Who’s Playing (In) The Card?

In this work on paper purchased on the 2009 student art buying trip, Jonas Wood uses gouache and colored pencil on paper to depict world-renowned basketball player Bill Walton. Wood emulates the format of a traditional collectable athlete playing card with Walton.

Jonas Wood (b.1977), Walton, 2008, Gouache and Colored Pencil on Paper, 41" x 57"

The work is divided into two sides, reminiscent of the front and back of a playing card. These cards were available for purchase and served as a product of memorabilia for fans to trade and enjoy. By transforming the cheap, mass-produced playing card in his signature graphic style, Wood pays homage to Pop artists who drew inspiration from sources in popular and commercial culture. A self-proclaimed lover of basketball, Wood is surrounded by basketball paraphernalia in his studio and proclaims to listen to basketball podcasts as he creates his art.

- Georgia-Kathryn Duncan

Through the lens of information literacy, I think this artwork could be a really interesting commentary on a pop culture information format of decades past, athlete trading cards. These cards typically feature photographs and bio sketches of athletes, as well as statistics about their career. Sports fans would collect, trade, and have them autographed. This work recreates some of these elements on a much larger scale than the original trading card format of 2.5”x3.5” and while shapes indicate where certain information should go, like biographic information and “career pro statistics,” it’s interesting that no specific information is given about the player, other than his name, team, and position. Recognizing various ‘containers’ that information is traditionally packaged in is an essential information literacy skill, as is asking relevant questions and placing information into a wider context. This work could be an engaging teaching tool to teach these skills.

- Elizabeth Ellis, Teaching Librarian

"When I first saw the artwork I felt honored, as a basketball player to see someone like Bill Walton it was inspiring and uplifting for me. This artwork shows me that maybe one day I would have the great opportunity to be hung up somewhere, if not Benson, that someone would give me recognition that this work has with Bill Walton. This work brings joy to me and motivates me as a basketball player to see that athletes are being recognized and respected in our campus community. When I was younger I had a LeBron James trading card, I was a big fan. Overall this work makes me motivated and joyful that athletes are getting recognition in the form of artwork."

- Jao Ituka ‘25, Communication Major

"This artwork automatically takes me back in time to the old play style of the NBA. It reminds me of the rough/tough and physical basketball during Bill Walton’s era in the NBA. This artwork could also potentially stand as a reminder for the Hall of Fame player Bill Walton. I enjoy the color scheme of this artwork because it gives it an older look and takes the viewer of this artwork back in time. I also liked the retro Trail Blazers logo and colors on the side that give this artwork a different aspect that makes it appear older. As a basketball player, this artwork resonates with me because it displays someone who had a lot of success in the NBA and it inspires me to continue to work hard and achieve my goals in basketball."

- RJ Kennah ‘25, Economics Major

The FOCUS series features one artwork per month from the Wake Forest University Art Collections. Reflections from students, faculty, staff and alumni are encouraged. To include your voice in the dialogue, contact artcollections@wfu.edu.

Mark H. Reece Collection of Student-Acquired Contemporary Art, CU2009.5.1

Reproduced with permission of the artist.