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Lenny Wooden honored as Colleton


By Christie Slocum


The Colleton Museum and Farmers Market held their monthly artist reception on June 11, 2014.  This month’s artist has spent most of his life expressing himself though sketches.  I was able to spend some time with Lenny Wooden.  Although I had just met him, he opened up and told me his story, and what a fascinating life he has lived.  More importantly, he talked to me about the friendship he has formed with the Colleton Museum Program Coordinator, Matt Mardell.

Matt Mardell and Lenny Wooden will be friends for life since their chance meeting not too long ago. Photo by Christie Slocum

Matt Mardell and Lenny Wooden will be friends for life since their chance meeting not too long ago. Photo by Christie Slocum

Wooden was born in 1933.  There were five children in his family.  His father was a hard worker and his mother stayed home to raise the children.  They live all over Queens, one of the five boroughs of New York City.  It was not an easy time.  His family, like many, suffered during this period of the great depression.  He said that even though his father worked very hard his family still had to depend on welfare, which he reminded me was very different during those days and times.  “People were on welfare to survive” he said very meekly.  “We lived whereever the rent was the cheapest and we made friends with every one we met,” said Wooden.

It was during this time, in his early years, that he spent his time drawing and sketching.  His friends started to notice his work and his talent.  “I was inspired by World War II.  I really enjoyed drawing planes,” said Wooden.  At a young age he decided he would enlist in the US Army.

According to Wooden, he served during the Korean War.  “I did not fight on the front line.  I told my Lieutenant I was an artist and he told me I would work at his office and not out on the front line.  I had to update the news boards and change the letters everyday.  I also was able to sketch some pictures of things that were happening.”  He also spent some time in Wurzburg, Germany.  In his down time here, he continued to draw and strived to become a better artist.

After returning home to New York, he was not sure what to do.  He spent time getting to know other artists in the area and learning about them and their skills.  One of his friends was going to Copper-Union in Manhattan to taken an entry test to get into their art school.  He decided to tag along, mainly to keep him company.  After arriving, he decided to take the entry test also and to his surprise, he passed.  He was accepted to the art school and completed its classes successfully, making some very influential friends along the way.

After finishing the art school, Wooden married and they had two children.  He worked as a free lance commercial artist during the 1960’s all around New York City.  He enjoyed drawing people and was very good at it.  He found his love was in fashion. He looked all over for work and found enough to make ends meet for his family.  He had work published in some fashion magazines and really enjoyed drawing for advertisements.

In the mid-nineties, Wooden moved to Aiken to live with his sister.  He spent a lot of his time over at USC Aiken getting to know other artist there and sharing his work.  Wooden moved to the Veteran’s Victory House four and a half years ago after developing Parkinson’s disease.  He enjoys living at the Veteran’s Victory House and reports they are real good to him there.  His room is unique, as it has an art desk set up in front of a window.  It is complete with watercolor paints, brushes, and paper.  He has a stack of magazines on his desk that he uses for inspiration.  His portfolio is also there, full of his sketches and watercolors, which is his favorite form of art.  It was there in his room where he was discovered by an employee of the Veteran’s Victory House, Marsha Johnson.  She noticed his work and told Wooden it should be hung on his wall.  She took a few pieces and placed them in a frame and hung them for him and others to admire.

It was not long until they contacted the Colleton Museum.  They shared Wooden’s story and soon after Matt Mardell went out to see for himself.  Mardell and Wooden hit it off from the moment they met.  Wooden recalled thinking Mardell was a nice guy and Mardell shares the same feelings of Wooden.  “He reminds me a lot of myself.  He keeps to himself but once you start talking to him he really opens up and you get to know him”, said Mardell.                                                                      022

Wooden’s art display of 29 pieces will be on display for the month of June at the Colleton Museum and Farmer’s Market.  Admission is FREE.  When the month is over Wooden’s art will return to the Veteran’s Victory House.  When the art is returned it will all be with frames donated by the Colleton Museum.  The Veteran’s Victory House will find a spot for Wooden’s art to be displayed for all the residents to enjoy.

Christie Slocum (538 Posts)