Elia Woods’ fascination with nature is evident in her artwork, but for her, planting and nurturing a garden isn’t just her muse, it’s a form of spirituality.
“For me, my quilts are like little songs of praise,” Woods said. “I find vegetables to be very inspiring. Unlike flowers, a lot of people don’t pay attention to how beautiful vegetables are.”
Her current series of photo quilts, entitled “Vegetable Prayers,” explores the intricacies and hidden beauty of a variety of everyday produce; things one may purchase at a supermarket, chop up and drop into a skillet without a second thought or a closer look. Woods invites those who see her art to slow down and appreciate these vitamin-rich foods.
Woods specializes in designing, dying and weaving fiber art. She uses all natural fibers and dyes the yarn before weaving her creations on two floor looms in her studio. She also transfers photographic imagery onto fabric, often layering images on thin silk organdy to create a 3D appearance
For her photo/fiber constructions, Woods uses photographs taken from her own garden. Eggplant is one of her favorite subjects, as are onions, strawberries, lettuce, okra and asparagus.
“Over the years, my gardening and my art have come closer and closer together, and they have really merged at this point,” she said. “I find gardening to be a spiritual path, and what I hope to convey with my art is that sort of spiritual sustenance that we gain from the outside world.”
Those curious will be able to see what she means by that at her solo exhibit, “Grounded,” at the Independent Artists of Oklahoma Gallery at 811 N. Broadway in downtown Oklahoma City, May 2-30.
Not that long ago, the Central Park Community Garden at the corner of NW 31 and Shartel was a toxic, empty lot, poisoned by traces of the now-illegal termite-killer, Chlordane. That was before Woods and others took interest in the patch of earth and nourished it back to health.
By spreading compost and planting certain types of crops meant to enrich the soil, they helped increase the microbiological wellness of the dirt, and over a period of three years, the Chlordane content dwindled from high levels to zero.
Now, people in the neighborhood safely grow vegetables and flowers where the Chlordane-sprayed houses once stood, and Woods is spearheading a new type of art project.
“We want to create a living art space,” she said. “A biologically dense area where people can come, explore and learn about what’s here.”
The team has added a spiral path and planted wildflower seeds, which should bloom soon, along with a comfortable earth chair—complete with footrest—made of Bermuda grass sod. A circle of willows will be formed into a cover or dome.
The garden will also feature a human sundial where the clock part is on the ground and the body of whomever stands in the middle and casts the shadow, which tells the time. A worm bed where earthworms transform their compost into very rich worm castings will also be included.
Woods encourages everyone to become more in-tune with what they eat.
“I think it’s important for us to be connected with our food sources, especially now with a lot of obesity and heart disease, and a lot of problems that are related to the way we eat. A lot of environmental problems are related to the way we eat,” she said. “Just paying attention is a great way to start, and that can be as simple as planting a few basil seeds and learning about how they grow.”
“Love your food,” she said. “As a gardener, I have the experience of being able to plant a seed in the ground and watch it grow. When I get a beautiful, purple eggplant after all those weeks, how can I help but love it and appreciate it?”
Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to call 524-3977.