Pluralistic: 16 Oct 2022 RIP, Roger Wood, genius assemblage sculptor

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A photo of Roger in his old Toronto studio, with several of his clock sculptures.

RIP, Roger Wood, genius assemblage sculptor (permalink)

Last week, my dear old friend Roger Wood died, very suddenly, of cancer. He was 80. Roger was a brilliant sculptor, a Canadian veteran navy gunner, and gay. He was my neighbour for a decade. I miss him already.

Five of Roger's assemblage clocks; two towers, a cart, a wall-mount and a bell-jar
Two of Roger's clocks, both under bell-jars, one tall and one short
A silvery Roger clock on a small cart
A wall-mounted Roger clock

Roger and I both lived in an old WWI munitions factory in Toronto, which had been turned into 15 illegal live-work studios with 20-foot ceilings which leaked, massive south-facing windows (which leaked), and a warm and collegial vibe of weirdos and artists.

A Roger steampunk bicycle with a gramophone horn.
A very large cart-style Roger clock that is particularly steampunk
A Roger wood steampunk lamp, incorporating a bell-jar
Three tall, tower-like assemblage clocks

Roger was a self-taught sculptor, a mad collector of all sorts of junk: scrap metal, old toys, discarded electronics, decorative items. He tore these apart, painted and mutated them, and turned them into whimsical assemblages.

A very ornate bell-jar clock with an inset showing detail of its body.
A cart-style clock with many touches of red enamel
A clock with many gilded ornamental elements harvested from toys and decorative items.

Many of these were built around clocks; often with a small feather attached to the second-hand that quivered as it revolved around and around the clockface. Roger was making things that could be called "steampunk" before the term existed – and once he learned it, he embraced it.

A wall clock
A lamp style clock incorporating symmetrical vacuum tubes.
A starburst-style clock ringed with mermaids.
Two clocks made from tarnished brass horns.

In those years, I was working very long hours on the early web, but I was often and easily sidetracked at Roger's studio, where I'd sit and smoke cigarettes with him and hear navy stories (his time with the big guns had left him somewhat deaf) or just tour his beautiful new pieces.

A wall-clock that Roger called a 'Jules Verne' clock
A tall clock made from the body of a canister vacuum cleaner
A cart-style clock
A cart-style clock incorporating a tiny laundry line hung with tiny undergarments.

Roger, too, had an incredible work ethic. He told the Toronto Star's Barbara Turnbull, "Even on Sunday mornings, when good citizens are off to church, I'm off to the local flea market, always scrounging different bits and pieces."

An exploding alarm clock

And he was content: "But I survive, so why complain? I think mere survival as an artist in Canada propels me into the top 10 per cent of the ranks in this country."

A steampunk menorah

Turnbull really captured Roger's studio when she wrote: "But it's the overwhelming number of storage containers, loosely labelled and filled with the items he uses for his fanciful designs that makes the jaw drop: picture lamp bulbs, lamp parts, wooden balls, drawer pulls, buttons, clock springs, gears and faces, dials, jewellery, candlesticks, shoemaker moulds, picture frames, musical instrument parts, vacuum tubes from old radios, gas lamp parts, typewriter keys, bottle caps, old gauges, camera lenses and nameplates."

Roger Wood standing behind a large sculpture he's made out of an old pram.
A tall clock surmounted by a gramophone horn.

Roger loaned me dozens of his largest, most impressive pieces for my wedding, where he was resplendent in a hall that was filled with his sculptures. I was living in the UK at the time, and shortly after, high Toronto rents pushed Roger out of the city and to Hamilton. I saw him again a few years later when he came to an event of mine in Hamilton and we had dinner.

Two views of a shiny Roger Wood assemblage raygun
<img src=" alt="Two views of a brass-accented Roger Wood assemblage raygun">

Two views of a black and chrome Roger Wood assemblage raygun

Two views of a wood and brass geared Roger Wood assemblage raygun

But then he moved back east, to Nova Scotia, where, he emailed me, he built the studio he'd always dreamt of. I didn't see him after that, though we corresponded some. Mostly, I felt in touch with Roger because I've got so many of his sculptures in my home, including the diptych he gave us as a wedding gift.

A Roger Wood clock made from heavy industrial machinery.

Knowing Roger is gone has left an ache in my heart. He deserved to be so much better known, and better treated by the cities he graced with his art and his presence. He was a sweet, kind, talented, funny man and it showed in his art.

A Roger Wood cart-style clock

In Roger's obituary in the Globe and Mail, his family says, "Donations to the Charity of Your Choice or support an artist, buy an original piece of art." Support the artists in your life, folks, and cherish them. Goodbye, Roger. I was very lucky to count you a friend.

A large Roger Wood assemblage sculpture

Here are some of my photos of Roger, his studio and his work:;sort=date-taken-desc&amp;text=klockwerks&amp;view_all=1

And here is one of my favorite photos of Roger with his creations, by
Stephen Humphrey:

Hey look at this (permalink)

This day in history (permalink)

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Colophon (permalink)

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