Shirley Woodson, born in 1936 in Pulaski, Tennessee, moved to Detroit with her parents at three months of age. She is a figurative painter whose practice includes drawing, collage and mixed media. Receiving her BFA and MA from Wayne State University she began her masters studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in painting and art history. Woodson is known for her high-intensity colors and expressionistic painting style that lends itself to expanding ideas in drawing and mixed media. Woodson describes her work in literary terms: “Paintings are my diaries; Drawings are my prose; Collage is my poetry; Assemblages are my dialogue.” Besides her intense color exploration, other tonal subtleties appear in her mixed media and collage works. Her practice encompasses dual approaches in configuration.
One method is seen in her painting of large canvases with brilliant expressionistic color and the other found in the qualities of layering images within her photo-based collages of ancestry and traditions. In 1966 Woodson received a residency at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. It was a remarkable setting for the exploration of new ideas about media and materials. She began painting and drawing on metallic surfaces, combining found and imprinted papers to create cutout figures for larger figure studies in drawing, collage, book-works and assemblage. These new works expanded her visual voice and practice necessary to address the changing landscape in African American life and culture while laying the groundwork for the art making ahead.
Woodson’s exhibition record includes the Detroit Institute of Arts; Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists, Boston, MA; Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; Hampton University Museum of Art, Hampton, VA; Mott Warsh Collection of Contemporary Art; Schomburg Center For Research in Black Culture, NY; the Hirschhorn Museum, Washington ,DC; Arts Extended Gallery, Gallery Seven,Detroit Artists Market, NCA Gallery and Norwest Gallery in Detroit. Her teaching career began in Detroit Public Schools in 1960; Highland Park Community College 1966-1978 and Art Specialist for Highland Park Schools 1979-1992. Woodson was Supervisor of Fine Arts for Detroit Public Schools from 1992-2008. She was a co-founder in 1974 of the National Conference of Artists Michigan and currently serves as president.