Although music is central to Dorian Wood’s multidisciplinary practice (they’ve released dozens of albums and EPs over the years), Wood is also a prolific visual artist, creating eccentric, eerie drawings that combine cartoonish sophistication and affecting allegory. And of course some of Wood’s most iconic moments have been works of performance art that captivated audiences and activated spaces from the L.A. Art Show to the Broad Museum, REDCAT, Human Resources and the ICA LA. This summer, Wood has also been working on a self-isolation residency project with Building Bridges Art Exchange. Wood released a new album, ARDOR last month and about to drop its twin REACTOR — a pair of song cycles that uniquely capture the roller coaster of emotions we’ve all been living through, together apart.
L.A. WEEKLY: What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
DORIAN WOOD: I’d like to think that I am a vessel for change, objection, color and kindness. She sweats a lot, too.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
That question has entered my mind more than once. I’d still be me.
Did you go to art school?
I went to Conservatorio de Castella, a high school of the arts in Costa Rica. Then I did a couple of semesters at LACC film school, and I got bored, so I dropped out, locked myself in my bedroom and screamed into a boom box for a while.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
There are enough childhood joys and traumas to keep me here for a very long time, but I still fantasize about living in Madrid someday.
When was your first show?
Back in 1980, when I performed a piano recital at USC. I was 5.
When is your next project?
I’m releasing a new album on October 16! REACTOR is the second album I’m putting out during this pandemic. ARDOR, the first one, came out in early September. Both albums were recorded during an artist’s residency I did at Human Resources back in June. These recordings are love letters to activists, service workers and medical workers who risk their lives every day for us.
I decided very quickly during this quarantine to embrace my anger as tightly as I have my despair. Maybe even let my anger eclipse my despair! People are fed up with how we have allowed fascism and institutionalized racism to be the norms. I don’t know where we’re going, but I know it is vastly different from where we’ve been, and I believe that our collective anger in battling these white supremacists will get us to where we need to be. My hope with these songs is that the ones on ARDOR can calm the rage when our bodies and minds require it, and the ones on REACTOR can reignite that rage.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
Do you listen to music while you work?
Sometimes. If I’m not working on my own music, I enjoy silence, but when the silence gets too loud, I put on music that eases me out of the silence. Current go-to’s are Less Bells, Geneva Skeen, Akauzazte and Low.