Being inspired by my blogging peers, I have decided that I should offer something useful more frequently. If I’m going to put the effort into having a blog I should bring something interesting or, in the very least, entertaining to the table. I figured I should stick to what I know, so I’ll be writing weekly about an artist that melts my butter. Much like in my own artistic endeavors, I won’t focus on any medium in particular because I love variety. I see many beautiful images in this blog’s near future. I can’t say if this new feature will occur on a certain day every week, but at some point, as weekly as possible… Am I selling you guys on this yet? : P
One of my first exposures to art was through chalk. As a child I would sit in my drive way for hours drawing images like pastel dragonflies, stars, and giant roses until every inch was covered in color. Then a hard rain would come and clean off my large cement canvas for the next time I wanted to temporarily graffiti my front yard. I assume that Kurt Wenner also came from such humble beginnings, but he took this childish hobby and evolved it into something different entirely.
Wenner hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan and trained at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Art Center School of Design. He started his professional career working for NASA as a scientific space illustrator. He quickly realized his passions lay in classical art so he left for Rome to study the masters. He submerged himself in classical art so that he could let go contemporary techniques. In some sense, his aims became to revive an appreciation for past art by presenting it in a completely modern way.
In 1984, Wenner started to create anamorphic murals in the form of illusionist street paintings. At almost any angle the images seem distorted, but from just the right perspective your eyes will be completely fooled by the apparent depth of his creations. This visual phenomenon is manifested through simple pastels and paints…oh what I would give for my tools to give birth to images like these. I’m at the same time fully impressed, yet vigorously disgusted with his freakish amount of ability.
Other than his grotesquely enviable talent, what I truly adore about his work is the obvious classical influence. Those years in Rome clearly paid off. I’m an absolute sucker for a good Botticelli or Raphael. But in the same way these masters would manipulate light and color to create vivid works that truly seem to jump off the surface at you, Wenner manipulates the space and shapes to make the images appear to fall away deep into the ground. To me, really excellent art is that which makes you stand there and just wonder, “How the fuck did they do that?” Wenner has this by the bucketfuls.
Another great thing about his work is that it is almost always a half-breed of performance and observed art. For the many hours it takes to complete one of these, passerby can stop and talk to him or simply watch the spectacle of his craft. In more recent years, Wenner has accepted commissions from corporations as a form of advertising. Some people would call this selling out; I call it capitalizing on yo assets. Hell, If I was half as talented I’d be whoring myself to anyone who’d let me draw on their anything.
The only really terrible thing about his work is that it is painfully impermanent. Depending on the location, some can last years, but they are all meant to disappear eventually. This kind of artistic mortality is unfortunate, but the ephemeral quality of his work seems to make it even more captivating. Wenner does not commit himself solely to street painting. He also designs homes and villas, making him even more dear to my heart. His design sense for buildings is just as impressive as his chalk art, but that's a post for another time.
Is it just me or does that snail totally have Falcor's face from Never Ending Story?