For many artists, having their work displayed in MHCC’s Fireplace Gallery in the Student Union marks their first solo exhibition, and this rings true for February’s featured artist, Natalie Wood.
Wood has exhibited “a piece here and a piece there,” but displaying her work in this gallery was her first chance to really see a bunch of it in one space.
She’s a photographer, but her creations aren’t the realism that most expect when thinking of this art form. She layers different images together to encapsulate memories from traveling or to create an entirely original scene that she first develops in her mind.
“It’s somewhere between my mental scrapbook and pulling pieces of things that inspire me,” said Wood.
This way of creative thinking was instilled in Wood from a young age. She grew up in Las Vegas, and during high school she worked for a photographer printing black-and-white photos. The job gave her a lot of time to think about the ways images can be manipulated after being taken, especially when doing reproductions of deteriorated photos for customers.
“Back then, we’d have to either paint onto the negative, or blow up (enlarge) the photo and paint directly onto it,” said Wood. “They’re photos and they capture real things, but you can do so much to them after the fact, so sometimes I’d just layer negatives on top of each other and print them just to see what they would look like.”
Wood has also had to push past society’s expectations of photographers.
“In my experience, at least, especially when you’re a woman, everybody thinks you’re either going to do weddings or you’re going to do portrait photography, and that’s it. And I just was never drawn to that,” she explained.
While employed by the photographer in high school, she also got to experience working with important people. Part of her job was assisting the photographer in taking photos of Vegas casino owners in their houses, and taking portraits of politicians. When she was younger she used to be interested in concert photography, but this work experience made her think twice.
“I don’t know if I can work around high-level people because it’s so much pressure,” said Wood. “If you don’t make them look good, it’s just devastating to them because people think that they can see themselves in a certain way and they want to be exactly shown that.”
She continued to take pictures, see the world, and play around a bit with manipulation and making collages, but it wasn’t until life took her to A Gallery For Fine Photography in New Orleans when she realized her possibilities, and potential.
“They weren’t afraid to show really different edgy things, and that was something I was never really exposed to… The people that were in that gallery really inspired me to do this,” said Wood.
“Two years ago, I was standing in that photo gallery thinking, ‘Gosh, it would be so cool if I could ever be on the wall somewhere,’ and then I just put my head to it and within a year I was up on galleries and getting accepted into programs.”
Wood focuses on scenery. Some of her favorite places are London and New York, and she and her husband just booked time off to visit Paris. Her travel wish list includes Egypt, Scotland, and more parts of the United States. She was born in Chicago, but hasn’t been back in a long time, so that city’s a high priority, as well.
As for the future, Wood says she’d love to one day see her own work on display in that New Orleans gallery. She’s also working on some new series.
“I’m doing a series where I’m asking people to either give me a memory or a dream they had, and I’m kind of trying to make that into a piece based on what they’re telling me,” she explained.
If you’d like to help fuel Wood’s inspiration, share a dream of your own with her by reaching out via her website, neverwood.me.
Since recent snow closures delayed publication of this article, Wood’s work is no longer on display on the MHCC campus. But, you can check out some of her work on her website, and find information on her upcoming shows.