It’s All About Suburbia
Who influences you graphically?
Lyonel Feininger. I had one of those epiphany moments when I came across one of his paintings at a museum in Essen, Germany. His sometimes subtle, sometimes bold division of space introduced me into the relationship between architecture and nature that I continue to navigate.
The architecture of Rem Koolhaas has also been a big influence. About five years ago I visited the Seattle Public Library and it completely changed the way I look at the relationship between nature and structure.
Do you consider yourself a colourist?
I enjoy creating relationships with color that are not typically expected or accepted. Not too long ago I introduced some colors into my palette for the sole purpose of trying something uncomfortable. It has been a positive experience and I’ve learned a lot about the influence color can have on a composition. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I am a colorist, but color does play an important part of what I am doing.
Do you see your paintings as a fast forward of Hoppers’, in terms of reflecting your vision and frustration with the contemporary American culture?
Without a doubt Hopper has had an influence on what I do. His paintings are peaceful and haunting at the same time, which is something I consider when creating a composition. When I paint a single home I want the viewer to engage with it just as they would with a portrait of a person. The house might provide a feeling of ease or it might make the viewer uncomfortable. Either way, if it evokes something, I’ve been successful is some way.
To what extent do the perfectly crisp edges of the houses help to emphasise the idea of a fake stucco façade that hides the jungle of our everyday lives?
The crisp lines and bold colors are all part of the artificial projection we suburbanites are guilty of. Our homes are the most visible part of our lives. However small and insignificant the façade, it is all we have to tell the world that we are living our dreams exactly how we had planned, whether true or not. I don’t think this is a bad thing. It’s something we can have control of even if other parts of our lives aren’t so easy to predict.
How does your use of mixed media and collage relate to the acrylic on canvas pieces?
The mixed media pieces are a more literal interpretation of the layers of our existence. I start with collage and add layers of photography and paint. The layers that end up being hidden are still there in the work. In the painted pieces the layers are figurative, leaving the viewer to decide what is happening underneath the surface.
What role does the texture back ground play, in terms of depicting an idyllic image and or in reducing the scale and monumentality of the house in 02 acres (image 5)?
The background is an escape from the labyrinth below. When I begin a painting I nearly always start with multiple layers of background, which is a nod to the creation of nature, peace, beauty, etc. I let the brush and the paint dictate where colors will show through or be covered. When I am happy with the background I will introduce the houses. It’s very much like any suburban development, I suppose. Take a natural landscape and introduce something completely un-natural.
Justin Wheatley was born and raised in Clinton, Utah. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Utah State University with an emphasis in drawing and painting and a Masters in Education from National University. His work is influenced by his love for nature and architecture. Justin currently resides in Salt Lake City with his wife and three daughters.