A genesis of life and art

Portraits: An artist has found her niche with an `emotional and personal business' creating works from sonograms.

July 04, 2002|By Katheran Uraneck | Katheran Uraneck,COLUMBIA NEWS SERVICE

When people first encounter a portrait by Texas artist Lisa Wood, they are usually puzzled. But when they solve the mystery, their puzzlement often turns to astonishment: "Is that a baby I see in there?"

Wood, of Highland Village, has developed a unique artistic style: She has taken grainy black-and-white pregnancy sonograms and created original works of art. The resulting pieces are startling for some and emotional for others.

"At first, people will look at it and say, `What is that?'" she said. "And when they hear what it is, they are so moved that what they see is just the art of life, basically. The response has been tremendous."

Wood, 34, began her career as an artist more than two years ago when she received a framed enlargement of her first daughter's sonogram. When her second daughter was born, Wood made sure to repeat the process so that her second child wouldn't feel slighted.

The photographic distortions of the enlarged sonograms sparked an idea. Using her passion and training in art from the University of North Texas in Denton, Wood began to explore the possibilities of painting on the sonograms directly. Her husband, George Wood, challenged her to try to create images using computer software.

Wood first scans the image into her computer, then, using a graphic tablet and stylus, she creates a new image by either adding color, texture, by cropping or by increasing the inherent distortion of the scanned photograph. She prints the finished image on either canvas or heavy-duty watercolor paper using an industrial printer.

"The first ones I gave away," said Wood. "When they opened it up, they just cried. The grandparents cried, the soon-to-be parents cried, and my husband and I looked at each other and said, `Hmm, I think we have something.'"

Since, Wood and her husband have been busy creating ArtInUtero, an online business (www.artinutero.com).

Wood takes orders for commissioned portraits using sonograms provided by family or friends and sells limited-edition reprints to interested buyers. They have also extended the line to include gifts such as T-shirts, invitations and birth announcements. Prices for an original portrait range from $235 to $835. Besides parents and grandparents, buyers have included obstetricians and other artists.

The Premier Gallery in Flower Mound, Texas, just north of Dallas, mounted Wood's first show, which opened in April.

Bill Barber, the gallery's owner, found Wood through a local newspaper article.

"I thought it was kind of weird at first," said Barber. "Then when I saw them in person I saw that they are beautiful forms of art."

"They impress people," he added. "I like to call them camouflage art of the womb."

Many of Wood's pieces have a quality similar to abstract and post-impressionist works. Wood said she is influenced by artists such as Salvador Dali and Picasso.

In one sonogram portrait, titled Emma, the image of a reclining baby with a floating arm awash in brilliant blues, pinks, and reds is reminiscent of the French post-impressionist painter Pierre Bonnard's Nude in the Bath.

In many of Wood's portraits, the image is easily recognizable. But because the images are derived from sonograms, where the fetus is seen floating in amniotic fluid, the resulting works take on a dreamlike quality. Others are more abstract and resemble large colorful atlases of some alien planet or psychedelic Rorschach inkblots.

In SweetCheeks, two large areas of aqua and blue appear like mountains around a roiling orange sea, but in actuality are a baby's legs and buttocks.

Wood gets ideas by first talking with the parents about what their preferences for color might be and whether they have a particular style to which they are attracted. But she makes each one differently, and every portrait takes from 10 to 20 hours to create.

"These are all individual creations for me and I take pride like any artist does," she said.

She hopes to gain national recognition and has been planning a book of her work. Her goal is to become the Anne Geddes of sonogram portraits. Geddes, a renowned baby photographer, became famous for photographing her subjects in unconventional ways and settings, such as dressed as a head of cabbage or on top of a pumpkin.

"It's been a very, very emotional and personal business," said Wood.

"Every time I give one and the parents cry, I end up crying."

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