Our next interview from Art Basel Miami 2017 features artist Wyatt Gallery, who exhibited in conjunction with the Yeelen Gallery art fair. Gallery is known as a photographer who looks outwards into the world, capturing images of underrepresented people who have been struck by natural disaster. We wanted to turn a lens on his personal creative journey and his opinions on the ever-changing art world.
IMAGES BY JAMES LIVINGSTON
AMMO: What’s Your AMMO?
WYATT GALLERY: In the last couple years, the place that has created the biggest spark in me is the Sultanate of Oman, in the Middle East. The Islamic culture, the people, the diverse history, and the landscape is so inspiring and the country is such a great role-model for all of us on how to be caring, accepting, and gracious to strangers.
A: What do you think is the most integral part to creative growth?
WG: The most important thing is… Trusting your subtle ideas and your big ideas. Pursuing crazy ideas and thoughts that may seem impossible. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to try something different or out your norm. Following your instincts and trusting them.
A: A lot of your work is about using photography to bring awareness to social issues or natural disasters. How do you think the usage of the internet and the speed at which information travels affects the viewers perspective on issues in today’s society?
WG: I think we are oversaturated with news and information. On one hand it is helpful as we are more informed than ever. But on the other hand, I feel we are desensitized to the true depth of these tragedies. I don’t think we are able to truly empathize with the people affected by tragedies because we just see the story, we repost it, and then we see something else and move on. We need to slow down. I try to use my photography to slow people down and draw them in to take a pause and view the depths of an image.
A: How is the context of your work altered when it’s portrayed in a gallery versus in the original space that you captured it in?
WG: I think extracting it from its original space and placing it in a space as art forces the viewer to think more about what is happening in the scene. I like to use beauty to draw in the viewer so that they have a discovery of the subject, which leads to an empathetic realization, which hopefully leads to a form of action in the viewer. Portraying the work of Subtext in the gallery transforms an accidental abstraction that goes mostly ignored, into a beautiful, meditative, transcendental piece of art.
A: How do you utilize new technologies to enhance your work? Do you find social media to be an evolving yet integral to art?
WG: I utilize new printing technology to create my Subtext work so that it resembles the actual wall or an abstract painting. This work is made from UV cured pigment ink fused to white diamond. I’m so tired of social media. I think it’s the new cigarette, the greatest addiction our society faces today. I force myself to post to social media now. But if I don’t post, do I exist?
A: How has your art helped shape your personal identity?
WG: The art I’ve created over the years has always come from something calling me. Something telling me that I must do this, that it is my calling or my duty or my destiny. Following those inclinations has changed my life and made me a better person. It has brought me to various religious places throughout the world, it has brought me to some of the most tragic scenes in our recent history, it has brought me to witness the immense resilience of the human being in the face of disaster, and it has brought me to a place where I realize the importance of using my talents to give back to others. My work has shaped me in to someone who realizes the deep joy in giving and in using my work to assist others. I don’t see myself as one thing, I see myself as made up of all the experiences I’ve lived because my camera took me there.
A: Do you have a favorite work you’ve created? One that you are most proud of?
WG: My newest work Subtext, is the work I’m most proud of right now when it comes to collectible artwork that creates a transcendence in the viewer. But I think my recent book, Jewish Treasures of The Caribbean, is my biggest accomplishment because of the important role that the book serves in preserving this little-known history of the oldest Jewish sites of the Western Hemisphere.
A: During Basel are there any artists or events you’re looking forward to seeing?
WG: I always enjoy seeing the work of my friends Hank Willis Thomas and Rashid Johnson in Art Basel. I wish there were more public art sculptures during Art Basel.