Art for the People

Three local artists share about their work, inspiration, and favorite mediums.

Article by Bree O'Brien

Photography by Courtesy of the artists

Originally published in Bellevue Lifestyle

Preston Wadley, as told to Bellevue Lifestyle

As this issue highlights local artists and makers, Bellevue Lifestyle had the opportunity to interview Wadley ahead of his exhibition at the Bellevue Art Museum, opening February 24. Wadley’s show will include both 3-D sculptures as well as portraits from his Demos Project series.

Born in Los Angeles, Wadley came to the University of Washington for his BFA and MFA, before becoming a Professor of Art at Cornish College of the Arts. He describes his work as “on the fringes of assemblage, folk art, and collage.”

With regard to his sculptures Wadley says, “There’s the phenomenon of people looking at a piece for 10-15 seconds and moving on, but the form of a book itself signals to the viewer to spend more time.” He likes to compound literary references and narratives for these mixed media sculptures, as a book is an icon that everyone recognizes.

The portraits are spartan in nature and intentionally close to life-size, so that in order to scrutinize the subjects the viewer must symbolically “meet” them. The portraits are taken outside with a nondescript background that is not indicative of who the subjects are – one has to look at the subject’s face. As a populist artist, Wadley wants civilians to have a chance to really engage with the work, and prefers that people take in the portraits “cold,” without any preconceived ideas about their subjects.

Wadley counts Man Ray, Jacob Lawrence, and various documentary photographers among artists that inspire him. Often he will think of the title for an artwork – a word, phrase, or experience that he connects with – and then create something to go with the title. He keeps a list of potential titles where he can see it all the time for inspiration. Likewise, Wadley tries to live an eclectic lifestyle, “Paying attention to detail in life and the world is paramount.”

Tyler Shogren of Shogren Smithery, in his own words

I am 19 years old and have been swinging a hammer on hot steel for almost eight years now. I got my official start at a Boy Scout Merit Badge fair – the section was only supposed to be three hours, but I ended up being there for seven. I knew I’d fallen in love with blacksmithing, but not how hard.

I love to make anything and everything I can from steel, copper, brass, or aluminum; sometimes all in a single project. I use age-old technology and techniques mixed with modern day information and materials to make the highest quality tools and art I can. I like to think of blacksmithing as the art of the industry world. 

I started at a very young age helping my dad and grandfather fix and renovate rental houses, that taught me how to think outside the box about how things worked and were put together. From there I moved to woodworking and construction to a degree that made my mother uncomfortable, but that was all before the age of ten.

Ever since I started blacksmithing, steel and copper have been my primary medium, but I always love to mix in wood and leather where I can.

What inspires me is who I was yesterday, what I’ve done before, and what I want to be. The idea of not fulfilling who I was meant to motivate me to work harder than anyone I’ve ever seen. Some of my favorite people to look to for inspiration are: Jacob Faram (blacksmith), Will Stelter (bladesmith, videographer), Herman Doty (blacksmith), and Northmen (craftsmen guild).

People who are interested in my work should know that the best place to find and order my work is my website. However, I am working with local shops hedge & vine, Whisk off of Main Street, Made in Washington, Fireworks in Bellevue Square, and a couple of other stores in North Bend to showcase and get my product out to the public soon.

Dakota Dean, in his own words

Spray paint has always been my medium. I started dabbling shortly after I moved to Seattle in 2012 from small-town Utah where we didn’t have any graffiti, murals, or street art. As I walked down the city streets and alleys, I became enamored with all the graffiti and public art. I felt like it gave the city depth, conflict, drama, and beauty. I felt like there were small stories to be discovered on the back of random street signs in Capitol Hill and on the windows of dilapidated buildings in Pioneer Square. I knew I wanted to be a part of that storytelling process, and so I started experimenting with creating art and using spray paint. Coming up with stories of my own, watching as the layers of color and paint build on top of one another: It’s an adventure to me just to try and bring an idea to life. The fact that spray paint is such a limiting medium is very alluring to me. You can’t mix colors, and stencils operate under certain rules and parameters. The challenge is addicting. But I think the most rewarding part of creating art is watching as someone else comes along and connects with the message in one of my pieces.

What inspires me is connecting with people who don’t fit the proverbial “Mold”, those who feel misunderstood, disenfranchised, or like a black sheep. I want to encourage people to celebrate their own uniqueness, to love themselves and each other for who they are, and to laugh at our systems and culture that tell us we need to conform and divide. I want all the black sheep out there to know that there’s a whole bunch of us running around, and that we should all be friends!  And sometimes I just want to make an image that is pretty and thought-provoking.

My favorite artists include Lora Zombie (an incredible “grunge watercolorist”), Shepard Fairey (Most people know him as the artist behind the brand “OBEY”), Fin DAC, Ruben Ireland, Martin Whatson, and Banksy.

I always have a few pieces hanging at Parklane Gallery in Downtown Kirkland, and I will be the Featured Artist there this April.  The opening reception for my featured artist show (under the working title of “Professional Misconduct”) will be on Saturday, April 8th from 5:00 pm – 8:00 pm, and my work will hang until April 30th. I’ll debut somewhere between 15 and 20 new pieces and it will be a great time to experience my work firsthand! I show throughout the summer, at many of the local art and cultural festivals in the area – my website will have a list.

“There’s the phenomenon of people looking at a piece for 10-15 seconds and moving on, but the form of a book itself signals to the viewer to spend more time.”

Related Businesses

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Museums + Art Galleries

Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

Kansas City, MO

Kansas City's destination for modern and contemporary art since 1994, and the home of Café Sebastienne. Free admission...

Powell Gardens

Botanical Gardens

Powell Gardens

Kingsville, MO

Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical garden, is set on 970 acres of lush, rolling hills. Known for its contemporary...

Museum at Prairiefire

Museums + Art Galleries

Museum at Prairiefire

Overland Park, KS

The Museum at Prairiefire provides ACCESS FOR ALL to understand and celebrate natural history and science. The Museum is open...

See More

Related Articles

See More