Detail of photograph by Salvador Pleitez
Leona Wood grew up on the shores of Puget Sound, where her neighbors were a mix of Japanese, newly arrived Russian émigrés, and Northwest Coast tribes. Her exposure to the simplicity and elegance of Japanese and Native American art had a strong influence on her early painting.
Wood was part of the Pacific Northwest art scene, where she associated with such artists as Mark Toby and Morris Graves. She presented her first one-woman show at the Seattle Art Museum, and received a fellowship to study design in San Francisco at the school of Bauhaus artist Rudolph Schaeffer while still under the age of twenty.
Wood moved to New York City in 1945, where she was a successful designer and illustrator at Dorland International, Pettingell and Fenton. All the while, she was painting in a style that was almost surreal. Julian Levy, who exhibited Salvador Dali and Eugene Berman, invited her to show at his gallery.
In 1948, Wood returned to the West Coast as Art Director of the Pettingell and Fenton Los Angeles office. When she exhibited again in 1953, she had acquired extraordinary techniques for her new trompe l'oeil paintings, including one of her masterpieces, "Sleight of Hand" (Millard Sheets collection). Wood had sold-out shows at Gump's Gallery in San Francisco and Hewitt Gallery in New York, jointly owned by Edwin Hewitt and Lincoln Kirstein. In 1958, Kirstein sent Wood's work to the Spoleto International Art Festival in Italy.
In 1957, she received a large commission from De Beers for a series of paintings that appeared in leading magazines as part of their "A diamond is forever" advertising campaign. Newsweek gave Wood special mention for her De Beers paintings in the November 1959 Review of Art USA.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Wood began a series of paintings of 19th century Middle Eastern dancers and their milieu, gaining a reputation as an Orientalist. Her paintings were exhibited in the Lane Galleries in Los Angeles from the 1960s until it closed twenty-five years later.
In October of 2015, a group of Leona's close friends put on a retrospective of 80 of her paintings at the QArt Gallery in Marina del Rey, California.
Wood was also active in the dance world; search for her in Wikipedia.