Douglas Newby
Architecturally Significant Homes
Horse & Trolly

Scholar Studying Up

Read, look, or listen are three approaches to learning about the Jonas Wood exhibition opening at the DMA. A prominent gallery owner and fellow SMU Town & Gown member chose to read the exhibition catalog before he viewed the paintings. A distinguished museum director got up close to the painting maybe to authenticate it or to study brushstrokes. My choice of an introduction to this painting was to listen. The delightful family of Jonas Wood came to the opening where I met his dad in front of the painting of the bathroom of the home Jonas Wood grew up in. The back story was particularly interesting to me. Jonas’ father is an architect who bought this 1903 home in Weston, MA, in 1975 and owned it until 2016. In 1975 I bought my 1905 house that was also dilapidated; however, his was painted battleship gray and was considered the “horror house” of Weston. The agent thought when seeing the young couple (wife in overalls and husband with long hair and beard) that the house was going to go from bad to worse. Mr. Wood assured the agent his wife was an artist and he was an architect and knew what to do with the home. He showed me many details of the painting, from the American Standard bathtub five inches longer than usual, the replica pedestal sink, and ceramic tile installed in 1935, the last year any work had been done on the house. Mr. Wood discussed many of the travesties of the home that he corrected over the next several decades. He mentioned that Jonas’ mother was able to see her son’s first major New York show in 2009 right before she died. The oral history of the home and family gave depth to the paintings in the exhibition. There is an intimacy and bond with the architecture that comes from living in a 100-year-old home. The extravagant details and patterns of architecture in the paintings of Jonas Wood reflect his having an architect and artist as parents and his entire young life observing the patterns, proportions, materials, and quirks of an old house. Listening adds depth that even the most acute studying and the most intense observation cannot offer.
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