Emerging artist Wyatt Mills, who just finished up his solo show Phantasmagoria, has certainly displayed that he is one to watch. His work takes on a life of its own in its whirlwind of traditional technique coupled with powerful messages that are sure to beg an interpretation from every viewer. These interpretations may be similar, or they may be radically different; but the point is that his art provokes a strong emotional and thoughtful response through its movement, composition, and personal style. Phantasmagoria is Wyatt’s commentary on the over-stimulation of media. The idea behind his collection is displayed in the powerful affect the images have on their viewers. His images are over-stimulating themselves, but we are forced to face this over-stimulation and see the harm it causes in our society. When coupled with his use of hardly subliminal messages from the media, his point of the affect of over-stimulation flies through and nearly knocks its viewers on the floor.
Although his show has ended, it is apparent that he will be back with more. His paintings are a treat in person because photos do not deliver the raw impact they have on their viewers. He creates a texture through his collage like technique that is exciting to examine, and once the texture and content have processed, the actual point of each piece begins to emerge. As I said, every interpretation will be different. Sometimes his images are direct and forceful, sometimes they are subtle. Regardless, his artwork makes an impression and has a powerful driving force that will not be forgotten.
First off, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself (your childhood, when and how you started painting)?
I was born in NY, raised in LA, and I'm just now returning from 5 years of Brooklyn. I went to a lot of weird little schools that no one’s ever heard of. I doodled my way through packets of homework. I don’t remember much of it. I started painting when I was about 8. I joined an art class because a girl I liked was in it, and then fell in love with drawing instead.
The newspaper clippings you use in your work have a very powerful meaning, especially in juxtaposition to the paintings they are a part of. Do you plan out paintings in conjunction with newspaper clippings you find or do the two just fall together as you paint?
They really just fall into each other during the process. If the painting is leaning one way, the collage/clippings follow it, and vice versa. The process tends to paint the picture more than I do. I try to stay out of the way, and I'm working on not intervening as much as I already do.
Love Bite. Wyatt Mills.
Is there a trigger to your creative process? How do you start a painting? Do you have an idea you want to convey before an actual image, or does the idea develop along with the image?
There’s really no method to the madness. I try to not care too much about making a perfect picture, but instead have fun with throwing different mediums at the painting and seeing where it leads me. It’s a sort of Rorschach method that results in a pretty accurate depiction of where I am in my reality.
How do you compare your time in New York to your time here in Los Angeles?
Lots of energy in both places…Downtown LA reminds me of 14th St. Manhattan but populated by deep Brooklyn. NY (including Brooklyn) has just become an almost impossible place to live financially for most artists if you want the space of a painting studio. Hence why I moved out here in a giant loft space for what I was paying for a Brooklyn coffin. I think a lot is going to change in the art scene out here within the next decade, whereas the Brooklyn art scene has already been promptly seized by real estate mafia. I do tragically miss my east coast people and the awesome food in NYC for less than 5 dollars. A lot of young people are struggling financially in NY and that’s what I was around for 5 years, so I'm still adjusting myself to watching people the same age spend $2000 on a piece of clothing without blinking.
What piece of artwork has been the most personal or meaningful for you to create?
Every piece has its own weird journey it goes through, it all happens within the process of making it. I dedicate myself equally to all pieces, some just turn out looking better than others.
Happily Ever After. Wyatt Mills.
Do you feel you have developed a philosophy as an artist through your artistic career? Or do you feel each painting has its own philosophy?
The more serious I became about being an artist, the more I've become introduced to philosophy. I'm very intrigued in some really large ideas that are difficult to sum down into a painting. Holographic universe theory, simulation theory, and the "God particle" have interested me a lot, however I don't believe in sticking to any ideology religiously. In the end we could all just be dreaming. The one thing I'll stick to is that intent creates reality.
Each painting I believe is a self portrait in some way or another. The viewer will also see what they can relate to in a piece, since they can only see what they know. So I try to aim for aggressive thought provoking material to get people’s minds out of the careless cycle we so easily get sucked into. We are flirting with extinction as a species and no one seems to want to have a conversation about it. People are rather letting the ones in charge who got us in the mess decide how to deal with our futures. When you think about it, something’s amiss.
Invanity. Wyatt Mills.
What is your main idea behind “Phantasmagoria”?
I was watching a commercial at a bar and realized it looked similar to a dream. The flashing images and emotions and scenery was changing every second, while I stared at it in complete boredom. It got me thinking of how sadly overstimulated we are as a society. We go to movies to escape our reality, but then you see people escaping their movie to talk on their cell phones. Why are we becoming avidly addicted to being somewhere other than the present? So much information is being shoved in our faces everywhere we look, making it hard to listen to the thoughts coming from our own voice. I started examining all outlets of information; gossip magazines, vintage propaganda, recent news stories, tabloids, and everything I could get my hands on. Reading them all next to each other inspired me to juxtapose news, entertainment, and smut in hopes of helping people realize that those three things have become one of the same. When we live in a world where news and websites conduct our sense of the world around us, I wanted to study how these outlets conduct themselves. We are told to fight wars justified by 'facts' brought to us by media, while our enemies are told to fight us from their own separate media’s standpoint. Who controls the media, and why are we letting it control us? Misunderstandings create conflict, and we are addicted to the medium in which misunderstandings are presented to us. So, I thought if I painted some pretty pictures about it then maybe some humans may consider this for at least a moment.
Dreams Do Come True. Wyatt Mills.
When and how did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I moved to NY to study Fine Art, thinking I would enjoy being a painter for a living. This led to meeting a lot of inspiring fellow artists, friends, and mentors that enlightened me of the potential of our world, art, and change. It has been a steady snowball effect and I'm always excited to see what’s next.
What would you say to an aspiring artist?
If you’re not having fun making your work, no one will have fun looking at it. Life starts at the end of your comfort zone. Paint over a painting when you’re done with it. Educate yourself, read every book about every artist that inspires you. Listen to others, but take time and thought to verify their critique before accepting their advice. Pretend like your 5 years old and make art. Pretend like your 100 years old and make art. As soon as your process becomes a chore, find a way to change that into something you enjoy.