Reflections by David Wood

David Wood

Reflections, from the Heliotrope series, 2010, Wood, wire, laser discs, solar lights, Lake Watauga, Parthenon, Centennial Park, Nashville, TN, © David Wood. Photo: Aerial Innovations Southeast

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Father of Lights

Commentary by

God is not like human beings. While we endure trials and temptations, God ‘cannot be tempted’ (James 1:13). While we deceive ourselves in dark folds of reflection, God is pure, transparent light in which ‘there is no variation or shadow due to change’ (v.17). What happens, then, when a human being stands ‘before God’ (v.27)? When you stand beneath the sun and look down, you see your own shadow.

David Wood’s Reflections, installed at Cheekwood Botanical Garden, Nashville in 2011, is part of a series named Heliotrope. Wood, a philosopher as well as an artist, creates landscape sculptures to raise ecological consciousness, questioning the place of human beings between earth and sky. Reflections played with change and stasis: the serene floating heliotrope mirrored the sun in a transparent sky, yet also drew attention to the movement of light on water and the shifting hues of sky and land. Its circular form evoked the regular motions of the heavens, long thought by watchers of the night sky to approximate the unchanging being of God. The human eye cannot see God, or look directly at the sun; only in an earthly reflection can we ‘look into the perfect law’ (v.25) of creation.

Although there is no variation in God, God’s being is a generative plenitude, ‘bringing us forth’ (v.18) and offering ‘every good endowment’, ‘every perfect gift’, (v.17). Juxtaposing an ever-changing sky and landscape with the geometrical form of the heliotrope, Reflections suggests both constancy and a ceaseless cycle of generosity and receptivity: a small revelation of a gift-giving ‘Father of lights’.

Wood’s philosophical art might be called pantheist or panentheist, disclosing the creativity and sanctity of nature by ephemeral acts of devotion within nature herself. This work gains urgency in the present ecological crisis, when we sense the preciousness and fragility of our earth as well as her transcendent power. While the Letter of James emphasizes action, Wood’s sculptures invite contemplation. Perhaps they are offered as preludes to the ‘doing’ the biblical text incites.