Wayne Estey: Challenging the State of the World
Editor's Note: Work by Wayne Estey is featured at Cantina Vidorra, 49 Elliot St., this month—he'll be on hand from 5:30 to 7:00 or later during Gallery Walk to chat with visitors about his creative process. The entertaining autobiographical statement below was prepared for publication here. Enjoy! - JW-P
My mother, God bless her, talked a lot. I did not listen a lot. The one thing I remember she said was, "You are easily led." That's still true. Wayne, you want to jump at a train? "Sure." Wayne, you want to join the Air Force? "Yup." Wanna go to college? "I'm ready." After the train, the Air Force made me a policeman. I was stationed in Athens, Greece. I saw Jackie Onassis and Caroline Kennedy. I saw a plane highjacking. Another guy and I carried a bag with $3 million dollars of tourist money for repatriation to the U.S. I watched an embalming for over an hour and didn't pass out; until I realized the guy was dead. When I got discharged, I tried to tell my homebody friends the things I saw and experienced. I quickly learned that I had four seconds before they glazed over. I learned people can't understand things for which they have no frame of reference.
I started Central Connecticut State University at 24 and did well. I studied tuition-free (thank you, Uncle Sam, and my newly functioning frontal cortex). I had taken art classes in high school. In college, art courses were an easy way to keep my GPA up. My graphic design professor tried to convince me to be an art major. I wasn't led this time and studied Economics so I could make money.
I was accepted by Fordham University. A friend's mother told me it was a fine Jesuit school. Jesuit? I thought they all died in Peru with Cortez. Fordham University gave me a full scholarship. MOMA weekly, Union Square Art monthly—ah, I loved NY.
With my MA in international and quantitative Economics, I got my first real job as an Econometrician at what is now Eversource. My job was to torture data until it confessed. "You want a 7% growth rate in electricity demand to justify building another nuclear plant. I can do that!"
I better get on with this.... Married, taught college, went to law school, took the Bar, have three grown children, bought a house in West Dover, Vt., retired from the State of Connecticut, and, through it all, I never stopped taking art classes and painting.
I started two art galleries in the never-up-and-coming-art-city of New Britain, Conn. Someone suggested I become an artist, and not being so easily led now, I said, "Well, I'll be 50 years old next year." "You're going to be 50 regardless," they responded. So, I became an artist.
Art has always been a passion, alongside politics, environmental conservation, and social justice. When an art professor once assigned me "An Artist's Response to 9/11" in my figure-painting class, I had never previously thought about artists responding to social and political events. Of course, I knew about Picasso and Guernica, but I never put those thoughts together. Now, I cannot take them apart. My favorite artworks try to marry, contrast, correlate, and complement social, political, and environmental issues.
As with my homespun friends from long ago, I realize I have about four seconds with an art viewer to get my idea across. My recent works Arian Migrants, Migrants Escaping Cape Cod, and Migrants at the Cape Cod Wall raise incongruent ideas: current migrants of color try to escape poverty, war, and death to reach Europe. Imagine blue-eyed migrants escaping or clambering to reach a well-known frame of reference such as Cape Cod. I try to tie current, hard-to-imagine issues with events for which viewers do have a frame of reference
Art buyers who want art to match the color of their couch will probably not be enamored of me or my art business model. However, as an artist, I must ask, "What is this artist's response to...?" Hopefully, people will see my art, but more important, rearrange their political, social, and environmental preconceptions as a result.
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