Local artist Dorian Wood is a ‘vessel for change’

Courtesy of Dorian Wood.

Dorian Wood was born in Echo Park and raised in NELA where they have spent the majority of their career working as a singer, composer, performance artist, visual artist, art model and writer. They have lived in Eagle Rock with their husband for the past 11 years. Wood uses their platform to highlight social justice issues such as racial inequality, police brutality, LGBTQIA+ rights, immigrants’ rights and many others.

“I consider myself to be a vessel for change and kindness,” Wood said. “That’s something that is constantly evolving, as I feel is reflective of each of us in that we are constantly changing.”

Prior to COVID-19, Wood was scheduled to perform at Oxy Arts Spring 2020 as part of a series hosted by friend and colleague Shizu Saldamondo. Saldamondo was Occidental’s Spring 2020 Wanlass Artist in Residence, a semester-long residency program that gives artists an opportunity to work and share their experiences. According to Wood, the pieces they planned on performing were site-specific for the new Oxy Arts space on York Blvd.

Wood guest lectured for Saldamondo’s class, “Art Outside the Bounds” Fall 2019. According to Saldamondo, this class discussed representations of the body, and Wood had previously modeled for her figure drawing class at the University of Southern California (USC). Saldamondo said she had Wood present their work and then model during the studio portion of her class.

Courtesy of Shizu Saldamando.

“Dorian expressed how they felt modeling nude was an integral part of their presentation as well, since body positivity and embracing the nonbinary were such important aspects to their practice,” Saldamondo said via email. “[Wood’s lecture] was an incredible presentation that incorporated childhood stories and current music videos, all contextualized by their experiences within and defying institutional spaces. It was very transformational — just like them.”

Wood said the pandemic has affected how they present their work and has given them more time to create in a new way. According to Wood, one of their proudest accomplishments was recording two back-to-back albums, “Ardor” and “Reactor,” simultaneously during the pandemic. Both albums were recorded at the new Oxy Arts space.

“[The albums] were reactionary to what’s been happening,” Wood said. “The first one, Ardor, was really aimed at providing a sort of nurturing, meditative type of album. Whereas, ‘Reactor’ is something a little more aggressive from a radicalized activist standpoint.”

Fellow NELA performance artist Cassils said they are inspired by Wood’s performance ability and their perseverance during the pandemic.

“[Wood] is incredibly tenacious in their creativity,” Cassils said. “I love that lockdowns and budgets and cancellations don’t get in the way. In fact, it’s just an invitation for them to think more expansively about what’s possible.”

Wood spoke about the impact of ongoing social movements on these recent projects, such as the Black Lives Matter protests and the lingering impact of the previous presidential administration.

Courtesy of Dorian Wood.

“That really strange threat still looms over us today and didn’t just vanish with the transition of presidential power,” Wood said. “It’s still something that we know is very present in our lives, and so much of my work is still taking consideration of all of this.”

In spite of these trying times, Wood still looks to the future with a sense of gratitude and excitement for their projects yet to come. Wood has a variety of projects in the works including a short film by the name of “FAF” that accompanies songs from both “Ardor” and “Reactor.”

“I recorded it at Oxy Arts, and they were very generous in allowing me to record in that space,” Wood said. “I have other short films coming up that I’m working on, and a massive performance slash sound installation slash immersive composition that I will be debuting next spring, but I can’t really talk about it yet.”