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Locating Art’s Funny Bone

ae_art_skulltacosIntroducing First Friday artist, Cahill Wesse
Cahill Wessel would not have lasted a day on Noah’s Ark. The 22-year-old artist, fresh out of UC Santa Cruz, believes that not only opposites, but also completely random and unrelated objects, attract.

When the young visionary looks at a taco, for instance, he doesn’t necessarily see what most of us do—crunchy, cheesy, (sometimes spicy), mouth-watering goodness. Instead, he imagines what it would look like when juxtaposed with another object. In this case, he chose skulls.

Loosening the art world’s necktie with his dark humor, homage to pop art and wild imagination, Wessel laughs in the face of all artists who take their work too seriously.

And in a world where flamingos tower above airplanes, pigs and football players collide, triceratops can box, crocodiles are gamblers, and hot dogs have mastered the Thizzle dance, Wessel reigns king.

“Nothing is worse than heavy, emotional art,” says Wessel. “Many times artists put a lot of weight on their work, trying to convey one specific message—but knowing what you want to get out of your art before you create it, takes the fun out of it.”

Using just ink, gouache and watercolor—they’re “easy to use, require quick set-up and are, most importantly, cheap”—on paper or wood, the aspiring illustrator creates surrealist dreamscapes without a blueprint in mind.

“It all starts with a vague idea,” he says. “I think of two random objects or features or an odd situation that is easily recognizable, then I look up images on Google and I get different ideas of what it might look like.”

Then, something kind of magical happens. Suddenly, it’s not at all weird that turkeys and burgers, bananas and boats, roosters and guns coexist within their respective frames.

ae_art_tricerotopFor Wessel, making sense of that harmony is in the eye of the beholder.

“I want each viewer to be able to draw their own connection between the objects and have their own interpretation,” he says. “How you read it is going to depend on your own life, but I definitely strive to make work that is humorous.”
With satirical artists like Banksy, the face of Britain’s graffiti, and New York’s own videogame dissector Cory Arcangel currently redefining the word, Wessel appears to be on the right track. His eye for beauty in the most unlikely of places makes for a unique critique of art’s often-highbrow expectations, and a refreshing addition to the First Friday Art Tour, on Friday, Jan. 7.

Though Wessel has displayed his art in various venues around town during the last four years, including the Catalyst, Space Gallery in San Francisco and most recently, The Krate, this is the first time he will participate in the Santa Cruz institution.

Beginning at 5 p.m., Jan. 7, Wessel’s work will be on display at Stripe, 107 Walnut Avenue, Santa Cruz. (The show will hang until Feb. 3.) There, visitors will get to admire his bold and humorous creations while sipping on the store’s signature cocktail, the Stripetini, and enjoying AlFresco’s culinary creations.

Wessel’s style may be unconventional and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart—don’t be surprised if you find cigarettes and genitalia camouflaged among the explosions of color, pattern and object-crammed chaos—but it’s also the perfect embodiment of a young man who’s deep within the throes of finding his artistic voice, defining his trademark style (somewhere between cartoons with realistic details and graffiti) and figuring out how he wants to make a positive impact on the world.

His website manifesto is only further proof that we ain’t seen nothing yet.

“I hope to create snapshots of imagined scenes or situations in which modern trends, struggles, and accomplishments are intertwined within the life of a fictional creature or character,” he says in the “About” section. “I intend to create spaces in which the past, present, and future struggle for attention while the end is here for lunch.”


Come see Cahill Wessel's artwork as part of the First Friday Art Tour Jan. 7 from 5-9 p.m. through Feb. 3 at Stripe, 107 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz. For a sneak peak, visit cahillwessel.com.
Comments (1)Add Comment
Very excited.
written by Skinny Ricky, January 06, 2011
Super stoked on this talented up-and-comer. See you at stripe!

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