your art or do you have a set meaning?

“Some of my pieces, I create with the viewer in mind. Most I don’t. Of course, when I draw a picture of someone’s face looking distressed, I want the viewer to think “gee, he looks distressed”. Most of my pieces, however, derive from what I was talking about earlier: me looking at the world, seeing what the world is telling me, then recording it. I am not thinking about other people looking at the art later. In fact, most of the things I create I throw away. I see this observing and recording as a dance with the unknown. If you’re wondering why the heck I think of it as a dance, look up videos of swing dancing, then try to imagine me walking around, moving through the woods or a subway station, and trying to see the world around me as a dance partner. In every moment, our 5 senses are taking in so much information. The world dances around us whether we are aware of it or not. I want to join in with the dance.”

How is the VCU arts program treating you? 

“The VCU arts program is amazing! It has allowed me to really refine my ability to observe, while keeping me grounded to a career path. The professors care about making each individual better. On the other hand, my art would be more free if I was not bound by the parameters of school assignments.”

Where would you like to go from here with your art? 

“I would like to be able to capitalize on my artwork, while still having independent pursuits that give me the happiness that art gives me. Ideally, I want my happy art to be my money art, but that is something that only the most talented artists can do. I want to create art for larger projects like animations and video games. To be honest though, I really don’t have any idea what I’m doing and will likely be a starving artist for all my life.”

Do you have any advice for aspiring artists? 

“Create. Create, create, create. All those ideas and dreams in your head that you think about doing, do them. Do the things you haven’t thought out yet. No one gets better at art by just thinking about creating. You have to spend every moment of down time doing art. It has to be the activity in the back of your head that you look forward to. It has to has to. When life becomes hectic and busy, find time to do what it is that you want to do. You can literally be the worst artist ever, and if you spend every day drawing for just a few minutes, within the year your ideas will be flowing from your head to your hand to the page no problem. Create! As you can tell, I am very passionate about it, but it is because I believe it is the ONLY thing that will make any artist improve.  Get into the moment. Look up “mindful meditation” on YouTube. Do yoga. Go on a run. Or get really out of the moment. Think about something in your head that has nothing to do with your surroundings, something that is really bothering you, until it almost drives you crazy. Then take a paintbrush and let it all out. BUT, remember, the point is to do it. If you sit and have some great realization about life, then you don’t make it your goal to share it, that moment will fade.”

Mac Wood’s Gallery

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