EVERY ICONIC MASTERPIECE NEEDS A SANTA INTERVENTION: AN INTERVIEW WITH ED WHEELER

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Image : Sandro Botticelli – The Birth of Venus - 1486 Uffizi

1. Ed, out of everything and anyone in the world, why Santa? Do describe the exact moment you decided that a “Santa Intervention” was in order ?

Santa is an icon that that makes people happy and is cherished worldwide. His footprint transcends politics, religion, and culture. The Santa Classics represent a long progression of self-portraits, which I have been working on for 25 years. I originally dressed as Santa and created humorous situations for Christmas cards for my clients.  

" In 2011, I was standing in front of the Painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by Leutze at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I wondered what it would be like if it was “Santa crossing the Delaware”. The result was a hit. Now whenever I look at art whether in a museum, a book or on line, I wonder if it would be a good spot for the jolly old elf. "

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Image : Georges de La Tour - The Education of the Virgin - 1650 The Frick Collection
 

2. What are some of the most memorable responses you ever had to your work ? 

When the “Fondation Claude Monet” that preserves the artist’s house and gardens at Giverny, chose my Santa hanging Christmas lights on the “Japanese Bridge” for their Christmas card, I was floored. The first museum I showed the series to was the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They said they loved the idea and licensed a dozen images for notecards to be sold in their gift shop and I was stunned. The same year the Internet got a hold of the series and when the interviewer from the Huffington Post got back to me and said I had officially gone viral, I was ecstatic.

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Image : Emanuel Leutze – Washington Crossing The Delaware - 1851 Metropolitan Museum of Art
 

3. What is the most difficult part of the process when incorporating Santa into classical masterpieces ? 

The phrase “artistic license” must have been coined by the masters, for no human is capable of the contortions needed to recreate the postures most painters concocted for their subjects. The arm too long, the hand too thin, the spine too serpentine become apparent on close scrutiny of the paintings. Despite the seeming simplicity of recreating this act, it becomes an exercise first in deduction and then in deformation.

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Image : Caravaggio – Supper at Emmaus - 1601 National Gallery London
 

" The phrase “artistic license” must have been coined by the masters, for no human is capable of the contortions needed to recreate the postures most painters concocted for their subjects. The arm too long, the hand too thin, the spine too serpentine become apparent on close scrutiny of the paintings."

 

4. What is the ultimate goal of this project? Will you be expanding it further ?

The project has no end in terms of numbers or dates. I have several hundred paintings in a folder waiting for a Santa intervention.

My ultimate goal of the project is to create a traveling museum exhibition. My first exhibition will be at the Art Museum of South Texas in late 2016.

" Museums are trying to involve younger viewers. My work is a perfect tool to bring in children and families and get them involved in the classics. "

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Image : Johannes Vermeer – The Art of Painting - 1666 Kunsthistrisches Museum
 

5. Are there any artists you wish to be associated with ? 

I am not sure what you mean by associated with. I greatly admire what Cindy Sherman has done, but then I am also in love with Vincent van Gogh. In no way would I equate my work with these artists, but if they invited me for dinner I would go.

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Image : Hans Holbein the Younger - The Ambassadors - 1533 National Gallery
 

6. Before this, you were photographing places and things for some of the most important corporations in America. What were the most adventurous shots you ever took ? 

Shooting lifestyles in China with a crew of 25 models, stylists and assistants was a kick.  Hanging out of a helicopter shooting an oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico was a rush. Covering the devastation in Haiti six days after the earthquake was humbling.

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Image : Winslow Homer - The Gulf Stream - 1899 Metropolitan Museum of Art
 

7. What would you be if not an artist ? 

Bored

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Image : Jan van Eyck – The Arnulfini Portrait - 1434 National Gallery
 

8. In your opinion, what is the role of the artist in today’s society ?

To provoke or incite a discussion. To stimulate the senses.

" Art is judged on concept, content and execution. It requires an interpretation by the viewers, which allows them to participate in the process."

ED WHEELER

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