John W Wood


John Wood’s beautiful abstract imagery is the culmination of a lifetime of work in art. His current work uses the human form and landscape as starting points to build up layers of line, form and color in graphite, crayon, oil pastel and enamel. He strives to be as open and engaged as possible with the developing image, trusting that the art will lead him in the right direction. In the end, the work alludes to the real world only symbolically, but John is much more interested in the emotional and sensual qualities that emerge rather than any recognizable forms.

A large piece of Mr. Wood’s art was recently added to the permanent art collection of the city of Emeryville, California, and it is now on display in Emeryville City Hall. His work is included in the Salt Lake County Art Collection and was recently purchased and added to the Utah State Fine Art Collection. He was invited to exhibit his work at the American Embassy in Zagreb, Croatia through the U.S. State Department’s Art in Embassies Program.

Mr. Wood has spent time in residence at the Morris Graves Foundation in Northern California as well as a solo exhibit at the Morris Graves Museum in Eureka, California. He has also been invited to artist residencies at the Jentel Foundation near Sheridan, Wyoming, the Oakopolis Creativity Center in Oakland, as well as time in Petaluma.

In addition to Desta Gallery, his work is shown with several other galleries and has been acquired by public, corporate and private collectors nationwide.

Mr. Wood began his education in Utah and earned an MFA degree in painting from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. He has lived and worked in New York City as well as Florida and Utah before moving to the Bay Area where he has live and painted for more than 20 years.

Artist Statement

Clear Dialog

While I try to look clear-eyed at life, I’ve always been interested in how different the world can look to me after it’s been filtered through my creative process. When I am completely engaged with my work, a clear dialog opens between me and my art. When I pay attention to that communication, it never fails to lead me in the right direction.

In this latest work, what has emerged from that process is a new vista of feelings, dense and solid, yet also ephemeral. I see hints of my dreams and inner thoughts, and hints of things I’ve seen in the world and in what I’m reading. There are hints of the people in my life as well as the landscape around me, hints of human emotion and of history. There are hints of despair and depression but also of tenderness and beauty.

By offering an immersion in sensual, atmospheric veils of color and line, this work is an invitation to find the optimistic, buoyant promise of possibility and hope that is hidden in our current existence.

Times Like These

Since March 2020, I have been counting my blessings: I am so fortunate to have my art and a safe, secluded place to work. Spending time in my studio is both a joy and a necessity that helps to keep me calm and focused.

It’s a place to explore—to examine and evaluate what I find most important in the moment. I try to look clear-eyed at life as it is right now, to think about all that is happening and to allow the world’s realities to coalesce with my own. Then I respond as honestly as I can through my art.

I often describe my work as a conversation that takes place between the artwork and me. It begins with the first graphite marks on the paper, some strong enough to leave deeply carved lines. Then come fields of color, applied with oil paint and pigment sticks as soft as lipstick that can be thick impasto, velvety smooth, or scraped off to reveal layers of line and altered colors underneath. Passages in the work can be strong and daring, softly sweet, filled with anger and anxiety or love and warmth. When the work no longer asks for changes, I mount it on a panel and finish it with layers of cold wax varnish to protect the surface.

This current body of work feels more intense to me than some of my older work. What has emerged is a new emotional landscape, dense and solid, yet ephemeral. It’s like examining dreams—images, ideas, and connections swirl together giving hints at insight. I find this work to be an invitation, to be immersed in the sensual, atmospheric veils of color and line, and ultimately, maybe even more importantly, to find the optimistic, buoyant promise of possibility hidden in our current existence.


Traces of emotion. Traces of history. Traces of tenderness. Traces of beauty. Traces of love. My art is non-objective, but this is where it begins, looking for the traces around me, observing the world and examining my inner thoughts.

Currently the work is influenced by the human form, but it often takes clues from the landscape and from floral ideas. I start by just drawing, building up layers of graphite, crayon, oil-pastel and enamel. As the process unfolds, the veils of line, form and color take over and become the focus. I watch for the connections, the visual triggers that tell me to add more here and remove something there.

I find that wonderful things happen when I am able to engage completely with my art. I try to constantly remind myself to trust in the process, knowing that when I am open to an honest dialog with the emerging art, the art will lead me in the right direction.

In the end, my work only alludes to human traces, to bits of what surrounds me. I am much more interested in the emotional and sensual qualities that emerge rather than any recognizable forms.