Elia Woods is a fiber artist and photographer whose art explores the connections between food, community, consumerism and spiritual sustenance. Her art has been included in regional, national and international exhibits including Fiber National 2007 and Visions 2006. The art quilt “Salad Ballad," was displayed in Quilt National 2005, distinguishing Woods as the first Oklahoma artist accepted into the international juried competition during its 26-year history. She is also a four-time recipient of the Best of Show honor at Fiberworks, a statewide exhibit of Oklahoma fiber artists.
Woods was born in 1961 in Berea, Ohio, grew up near Chicago, and moved to Oklahoma City in 1979 where she married a local Okie, Allen Parleir. In the red clay backyard of her new home, she discovered that seeds do, in fact, have to be watered in order to sprout and grow. She soon became permanently entranced with the life and death dramas in 100 square feet of living soil. Her gardening efforts expanded up and down her block, and in the mid-nineties she co-founded the Central Park Community Gardens. Her artistic impulses found their home when she enrolled in an alternative photography class in 1984 at Rose State College, "not even knowing how to load a roll of film in a camera", and immediately began applying her newfound techniques to fabric. Over time, her two passions of art and gardening began to merge. Her current body of work celebrates the beauty of vegetables and explores the sacred trust we have with the natural world.
In addition to her photo fiber art, Woods is also an avid weaver. Drawing on the natural world for inspiration, she dyes her yarns in colors drawn from her vegetable and flower gardens, the patterns on her cats’ fur, the play of light on autumn leaves. She also reveres the ancient and meticulous weaving traditions of indigenous peoples around the world.
Today, Woods works in her studio in a garden-filled block and neighborhood near downtown Oklahoma City. She teaches fiber arts classes at City Arts Center and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
Paying attention to what we eat is a revolutionary act. As a gardener, I have the once-common experience of getting to know my food from seed to harvest. As an artist, I visually explore these foods and the connections between food, community, consumerism and spiritual sustenance. My primary medium is photography on cloth. My current series of photo quilts, "Vegetable Prayers", pays visual homage to the beauty and diversity of the vegetable world. I also create three-dimensional photo/fiber constructions on layers of silk organdy which allow the viewer to see, and see through, different images at the same time.
What we eat has profound implications for our own health and the health of the planet. With this body of work, I invite the viewer to consider the nature and quality of our food, where it comes from, and our relationship to it.
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