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  • Writer's pictureDan Woodard

Can Theme Alone Qualify as a Consistent Body of Work?

In my last blog posting, I discussed what is typically considered a “consistent body of work.” For most art critics and gallerists, consistency generally refers to the recognizability of an artist’s work. This relates to the artist maintaining a consistency of style, color schemes, process, form, degree of abstractionism and other elements. My own work consists of five separate series. Within each series there is a consistency that is easily recognizable. However, the series themselves vary wildly from one to another. Here is an example from three of the series to illustrate the range of styles and other criteria between each series.

Abstract sculpture by sculptor Dan Woodard of two wood columns on an aluminum base.


Organic Aluminum series

Abstract sculpture by sculptor Dan Woodard of an ovoid shape made of cement.

“Canopic Jar #5

Artifacts From a Former World series

Figurative sculpture by sculptor Dan Woodard of a sitting man surrounded by bars.

“Confined Man”

Figurative series

Obviously, the three series differ from one another. But, within each series the sculptures have enough similar elements that each of the three series could be considered a consistent body of work.

However, I’ve created a sixth series, titled “It’s About Time.” In this series, my goal was not to arrive at a consistent look and feel to each piece but to explore my fascination with the concept of time. Ever since I can remember, time has been a vast puzzlement to me. And now, as I’ve gotten older, this puzzlement has only increased. When I look in the mirror at a white-headed man, it’s hard to imagine that this aging presence had once been a cute little baby. In fact, my first sculpture in the series, “I’ll Never Understand Time,” was created to explore this very thought. The work juxtaposes a baby’s body, based on an actual photo of me as an infant, with my current head.

Figurative sculpture by sculptor Dan Woodard of a baby's body with the head of an old man.

“I’ll Never Understand Time”

Photo by sculptor Dan Woodard of a baby's body with the head of an old man.

Original photo composite for “I’ll Never Understand Time”

With this sculpture as a beginning, I began further exploring the concept of time. In the series, I wanted to portray the changes and dissolution that are the result of the passing years. Sculptures in the series are of two types. The first group consists of self-portraits based upon the idea of time, such as “I’ll Never Understand Time,” and “I’ll Never Understand Time II,” which depicts a head of the present me with the head of me at about seven years old.

Figurative sculpture by sculptor Dan Woodard of the head of a man at 7 and 75.

“I’ll Never Understand Time II”

Other works in the series, like “As Sure as Death and Taxes,” incorporate materials from my daily life in order to fix a period of time into a tangible form. This particular piece consists of tax forms and returns from the year of my retirement combined with a wooden coffin made from leftover beech flooring from when I refloored my office.

Abstract sculpture by sculptor Dan Woodard of a coffin filled with crumpled tax returns.

“As Sure as Death and Taxes”

Another piece in the series that consists of items from my everyday life is “It Will All Come Out in the Wash.” This piece is composed of dryer lint that I collected for a year attached to a section of log from an apricot tree in my back yard.

Abstract sculpture by sculptor Dan Woodard of dryer lint covering an apricot log.

“It Will All Come Out in the Wash”

As you can see, the pieces in this series are very stylistically different from one another and appear to have no commonality other that being based on the concept of time. For gallerists and art critics who often insist on consistency, these works would not be considered part of the same series. However, because of the mutual theme that underlies all the pieces, I do consider it a consistent series. As I’ve said, oftentimes, pieces in the series are based on materials that have been a part of my daily life; and I’ve used these materials to help anchor myself to that period of time. Since the materials, themselves, differ so greatly, it seems only natural to sculpturally incorporate them in a way that would seem most fitting to the material. This would enhance the consistency of the theme of time but would result in a series that would not be classically considered a consistent body of work.

So, what’s the consensus? Would you consider the series “It’s About Time” a consistent body of work or not? I’m curious to hear what you think.


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