Vanderbilt professor David Wood stretches his artistic wings 

Existential Wanderings

Existential Wanderings

When he was younger, Vanderbilt philosophy professor David Wood considered a career in the fine arts, but as his philosophy career took off, he put his artistic ambitions on the back burner. In recent years, however, Wood has decided to move forward with his art career, and he's using his foundation in academic philosophy to help him achieve those goals.

"Awakening," Wood's most recent land art piece, is currently on view in front of Vanderbilt University's E. Bronson Ingram Studio Arts Building. Like its creator, "Awakening" is perfectly suited to this intellectual locale.

Wood teaches environmental philosophy, but if you didn't know he was a philosopher, you could probably infer it after spending five minutes with him. His wild hair and plain clothes are a perfect complement to his English accent and the tape across the bridge of his glasses. He is a prolific writer who focuses mainly on Heidegger, Derrida and theories of time. It's obvious that his passion for art is an attempt to reconcile this cerebral brawn with the physical world.

"As an academic philosopher," Wood says, "I spend most of my time trying to make sense of the world through words, through language. But words have a limit. Art has a sensuous side that philosophical language can't reach."

Made of planks of fragrant cedar that spread out in all directions like a cartoon sun, "Awakening" is 41 feet in diameter. Onto the legs of the piece Wood etched an original poem, another attempt at reconciliation between academia and the sensual world. "All earthly things have dreamed / Of loosening their wings," he writes. "Awakening" is Wood's attempt to loosen his own.

"Awakening" is on display until Feb. 28. Another Wood piece, "Soft Time: Heliotrope III," is on view through spring (or longer) at the Arts Center of Cannon County in Woodbury, Tenn.

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