Wayne Crandell – Playing with Icons & Imaginationby Ben McNitt on Jun. 17, 2009, under Uncategorized
Wayne Crandell likes to tweak your expectations.
Take an icon – a polar bear will do, or maybe an image from a Thomas Hart Benton painting – play with it a little through a somewhat quirky, surrealistic lens and apply vivid Southwestern colors and you have the framework for his vision of the world.
A commenter on this blog suggested I visit him, so I stopped by his studio/apartment on east Elm the other day.
It’s hard to recognize the apartment for the studio – paintings are everywhere, some fresh, some finished, some he’ll set aside only to trek back to time and again over a period of years. And piles of drawings – he works on them two to three hours daily — hundreds of them, stacked on a desk.
Crandell landed in Tucson 34 years ago via a middle class upbringing in the heartland of Iowa and schooling at Colorado State and has never left. Somewhere in high school, he says, he knew he wanted to be an artist and although he’s had several stints teaching and continues to sub, “I never really got a job. I felt guilty about that for awhile, but finally decided I really liked what I was doing.”
Liking it doesn’t mean it’s all been easy. “It was hard at first and I’d say I’ve put in as work developing my craft as has a doctor or other professional. Now, I’m having a good time. It’s a pleasure to do it. And the pieces, I think, now have an identity of their own, there’s a uniqueness to them.”
It’s fair to term Crandell’s work pop surrealism – some influence from Dali, some from a freed-up imagination and some from a fragmented view of the world. But his pieces don’t convey dread or confusion often associated with the genre. Instead, they’re fun. Sure, there are little beasties lurking in the corners of his paintings here and there, just as they lurk in the corners of our minds, but the overall impression is to evoke a smile, or to arouse curiosity at the juxtaposition of desperate images.
“I take an image and free associate,” Crandell says. “Some of it is tongue in cheek and I think the pieces are pretty entertaining. Most people enjoy them.”
With the economy in a stagger and galleries not selling much, Crandell finds “the word of mouth gallery” his current best outreach, but he has mastered the software to create his own web site.
For the rest, “I continue with my work,” Crandell says. “Like most people I want a better world to live in and in its own way my work contributes some social criticism to help make it that way.”