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Inspired by her Memphis upbringing and Mississippi relatives, NJ Woods paints scenes of rustic life from memory and imagination. NJ’s distinctive creativity blossomed by watching her father Yancy paint in the middle room of their shotgun home. Where, as the third born of nine children, NJ used tempera paint to scribble pictures on the windows. She’s since traded in the tempera for acrylic and window panes, for canvas.
NJ grew up in the shotgun littered community of Orange Mound, the first African-American neighborhood built by African-Americans in the United States. Most of her work revolves around the shotgun house and its imprint on the African-American and Southern experience.
Her primitive style of painting, heavily influenced by visits to her Grandma Sarah’s house in Coldwater, MS and other country relatives, often reflects the dichotomy of city life juxtaposed with rural traditions and stories. These stories transferred onto the canvas, typify slices of life during the sharecropping and civil rights eras marked by her adroit use of emotive colors, folksy compositions and poetic titles. NJ’s subject matter and style is often compared to renowned artists Carroll Cloar and Clementine Hunter.
Although NJ’s been painting professionally for more than 12 years, just before her work really began to sell she was a home health attendant for several years. Today, NJ’s work has been shown in several galleries around the country — Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas and New York, to name a few. Her work has been exhibited at Dixon Gallery and Gardens Museum and the Brooks Museum, both in Memphis, Tennessee. In August 2008, NJ was invited to be a guest lecturer for the Lunch and Learn series at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, during the Ancestry and Innovation: African American Art from the American Folk Art Museum exhibition. She is now the founder and co-owner of NJ Woods Gallery and Design Studio in the Broad Avenue arts district in Memphis, Tennessee.