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Clever artist Michael Woodcock leaves patrons smiling

Nathan Callahan helps Michael Woodcock entertain guests at the Harris Gallery reception honoring Woodcock. Callahan, a writer, critic and lifelong friend of Woodcock, wrote an essay for the gallery book titled “Michael Woodcock as God.” The gallery will be showing Woodcock’s paintings until March 4. The Harris Gallery is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. / photo by Warren Bessant

Christina Collins Burton
Arts Editor

The Harris Gallery opened with the simple, but entertaining work of Michael Woodcock on Tuesday.

The exhibit is a carefully selected collection of the Los Angeles artist’s paintings from 2008 to 2010. Dion Johnson, the gallery curator, personally chose each piece for Woodcock’s series to be displayed in the gallery.

“There is not a single piece I do not like in the series,” Johnson said. “This collection is quite large and I selected each piece so there would be a continuous harmony.”

Johnson selected pieces that would demonstrate Woodcock’s ideals, sensibility and humor to the ULV audience.

Woodcock received a formal education in art from Claremont Graduate University and has had work featured in many galleries in the United States and abroad.

Woodcock’s pieces are painted on square wooden panels. The actual detail of the paintings are centered in the panels and surrounded by a bright pastel paint that brings focus to the main point of the painting.

The straightforward, humorous pieces line the walls of the Harris Gallery leaving enough white space between the paintings to draw your eyes to the details of Woodcock’s work.

Some of the artwork includes a short statement along the bottom of the painting that either explained the picture, or offered the viewer an abstract idea to consider.

One piece that got a lot of attention was one showing a distorted black and white photograph of a woman with a caption that said, “I am so glad that my mother is dead.”

“Sometimes the most serious things to us can also be the most funny,” Johnson said.

Patrons had a mixture of laughter and surprise when looking at this particular piece. Conversations left people puzzled as to what the painting meant or if it was meant as a statement to make anyone viewing the piece think.

“Some of the pieces are funny, others I don’t really get but that piece just stood out to me because its message is so different,” Arely Ortega, sophomore criminology major, said.

Each piece offered a small glance into the life and thoughts of Woodcock and had faculty, staff, students and local residents leaving with grins. They came in waves so the gallery never had less than 40 people in it at a time.

“When you stand back and look at his work as a whole it is very American, but individually each piece is very diverse and has its own story,” Ortega said.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Virginia Pol, Brea resident, said. “I really liked the piece with the clouds; it was dreamy and the view was just very peaceful.”

The exhibit will be on display until March 4 and then leave for an exhibit at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Ore.

Christina Collins Burton can be reached at

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