WILLIAMSTOWN -- Amelia Wood left art behind several years ago, and moved onto to other passions, but lately those passions have brought her circling back to art-making with a new energy.
Wood's work is on display at Images Cinema, with an artist's reception on Friday, May 17, at 5 p.m.
Her show, "Body As Machine," features collage work compiled from found and manipulated images, photography and other items, that examine her experience as a jogger training for a marathon.
The artwork is part of a perfect storm that involves not only training for a marathon, but also reconnecting with her background in art and fundraising for Berkshire Community College's Mike Grogan Memorial Theater Scholarship and Mill City Productions Mike Grogan Fund. These funds are both in memory of Wood's friend, who co-founded Mill City Productions and was an active member of the BCC Players. He died in 2011.
Wood will run in her first marathon, the Key Bank Marathon in Burlington, Vt., in honor of Grogan. Any work sold at her Images show will also go toward those funds.
Wood began running a year and a half ago, working her way up to the point where she felt ready for a marathon. What she didn't expect was that all the benefits of the training, especially mental focus, would prepare her to practice art once again, after a post-college, six-year hiatus.
Wood was already working toward the marathon when it was suggested that she do one of the monthly art shows featured at Images Cinema, where she works part-time. She admits that she had no idea what she was going to do.
"On a run, it came to me, as most of my creative-thinking processes come to me on a run," she said. "Sometimes, they're great ideas; sometimes, they're horrible ideas. I decided I'm going to create work that has to do with my body -- focusing on the changes that my body is going throughout this ridiculous training process. I really had no idea what I was in for with marathon training, but I can tell you, this is my last week of intense training and, wow, there have been significant changes mentally, physically, emotionally."
The first image Wood created ended up in the Alchemy Initiative's 10 x 10 show this February in Pittsfield, which was a difficult beginning for Wood, but one that jump-started further collage works.
The most important thing that has happened to Wood isn't just the return to making art, it's that making art has meaning for her, possibly for the first time in her life.
As an art major at MCLA, she says she wanted to pursue abstract art, but between the formal education of the classics and the lack of clarity what she wanted out of her artwork, she ended up leaving it behind after graduating, describing herself as "burnt out."
"Part of the artist that I came into college wanting to be never really got to emerge," said Wood. "I didn't feel inspired and I didn't feel like any of the work I did in college was really me and I wasn't proud of it. My collages were made from a lot of photocopies and things that I found interesting, but there was no theme, no underlying message. There was no inspiration behind it, it was just creating for the sake of creating collages and abstract art and expressing myself."
Wood moved onto her other passion -- working with children -- which eventually brought her full circle when, this past November, she took a position as education coordinator at Williams College Museum of Art. With all the pieces falling into place, she credits the marathon training as being integral to making the pieces work together once they combined, mirroring the actual process of jogging in other areas of endeavor -- she doesn't know if she would be ready for all this a few years ago.
"The mental focus has definitely increased. My body, at a certain point, is tired and my mind has to take over. A couple of my artworks, there are definitely some mental images happening. I feel like, at times, I can feel my body acting as if it was a machine, and I don't know what it is running on anymore, because my body feels depleted, but my mind takes over. It's a mental process that I've really been astonished by."
And it's easy for her to see the difference between the kind of work she was doing when she was younger and the art she creates now -- at least as part of her personal experience making it.
"It was more of a hobby tossed in this college bin under my bed, but now it means something to me, it's personal," she said. "It represents an experience that I've gone through. That's definitely the difference."
Wood's plan is to continue to utilize the lessons of her training, and the activity itself, in moving forward both physically and creatively, working together to help each side.
"It feels like I'm several different hats, but I'm really wearing one hat that connects all of this," said Wood. "I do see myself continuing to make artwork. Once things die down, I will catch my breath and hope to find inspiration elsewhere in my life."
"I'm determined because I realize how much I've missed making art, and how much it means to me, how much I can connect with it. It really helps me make sense of what's happening in my life and around me, and I've been lacking that clarification. It's a tool for me."
Wood's charity fundraising can be found at www.youcaring.com/other/marathon-for-mikey/45286.