Mary Antonia Wood

My work is an act of discovery--a journey through mystery, legend, ritual, and myth. It is a sort of spiritual archeology, which eventually leads to the barest elements, the hidden essence within.

Through my work, I search for a primordial place where the ebb and flow of time can be touched, where the pure is released from the chaotic, and the timeless from the everyday. I’m drawn to the eternal dualities of existence which know no beginning or end--darkness and light, life and death, time and space, nature and the supernatural. Through my work, I combine ancient materials such as plaster and wood together with modern image-making techniques and technology--bringing past and present together as one. The surface of my paintings and constructions are tactile and sensual; touching their carved, satiny surface reveals deeper levels of experience beyond the purely visual.

I feel that a quiet power is summoned through the act of creation. Subtle forces are released which transcend the individual work; forces that become alive with powers of transformation and metamorphosis. I strive to align these forces into a perfect balance of emotion and order, of passion and precision.


Mixed media construction with wood, text, image transfer, velvet, metal, and plaster on panel.

48” x 24” x 5”, c. 1999

The experience of growing up Mexican American almost always involves a First Communion. The long-anticipated day arrives; we participate in the formal ceremony in starchy white clothes and tight shoes. We are told that now we’re united with God in a way that we couldn’t have been before. Our photos are staged, flashbulbs go off, mothers cry with pride, and then the clothes, rosaries, and prayer books are put away in a plastic bag for safekeeping. From there we grow up, we move on. Some of us stop going to Mass at some point. We begin to question what we were taught as children and begin to explore other forms of religion and spirituality. What then do we make of our past when confronted with the plastic bag full of memories in Mom’s basement?

There is a feeling of longing inherent in this work. A longing for a certain innocence and absolute trust which we can only experience as children--a particular freshness which can never be recaptured--even when memorialized on film. While this work questions the role of traditional faith, it also resonates with a feeling of respect and tenderness for our madres and abuelas and those who have never left the path that they felt so secure on.

An uneasy tension exists between acceptance and questioning, between past and present. No clear answers are apparent, but perhaps the act of looking for those answers may be a sacrament in and of itself.


Mixed media construction with wood, metal leaf, velvet, and plaster on panel.

14” x 11” x 3”, c. 2000.

I’m endlessly fascinated with the dualities of human existence--particularly our tenuous, and temporal position of balancing somewhere between heaven and earth.

This work evokes mankind’s struggle with a yearning for the spiritual, while at the same time being bound to the pleasure and comforts of the earthly plane.

The wing symbolizes our potential to connect with something greater than ourselves. The articulated hand becomes a metaphor for humankind, while the lush silk velvet reminds us of our earthly desires. The plastered panel with gold leaf provides a timeless tableau, or stage setting for this eternal drama.