Art, // March 11, 2015
Edjo Wheeler – ARTIST
Interview with artist Edjo Wheeler —
1. Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Edjo Wheeler and I’m a sculptor and furniture maker working out of Astoria, New York. I dedicate most of my time to creating human forms out of steel. I focus on using emotions to drive the story behind each piece.
2. Why art?
Art has played a powerful role in most of my life, yet I have not always followed it. Over time I found myself returning to sculpture as the only way to create something I feel has worth. My other artistic pursuits were more about just creating, which to me makes them less art and more craft. As I get older, I have an increasing desire to dig deeper to produce something honest and meaningful.
3. What is your earliest memory of wanting to be an artist?
My mother was an artist and my father is the best ‘MacGyver’ I know, so my entire life has been spent making art and building things. My earliest memory that influenced my art is of my mother teaching me how to draw a horse. She used circles to form the nose, jaw, chest and haunches, and then she connected the circles with curved lines. It was a formulaic approach, but a great way to get the main shapes down before fleshing out the rest of the image. Actually, I still approach my work this way.
4. What are your favorite subject(s) and media(s)?
The human body is the most beautiful and endlessly expressive form. I love welding steel and finding ways to shape and handle it to fit the forms in my mind. I strive for a return to more traditional skills in art. I study anatomy, composition and any technique of building and metal work I feel can be converted into a sculpting technique. I hope to express a truth in human experience in a lasting way. With this the figures I create are all struggling for something. I leave it up to the viewer to see if they’re succeeding at their task or not.
5. How do you work and approach your subject?
I always have dozens of ideas brewing in my mind and some ideas have been mentally stored for years. When I get into the studio to start working, one concept always seems to naturally push its way to the front to be expressed. It can take me weeks or months to create these pieces, so I strive to get the “bones” down fast. This means making a skeleton of the figure by welding heavy steel rods to create the major bone structures, and connecting them to each other with lighter weight metal. This technique gives the piece some pliability and allows me to pose it, like a doll or action figure, to get the basic positioning that tells the story. From there I just keep adding in the tendons and muscles until the body is fully fleshed out. While I’m sculpting, I have the a particular story playing in my head, which can get very emotionally consuming and elaborate for me due to the time it takes to complete a work. It truly starts to pay off when it gets to the point where the piece seems to be coming to life on its own.
7. What are the best responses you have had to your work?
The best responses I’ve had is when someone stands in front of one of my pieces and is really engaged. It’s rewarding to see someone that is fully immersed in one of my pieces and is really looking into it, not just looking at it. I don’t know what they’re thinking, but something about the work captured them. I think that is amazing.
8. What do you like about your work?
Through my sculpture, I release emotions and attempt to communicate. Through my more utilitarian work, like my furniture, I can relax and just create. I’m not into fast art. My art is slow. I want the viewer to look and know this was not just thrown together and that I respected the viewer by putting my very best effort into what they are seeing.
9. What advice would you give to other artists?
I would advise a beginning artist to be willing to work hard and be still and really listen to what your heart is saying. This can be very challenging. When you’re alone in your head, your “shadow voice” can whisper for you to make the “smart” choice by taking the career, sticking around for the money, following what others expect from you – to give into fear. Be aware that it will give you the excuses to why you don’t have the time to dedicate yourself to your desires. The real voice inside your heart, the one that tells you your highest truth, can be hard to hear. I spent a lot of years chasing things that didn’t belong to me, because I convinced myself that I was being practical, which led me down an emotional dead end. I had to come all the way back around to what had been in my heart from the beginning. I wasn’t listening then, but I’m listening now. Learn to distinguish between your heart voice and the shadow voice.
10. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
To continue to strive to create art that deeply communicates to as many people as possible. To develop my techniques and methods of expression with more freedom, connection and honesty.