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Michael Woodcock memorial service

Memorial service set for local artist, Pitzer professor emeritus

Michael Woodcock, a noted Claremont artist and a Pitzer College professor emeritus, died on March 31, 2013 after a long illness. He was 61.

The community is invited to a memorial service to celebrate “the extraordinary life of Michael Woodcock” on Saturday, June 22 at 4 p.m. at Pitzer College’s Benson Auditorium (1050 N. Mills Ave.).

Refreshments will be served in the atrium afterwards, followed by an informal wake hosted by Mr. Woodcock’s family at their home, which all are welcome to attend. For more information, contact Michael Ballagh at michael_ballagh@pitzer.edu.

Mr. Woodcock was born in Connecticut on October 25, 1951 and grew up near the beaches of southern California. In 1984, he graduated from Claremont Graduate University with an MFA in drawing and painting. In 1989, he began teaching at Pitzer where, according to a college release, “he was known as a unique artist with a passion for teaching the creative process.”

One of Mr. Woodcock’s most memorable courses, “The Mother Road,” centering on the creative fulcrum that is Route 66, ended with him and about a dozen students driving in vintage cars from Santa Monica to Chicago, a 2,278-mile endeavor.

Mr. Woodcock’s paintings and lithographs were marked by irreverent humor, often achieved by the juxtaposition of text with images by turns prosaic and iconic.

In a 2005 lithograph titled “Bad Henry,” white space surrounds a square rendering of a pup’s sheepish looking face, under which is written the slogan “when you are a bad dog, every day is Christmas.” An acrylic and graphite rendering of a Heinz tomato ketchup bottle is accompanied by the word “vegetable.”

“Whenever I begin a new project, my initial idea is to make it perfect. However I fall short of that is my art,” he wrote in a 2006 mission statement.

David Lindley, just one of the countless members of the Claremont art community with whom Mr. Woodcock forged close ties, is best known as an internationally noted musician. Not everyone knows that he also enjoys making art, too, an avocation for which he said he has received some sound advice over the years from Mr. Woodcock.

“He gave me a lot of information on colorfastness and archival kinds of paper and making things that are more or less as permanent as could be. He would share very valuable information,” Mr. Lindley said.

Over the years, Mr. Lindley purchased a number of works by Mr. Woodcock, but he admired him as much for his personality as for his art.

“He was always a curmudgeon,” Mr. Lindley recalled fondly. “I’d go to Wolf’s Market and go to the delicatessen and he’d be over getting something to eat in his motorized wheelchair. We’d both sit there at a bar and watch people in the parking lot and sneer at SUVs and stuff like that.”

Mr. Lindley continued, “We decided that we should have a fraternal order of curmudgeons. You had to be ill-tempered at the drop of a hat—you had to be really venomous and bad-tempered. He was fantastic. He was great, really wonderful. It’s a shame he’s not around.”

Along with his occasional crustiness, friends and well-wishers everywhere are saluting Mr. Woodcock for his ability to make them laugh. Radio host Nathan Callahan recently posted the following tribute on the Public Radio Exchange website:

“On Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013, the extraordinarily gifted artist Michael Woodcock ended his tenure on planet earth. In Michael’s artistic output there was an unsurpassed honesty and inventiveness. His work plays with convention. Yet, although the embodied Michael displayed a spectacularly dry sense of humor, to think of his creations as humorous one-liners is a sin. ‘What I want,’ he said, ‘is for somebody I respect to look at one of these paintings and, after a minute or 2, say that’s the most beautiful dumb painting I’ve ever seen.’”

Mr. Woodcock’s work has been collected and displayed in institutions such as the Getty Museum, the Los Angeles County Public Library, Yale University and the TOSCHI Art Institute in Parma, Italy.

One of his more recent exhibits, titled “Michael Woodcock Paintings 2008-2010,” was showcased at the University of La Verne’s Harris Gallery in February and March 2011. His work, combined with that of Athena H. Hahn, was also displayed at the Bunner Gunner gallery in Pomona in November and December of 2012.

Mr. Woodcock is survived by his wife, Julie; by his 2 daughters, Margaret and Carolina; by his sister, Cherie; by his brother, Scott and by his extended family.

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