Alaska Artists: Kesler Woodward

lonely caribou in Alakan Nature

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For more than 30 years now, Kesler Woodward has devoted his life to creating art, writing about art and teaching art. His paintings are his record of more than three decades living, traveling and working in the great North. "I think my paintings reflect on, bear witness to, and convey some of my wonder at the beauty and mystery of the far North; its light and its weather, its drama and its demands".

Born in Aiken, South Carolina in 1951, Kesler Woodward lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. He moved to Alaska in 1977, and served as Curator of Visual Arts at the Alaska State Museum and as Artistic Director of the Visual Arts Center of Alaska before moving to Fairbanks in 1981.

Kesler Woodward is currently Professor of Art, Emeritus at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he taught for two decades, serving as Chair of the Art Department and as Chair of the Division of Arts and Communications. He serves on the board of the Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation and on the board of trustees of the Western States Arts Federation. He retired from teaching to paint full time in the spring of 2000.

From a distance, Woodward's paintings depict the vivid northern landscape and wildlife with scientific precision. But up close, the varied surface texture and unpredictable splashes of color offer evidence of an underlying passion for the abstract. "I want every painting of mine to look real, to represent the landscape I'm depicting," he explains, "But up close, I want them to be all about paint – about the surface, color, texture and the wonder of art."

Woodward's paintings are included in all major public art collections in Alaska, and in museum, corporate and private collections on both coasts of the United States. Solo exhibits to his credit include the Morris Museum of Art, University of Alaska Museum, Alaska State Museum, Anchorage Museum of History and Art, and public and commercial galleries throughout the U.S. Juried and invitational exhibitions including his work have ranged from Alaska to Brazil and Russia.

Also an art historian and curator, Woodward since 1990 has published six books on Alaskan art, including the first comprehensive survey of the fine arts in Alaska, Painting in the North, published by the Anchorage Museum and University of Washington Press in 1993. His latest volume, A Northern Adventure: The Art of Fred Machetanz, was published in May, 2004. He has lectured on art of the circumpolar north from Alaska to Georgia, New England, and the British Museum in London.

Woodward forged a love for both art and his future wife, Missy, during an undergraduate painting course in 1970 at Davidson College in North Carolina. Despite a natural affinity for science and math, and a firm belief that art was the one thing he would never be able to do well, Woodward was nonetheless swept away by the abstract paintings of his undergraduate professor and the contemporary artists who inspired him. His first visit to the National Gallery in Washington D.C. only served to further his interest in painting. "I was in awe of what I had seen in those first art museums, and I thought that being able to make meaningful, lasting, powerful images that would move people for centuries was at least as ambitious a goal as the scientific accomplishments I'd grown up admiring," says Woodward.

Woodward began painting in 1971 with an abstract piece entitled "Fire," and expanded to representational paintings, eventually fusing the two painting genres to create the unique style manifested in his current work. He describes his finest paintings as those that extend beyond depiction of the landscape itself and capture the sense of wonder conjured by presence in the environment. "I have been using more subjective colors and building up a more active, complex surface to try to achieve a sense of how I 'felt,' being in a certain place, more than just how that place 'looked.'" Woodward's experimentation with integrating complex colors often stems from a laborious artistic process. "I spend weeks, sometimes, applying, scraping away, modifying, and building up other colors over that image, changing it and responding to it." The resulting kaleidoscope of color infused in each piece is one of a kind.

Johnny AculiakEdwin Tappan Adney| George Twok Aden AhgupukAlvin Eli Amason| Saradell Ard|   Belmore Browne| Vincent ColyerJules Bernard DahlagerLockwood De Forest| Frederick Samuel Dellenbaugh| William Franklin Draper| | Henry Wood Elliott| John Fehringer| Claire Fejes| Louis Agassiz Fuertes| Magnus Colcord Heurlin| Norman Jackson| Rockwell Kent| Sydney Mortimer Laurence| Fred Machetanz| Marvin Mangus| Milo Minock| James Kivetoruk Moses| Rie MunozJoseph Henry Sharp| James Everett Stuart| John Webber| Kesler Woodward|


Kesler Woodward alaska painting

Kesler Woodward Alaska Glacier

Alaska's Tribes:

Below is a full list of the different Alaska Native cultures. Within each culture are many different tribes.

Learn more about Alaskan tribes

Aleut Athabascan Eyak
Haida Inuit Tlingit
Tsimshian Yupik