I first encountered artist Steven Wolkoff and his wonderful word paintings with his piece “the names of all my Facebook friends” in which he wrote all the names of his Facebook friends in three-dimensional blue squiggles. Due to the nature of the way he piles his paint words up on the canvas, his piece became reminiscent of the way Facebook sorts a person’s connections. Some of the names were entirely visible, others partially legible and others completely hidden. The artist’s love for repetition and absurdity revealed itself through the mass of a statement on our social networks.
The artist states that “Many of my paintings focus on the power of repetition and the variety of ways repetition can be used: as a mantra, as an educational aid, as a memory device, as a sign of obsession, as a method of torture, as the set up to a punch line, as a display of insanity, as an engine of efficiency, as advertising, as emphasis, as an instruction for proper hair care.”
These concepts are well illustrated in his latest piece “westways magazine (find the poppy)” that is included in the current show Natural Treasure: The California Poppy which runs through June 8th at the Lancaster Museum of Art & History.
Why the California poppy?
I’ve been working on a small series of California themed pieces. The poppy is an iconic symbol of California. And, given our car culture, so is AAA. When I thought of a way to combine the two, I was excited to make the painting.
I love the idea of being inspired by the Westways Magazine game but what is your personal relation to that game or concept?
Like every AAA SoCal member, I receive a free subscription to Westways Magazine. I’ll read almost anything that makes its way into my mailbox, including free auto club magazines. In every issue, I see the Find the Poppy contest, and think that I should enter, but I never
do. The idea sat in the back of my head until I decided to turn it into a painting.
What are some of the words in the piece that you took from the magazine and was there any rhyme or reason for choosing the words that you took from the magazine? Do they relate to the poppy, the overall message of the piece, or were they more just chosen at random with page opening and closed-eye finger pointing?
In addition to writing “westways” a bunch of times, I wrote the names of the magazine’s regular features (ex: Day Trip, Drive Smart, Off Ramp, etc.), and the magazine’s slogan: The Magazine for Auto Club Members. I also wrote “Huell Howser” because he was sometimes
featured in the magazine, and because I thought it would be nice to include him in the painting.
What is your personal relationship to the current drought and is there any messaging about the drought in this piece or any personal conveyances you wish to impart regarding the drought? I do notice that the poppies are still out in abundance everywhere, was just reflecting on them and welcoming to the season this past weekend as I drove on my own road trip.
Like many Californians, I am lucky that I haven’t been overly affected by the drought (yet). However, if the drought continues, that luck might change. The California Poppy is a hearty flower, able to thrive in a harsh desert environment. Hopefully we will be equally resilient.
For more information on Wolkoff, visit online.
Article Written by Kimberly Nichols
Newtopia Editor Kimberly Nichols is an artist, writer, social anthropologist and healer living in Los Angeles, California. Her conceptual works, literary fiction and creative nonfiction have been exhibited and published internationally. She is the author of the critically acclaimed collection of short stories Mad Anatomy (Del Sol Press, 2005) and is currently working on her second book. She is the owner of Tapping the Inner Palette, a company which utilizes the intuitive, spiritual, creative and healing arts to help people rediscover the inherent voice within as well as bring their authentic selves to fruition. She can be reached at Kimberly@newtopiamagazine.org.