Jen Tough Gallery

 

Erin McCluskey Wheeler: Something Catches

August 24 - September 06, 2018

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Bay Area artist Erin McCluskey Wheeler is known for her bright tropical-colored works that employ a meticulous assemblage of found papers often bound together with looping brushstrokes. With both an abstract and graphic style, Wheeler's works are sometimes symbolic or whimsical, and play with ideas of nostalgia and visual memories in a narrative context. Wheeler has a BA in studio art, and a BA in art history (magna cum laude) from Beloit, and an MFA in writing from California College of the Arts. Her work is widely collected as both prints and originals. This is her first solo exhibition at the gallery.

"The way things work
is that eventually
something catches". 
Jorie Graham

There is always a place to begin. Sometimes it’s a page from a magazine, or a postcard from my grandmother’s travel collection, or a small, unfinished collage that feels like it can grow. I build color stories — pulling from sketchbooks and my piles of papers — photographs, solid colors, painted and printed on papers. Then I think about form as I put the papers down next to each other, finding colors and lines that connect. My forms and facility with white space come from my training in Japanese brush painting; what I know about composition and building curves comes from looking closely at and endlessly repeating the shape of tree branches, the bend of grasses, the contours of rocks. Sometimes I paint and draw over the papers, editing with white paint and matching colors with gouache; sometimes the papers, cut and glued, are enough as they are. 

For the last year, and concurrent with making the work in this show, I have been teaching art classes to adults at a community art center — many are approaching art-making for the first time or after a long pause. It’s made me think a lot about my process, how I start, how I know a piece is done, and how I work with paper and paint. I am extremely grateful for my students’ questions, their ideas, their ways of approaching making art, their commitment to studying and making art, and how much I have learned from them. This show is dedicated to them — my current, past, and future students at the Center for Community Arts in Walnut Creek.

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