PAINTER Guy Woodward was one of Savannah’s hidden gems.
He lived a long and storied life, and when he passed away in March at the age of 73 from pancreatic cancer, it was on his own terms.
“Things changed for me dramatically from the end of December through the end of March,” remembers friend Chase Anderson. “I just plunged into caregiving.”
Anderson and Woodward were only friends for about four years, but the friendship made a big impact.
“A lot of times, you find out that your perspective on what a friend is shifts,” says Anderson. “His prioritizing the immediate moment was a result of all that he had been through and was going through. That all played into this sense of immediacy of everything and how short time really is. None of us ever did have all the time. All you’ve got is now. In this case, he wasn’t telling me about it, he was showing me in the paintings.”
To share Woodward’s incredible legacy with others, Anderson has planned a memoriam and art gathering at their shared home.
“In Memoriam: The Primordial Journey of Painter Guy Woodward II” will take place Thurs., June 13 at 5 p.m. at Le Chat Noir Gallery and Gardens, 108 W. Hall St.
Woodward’s career began at the now-defunct Raymond College in Stockton, California, a liberal arts college. He was introduced to Carl Jung’s idea of the Primordial, or the collective unconscious, and to large-scale installation sculptor Mowry Baden. Both ended up being a major influence on Woodward as he learned.
“In the summer, he’s out dropping acid and jumping into waterfalls during 1969, the Summer of Love,” says Anderson. “I realize how powerful a slice of time that is. There’s an energy associated with ’67-’72 that resonates in a way, particularly today.”
During this time, Woodward moved to Berkeley and began making leather belts and handbags, which brought him some success. His mother brought samples of his bags to the department store buyers in Beverly Hills, where they sold out quickly. Woodward expanded his operation to national distribution, which was a big deal at the time.
“California was looked at as beachwear at the time,” says Anderson.
After the ups and downs of his leather business, Woodward found Savannah in 2005 on a trip with his daughter. He bought artist Ray Ellis’ former home and settled in to begin painting.
“He just created this green world around him and let the house go as he painted,” says Anderson.
After just a year of being in Savannah, Woodward was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
“There was a free screening in the park, and he went just for the heck of it,” says Anderson. “He had given up his insurance because he thought he was immortal or something.”
Woodward went the conventional medicine route but quickly became disillusioned with that approach after an unsuccessful surgery.
“That’s when he really had his first serious existential experience of mortality,” says Anderson. “It’s the one thing that gives us awareness that life is short. I always conceptually knew it, now I really know it. You can’t do it all. It kind of makes sense to most of us when we do some soul searching: do the most important things.”
That’s what Woodward did. For the rest of his life, he created over 150 oil paintings. He passed away in his studio surrounded by friends, including Anderson.
“We can create something in our lifetime, in our human form that resonates after you graduate, that still hums,” says Anderson. “He believed his paintings were portals, like windows almost, and the name that we all have different names for. Creator, primordial, cosmos, quantum field—there’s no fixed form.”
While Anderson has plans to turn the grounds into an event venue, all that’s done will honor Woodward and his memory.
“I left his shoes in the studio, like he’s been gone just a couple minutes,” shares Anderson. “He’s coming right back.”