Jesse Wiedel


"Hillbilly art"?

I stumbled upon great paintings by Jesse Wiedel. I don't know if he's amateur painter or if he cunningly impersonates amateur painter. His works remind me of the stuff I see painted on amusement park rides.

posted by Fuxoft at 21:47 (Blogger from Prague)

"These are the people I work with every day"

-Eureka police officer at one of my art openings

"His art is wacktastic."

-Nicole Eisenman

"He has a hard time rescuing banality in the service of his narrative"

-David Hunt (ArtWeek magazine, May 1998)



whitehot magazine| Summer 07, WM #4: Jesse Wiedel, Haunted Trailer Park @ Jack the Pelican Presents

Most can recall childhood excursions to the state fair, carnivals and Coney Island. The predisposition for this revelry being that it was an acknowledged utopia, the customary two cookie a day after dinner limitation was released and one was allowed to luxuriate in any and all indulgence. However, even then we could recognize the underlying sensation of horror and unease amid the multiple delights; around the corner of each tent, or on the tattooed arms of carnival ride controllers, the ghosts and demons lying in the wait within the shadows between one tooth and the next. This sensation is magnified when the bacchanal departs, leaving in its wake muddy potholes and empty cups. The same is true of the American landscape. Perhaps serving as a parallel to the American culture, remnants of former celebrations and success litter our epic roadsides in the form of rundown motel signs and abandoned novelties, the resulting sensation being one of unease and nervous sentimentality.

In Jesse Wiedel's work, now showing at Jack The Pelican Presents in Brooklyn, we are reminded of these same conflicting sensations of festivity and abandonment. His self-described "narrative streetscapes" draw upon a variety of influences including people watching, old motel signs and spaces with a feeling of loss. The brightly colored palette of Wiedel's work is in contrast to the humorously grim subject matter, resulting in the reaction that Wiedel himself would want the viewer to have, and that is uncomfortable half-laughter.

Jesse Wiedel's work is like the purge after the binge, lacking the spiritual awakening or cleansing affect of an actual purge. While some imagery may allude to spirituality, we get the sensation that Wiedel is actually making fun of spirituality, and that he is not in fact pointing at these particular characters or cultural group for exploitative purposes unto themselves, but rather exposing our culture as a whole as inventing the symptom of nostalgia for the American dream.

In short, Wiedel's work is rife with ridiculousness in the way in which one can appreciate. Just when a definition or narrative seems to emerge, another anomaly makes itself known. When an arcane subtext materializes, it is immediately banished by something silly or fantastical. If one would criticize Wiedel for comical lucidity, they would be slapped immediately with what would appear to be social commentary.

Jesse Wiedel's work therefore elicits the similar echoes of past events or places in time that have gone extinct, while we grasp to try to hang onto the celebration of that moment. These ghostly, disgusting and comical narratives leave us in a state of nervous laughter.

-Jennifer Gilles


ArtWeek magazine. Sept. 2005:

‘The Big Brush Off’

Wiedel’s ordinary suburban scenes are some of the creepiest in the show. Painted in a mode less fantastical and more deadpan, these works look quite straightforward, except for one horrible detail. The Hackey Sack Murders shows four young guys playing hackey sack on a little patch of dirt in a mobile home park. Just behind them, an older guy has another man wearing some kind of hat or headdress pinned down on the grass, maybe already lifeless. The kids carry on, oblivious or impervious to the violence taking place right next to them. Such apathy or blindness functions all too well as a metaphor for the everyday horrors in the world that too often go ignored.

-Debra Koppman



Jesse Wiedel visited the gallery a month or so ago. Our commitment to his inclusion in this group show at AFHGC was nearly immediate. Most of Jesse’s current work is on view now in a well-received exhibit at Jack Pelican Presents in Brooklyn. “Clash of Titans” is recent (2006), but does not demonstrate the dreamy poetics this year’s offerings. Jesse’s painting approach involves up to “Clash” a compartmentalization or area focus that on first-glance appears naive. It is anything but. Jesse Wiedel’s vision is literary, sophisticated and historical. It’s Jesse’s choice of content, or rather the subjects/actors in his story excerpts/paintings, that encourage the percolation of class identity/experience in the viewer. It’s a clever play, which suggests authorial passive aggressiveness, or at least the artist’s provocateur bent, until one considers the confusion inherent in the social realities rendered in Mr. Wiedel’s paintings. Although Jesse is careful to cloak his play, one begins to notice that the body of a work on whole has more in common with The Grapes of Wrath than it has with Howard Finster. As Jesse Wiedel’s work evolves, and his painting chops and strategies become more sure and comprehensive, the artist’s narrative excellence emerges as one of his great attributes. Jesse is capable of approaching the epic as a painter.

-Paul McLean, Art For Humans Gallery. 2007


Jesse Wiedel, Bigfoot Artist and Revelator of Eureka, CA

No other artist reveals the strangeness of Eureka and Humboldt County at large better than Jesse Wiedel. His art contains strange juxtapositions of the weirdly normal, commonplace banality and festering decay surrounding bizarre characters in epic battles and confrontations with the demonic forces within themselves, the cultural and economic constraints that contain them, the horrid aberrations of degeneracy and failure. A parking lot beside a liquor store becomes the stage of warring titans missing teeth, tweaked to the extreme, wife-beater shirt-wearing degenerates, striving for perverse ends, reaching for mutant transcendence.
This would not be Humboldt if Bigfoot did not enter the picture; and so he does, here confronting a wrestler or boxer bearing a false leg in triumphant defiance. A sinister mystery lurks behind every pretty Old Town Victorian storefront. These alleys were places where the whores sang from windows above, and junkies still lurk among the ghosts of murder victims and the expelled Chinese, the dark side of the gold and lumber booms. In those thick, dark forests that humans have tried so adamantly to destroy, a living mystery still walks: the real spirit of the living Northwest. Bigfoot appears again as hippie hackeysackers, mocking the feel-good contemporary culture of the potheads. Wiedel's characters are more hardcore. His environments themselves play a character role, embodying in their tacky and rotting bad taste an externalization of the human spirit that has created such a place. A painting done of the Bigfoot Burger joint in Willow Creek, seen from the parking lot of Bigfoot Books, shows a malignant black blob that could be a tarp covering a corpse, or a projection of the terror that lurks at the heart and history of ordinary places. The absurdity of popular culture and tabloid myth are displayed in a taxidermy display including a bigfoot creature lifted right off the cover of the Weekly World News.

Mr. Wiedel contacted Bigfoot Books searching for a signed bigfoot book he had loved as a child, but then had inexplicably buried as treasure in the woods. Going back later he was unable to find it. Though the book was lost, this great art was found. Perhaps he will design the new BIGFOOT BOOKS corporate logo and bookmark?

We conducted a brief email interview with the Artist, as we could not fully recall our in-person interview in a Eureka bar from the previous night.

BF BLOG: In the context or your larger themes and the content/characters of your art, how does BIGFOOT fit in? And what does BF symbolize in the context you have used him: standing threateningly in an alleyway, fighting, two-headed and lying stuffed on the floor, or as a hippified statue? Etc.

WIEDEL: In the paintings, bigfoot represents something that metaphorically mimics the sometimes eerie landscape of Eureka. Bigfoot has only been seen in fleeting ways, like a carload of mimes. You see strange things in Eureka. I like to paint things that are strange, but could very well be for real. It's more interesting to me than purely fantastical art.

BF BLOG: What is your own personal view on the creature and what it represents? How does bigfoot relate to the human elements in your art?

WIEDEL: I think bigfoot is the representative for the wilderness. Since this town is butted right up against the wilderness, it only makes sense that bigfoot should make an appearance in the paintings now and then, as a representative. It's more fun to paint bigfoot than a bunch of trees.

-Steven Struefert, owner Bigfoot Books