Woo Presents Bethany College Senior Art Show After 27-Year Break

BETHANY, W.Va. — John Woo arrived at Bethany, his first and only college choice, at the end of summer 1979. A freshman biology major and the youngest of five children from Greenbelt, Md., Woo planned to follow in his physician father’s footsteps. But after an art class during his second semester inspired him to change direction, he embarked upon a college career in the visual arts — a journey that is just now reaching its end.

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After successfully meeting all other graduation requirements, including passing his comprehensive exams, Woo abruptly left campus without completing his senior art show. So Woo, who says he still does not fully understand his decision, did not receive his degree.

Upon leaving Bethany, Woo moved to Chicago and worked for more than three years teaching blind children, adolescents and adults. While there he took classes at Wright College and developed a serious interest in photography. He then traveled to Taiwan to see his father, a visit that turned into a two-year stay in which he met and ultimately married Sue, his muse and his father’s nurse. The newlyweds moved to Washington, D.C., and Woo found work developing pictures at a photo lab. There, he cultivated his expertise with digital photography.

Woo has been a successful professional photographer in Washington, D.C., for many years with a studio housed in an old Franciscan monastery in North East Washington. While most of his commissions are for portraits, artwork copy photography and commercial product prints, Woo has also been the principal photographer of several books, including “Party Animals,” African American Artists in their Studios” and “Pandamania.” He recently finished a commission documenting public art created for the D.C. metro stations.

Woo and his wife are now the parents of two sons and live in Frederick, Md. And 27 years after his sudden exit from Bethany, he is back to complete this final requirement for his degree — thanks to decades of urging by his wife and family.

Woo’s Senior Art Show is currently on display in the Renner Art Gallery at Bethany and features recent photography, watercolors and charcoal drawings, as well as work completed during his days at Bethany in the early 1980s. A reception honoring the artist will take place on Saturday, February 27, in the Renner Art Gallery from 6:30 - 8 p.m. The Gallery is also open Tuesdays through Sundays.

For further information about exhibitions, please contact Professor Kenn Morgan at kmorgan@bethanywv.edu or 304-829-4804.

Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.