In Memoriam… Guy Woodard

December 10, 2021
Guy Woodard Portrait
Photo: Melissa Kirschenheiter

Guy Woodard

( 11/4/ 1951 — 11/10/2021 )

Sometimes great work comes from very dark places. When so, it moves toward the light, if not dispelling the demons or solving the problems at least illuminating the shadows of neglect and plain truth, inherent beauty, and the simple graceful act of activity. By any such measure, Guy Woodard is just such an artist. Self-taught, unmistakably gifted from an early age, and obsessive about asserting a degree of mastery over his craft, Woodard’s precision is not simply about pictorial acuity but about a keenness of perception and emotional honesty as well. —Excerpt from Diving the Solution, written by Carlo McCormick, published in the exhibition catalog for Guy Woodard: We the People, June 2019

“If I Could”, 2012. Ballpoint Pen on Paper 29.5 x 25.5 x .75 in.

The Howl community is devastated to hear about the passing of Guy Woodard. He was a gifted and brilliant artist who transformed a simple Bic ballpoint pen into a painterly tool. In 2019, Howl had the honor of exhibiting Guy Woodard: We The People, featuring a remarkable set of work highlighting issues related to mass incarceration and Black life in the United States. As part of the exhibition, Woodard created forgeries of documents that point to issues relevant to contemporary art and social history, including Tamir Rice’s police academy diploma and the diploma of Trayvon Martin from Howard University had they both lived.

Woodard faithfully held court every day during his exhibition at Howl, generously spending time with each patron entering the gallery—taking them on a journey through each piece of art on the wall and in the vitrines. He led a drawing workshop, sharing his skills and strategies with participants, and was excited by what each person produced with his guidance.

Guy Woodard
Guy Woodard with Self-Portrait Drawing Workshop attendee. Photo: Yoon

Woodard was born with a kind of superpower that allowed him to see fine detail. He was able to draw at three years of age before he could read, and continued to hone his skills over the years. Twists of fate and life circumstances led to Woodard serving time in federal prison for forgery and counterfeiting. Only afforded a ballpoint pen to make art while incarcerated, it was during this time Guy produced some of his greatest bodies of work.

Howl was delighted to hear that MoMA had recently acquired several of Woodard’s pieces for their permanent collection. We had just seen him at the opening weekend for HA/HA (Howl! Arts/Howl! Archive) in September 2021, where Woodard was as gregarious and vibrant as ever. The Howl community mourns the loss of Guy Woodard but are comforted knowing that his impact and legacy will continue. A forger and fine artist, Guy Woodard, may you rest forever in power.

I’ve done so much with so little for so long that now I believe I can do anything with nothing at all. —Guy Woodard

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