The Car’s the Star by Nicola Wood

“I was drawn to the United States by images I absorbed of it, particularly those of Los Angeles and Hollywood, from American movies of the 1950s, which I watched growing up in England.  I was an usherette in a picture house and repeatedly saw swimming pools, palm trees, chrome-ladened automobiles, elegant homes and copious quantities of food and consumer items blazing in the Southern California sunshine. I fell in love with those bright images and the exciting lifestyles I imagined for anyone living in such scenes.

The love I felt for Los Angeles is what I attempt to express in my paintings; even as a young girl standing in the shadows, transfixed by what I saw on the screen, I knew they were only images, not the real thing, just as I know my paintings are images, too; therefore, I call my painting style “magical realism.” I hope my painted images of Los Angeles create a similar magical love within a viewer as those film images did for me. The transformation, when an image relates to love, is the realism within my art.

I abhor “hate” and the violence it breeds. I cannot overtly paint anything I feel might suggest hate. Yet, I know hate resides within the world, within our city, and within ourselves. Most Americans do not know how difficult the postwar years were in England. Shortages and rationing and political strife continued well into the 1950s. I was not unique in looking westward across the Atlantic for dreams, inspiration, love and eventually citizenship. The postwar migration to the United States of artists of all genre – The British Invasion – was a turning away from the dark, depressing environment we had lived through: the war and its lingering aftermath.  Thus, in my paintings, hate, things hurtful, are expressed by omission; one could even say denial.

Los Angeles is often described as the city built by the automobile; cars compose the landscape of Los Angeles in the same way as plants, rolling hills, sandy beaches and sunshine. For that reason, I often place automobiles as if they were some ornamental plant one might find alongside a swimming pool or parked on a sandy beach, like towels spread out awaiting the return of bathers, not drivers. Through their incongruous placements, I am sharing with the viewer or hoping to alert the viewer, to how integrated automobiles are into the lives of Angelenos.

I have been fortunate to see some of the most prestigious collections of automobiles in the world here in Los Angeles, however, because the abundance of America still impresses me, I am equally amazed at the number of cars owned by average households here. A neighbor a block away has almost 30 cars stored in various backyards and parked on streets.  One car is in my driveway. It is a classic 1950s hardtop Imperial, baby blue, white top and glitters with chrome. I can’t wait to paint it — not the car — an image of it. It’s magic and it’s real.”

Nicola Wood is one of the world’s premier artists who uses the car as a subject matter. Anything but a “car painter,” she infuses surreal elements of nature and pop culture icons and images into her acclaimed oils. Born in Great Crosby, England, Nicola graduated from the Royal College of Art in London with first-class honors, then won Fulbright scholarship to study at Parsons School of Design in New York, where she was commissioned for her first published work, a book cover for Tennessee Williams’ “Night of the Iguana.” A devoted Angeleno, she has lived in L.A. since 1975. To learn more about Nicola and view a gallery of her work, visit