Out of this World

From his Streng home studio, visionary artist Justin Wood explores the fascinating, fearsome melding of man and machine

It would be hard to find a more quintessentially mid-century modern couple than Justin and Laura Wood.

Justin Wood Art
His art "surrealist and a little bit futuristic edgy," Justin Wood recently completed this piece, 'Rebuild,' inspired by the Stahl House in the Hollywood Hills.

They talk the talk, as members of what Laura calls “the mid-century clique” in Sacramento. Justin has become one of the city's leading lights on all things ‘Sacramento modern' through his pair of blogs that focus on the designs of Carter Sparks, the architect behind the area's Streng Bros. tract homes, and other Valley architecture in the post-and-beam, mid-century modern tradition.

The Woods are also surrounded by the stuff. They live in a Streng home in Citrus Heights, and own another, a two-story, which they rent out. Inside their home is a rare Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames-designed modular shelving system created for the New York Museum of Modern Art's 'Organic Design' furniture competition in 1939-'40.

Justin Wood Art
At night, in his garage studio, Justin creates his three-dimensional art.

“We got it really cheap,” Justin says.

They've got modern sofas from South America, an Eames lounger, and a choice collection of tabletop tube radios from the 1940s that, Justin determined ahead of the collecting pack, were designed by the famed architect-designer Alexander Girard.

And Justin and Laura seem to live the mid-century life, with a slight twist here and there. Every morning Laura heads to the office—she's an architect, helping design courthouses; and Justin stays home with their child, Ida, almost two, “a little dynamo,” according to her dad.

Justin Wood Art
'DJ Uppercut' (2004).

While Ida naps, Dad works his side job, a home occupation that involves trolling Craigslist for cool ‘50s and ‘60s collectible furnishings, which he refurbishes, then resells.

Mom comes home for dinner and family time. Then, at 10:30 at night, the home quiet, moonlight slipping in through the clerestories, Justin repairs to his garage-studio where his real work begins—in a place that seems remote indeed from Ozzie and Hariett—virtual space.

Justin Wood Art
'Daft Punks' (2007).

In the decade-plus since graduating from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Justin has won fame, if not much money, for his skill in creating unique, three-dimensional virtual worlds—where creatures and people play, where animals morph into machines, where impulses of light control the actions of humans and baboons, where people can sit on digital chairs and be killed by digital bullets.

Justin describes his art, when he describes it at all, as “figurative three-dimensional work that is surrealist and a little bit futuristic edgy.”

He does both commercial art and fine art, which he creates digitally but prints as unique editions or as multiples. Often he will hand-paint portions of the final works, and he will sometimes hand-paint sections and then digitize them to get the desired feeling.

Justin's work can be optimistic—his ‘Future of Downtown Austin,' with its dancing neon-bright skyscrapers, a cover for Austin magazine, looks promising, if you're an uber-urbanist; and ‘Keeping Cool' shows an attractive female bicyclist surrounded by her personal force field of snowflakes.