Today we’d like to introduce you to Wendy Lee Gadzuk.
Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I am a visual artist and musician, living and working in the Mojave Desert of California. I grew up outside of Washington DC and went to art school in Philadelphia, where I studied jewelry and metalsmithing at the University of the Arts. I’ve always been drawn to strong visual imagery, and I feel like my life has been a constant quest to find the right medium to communicate the thoughts and visions constantly swirling about in my head. Sometimes it is through words, sometimes through sound, and sometimes through some sort of a visual language. At the time, I liked the idea of working with metal – something strong, hard, and precious, yet also malleable and shapeable.
After all my jewelry work got stolen from a gallery the night before the opening, I took the insurance money and bought a guitar and spent most of the late ’90’s/early 2000’s writing music, playing guitar and singing, and touring the country with my band The 440s. I eventually moved to Tucson, AZ, and then Los Angeles, where I began to pick up where I left off with visual art, this time working on a larger scale, as opposed to the tiny, fine silversmithing work I had been doing previously. I moved to Oakland, CA for a few years before settling back in Southern CA, this time in the desert mountains of Morongo Valley, where I’ve been busy in my studio creating assemblage work, drawing, writing, and now also doing some part-time curating at a gallery in Joshua Tree called La Matadora.
Please tell us about your art.
These days, my visual art manifests as two different bodies of work. On the one hand, I create altar-like mixed media assemblage pieces, using found and discarded objects along with doll parts, animal bones, or anything else that seems to fit the bill. These pieces speak the language of old stories, holding the energy and integrity of the repurposed objects, combining that energy in new ways, becoming an amalgamation of many old lives transforming into a single new one. Sometimes the items are personal, as with a recent piece I made called “Tree of Life,” using discarded syringes and medical waste from my boyfriend’s recent bouts with sepsis. Sometimes they are simply rusty bits of metal that catch my eye on walks around my home, and sometimes they are things that I have had in my studio for ages that suddenly are exactly what I need.
I also draw. I started using only a ballpoint pen, but I have since incorporated many different mediums into this body of work on paper, including the traditional Byzantine iconography technique of water gilding gold leaf over clay bole, and adding charcoal, colored pencil, graphite, and touches of acrylic paint. These pieces often start as doodles and seem to always be symmetrical. I work entirely freehand, save for a faint center line to work off of, so the symmetry is always slightly imperfect, which I feel adds to the beauty, much like in nature. I am inspired by natural forms, occult and religious imagery and magic, old architecture, Victorian-era fashion and corsetry, and music.
I am also working on a musical project called Stone Levitation with my partner, Tony Buhagiar, who is also an amazing artist. We’ve been recording some music in our home studio and hope to have a record out later this year.
As far as what I hope people will take away from my work, I suppose any kind of meaningful connection with another human being that I can make with my work is something that I’m happy about. I enjoy hearing how people interpret what I do, as it is often different than what I see, and that is the beauty of it.
Do you have any advice for other artists? Any lessons you wished you learned earlier?
Put the work in.
“Do good work.” – Patty Smith
“Always do your best” – Kris Kuksi
It’s the simple things that people I respect have said that I keep coming back to. There is no magic way to get good at what you do. You must keep doing it. And that means sacrificing other things, at times, go put the work in. All these tricks for self-promotion, etc., are meaningless until you have good work. Focus on the work. Focus on the process. A lot makes itself known in the process. I learn by doing, not by thinking about doing.
How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My website is: www.wendyleegadzuk.com
I post most of my visual art there, as well as a blog that people can subscribe to, where I post random musings about my work and other topics of interest, such as thoughts on death, chocolate chip cookies, and bunnies. I have a shop on my site where I sell prints and other small items. All my work is for sale (unless otherwise noted). I show regularly around the Los Angeles area. The next exhibition is a group show at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles, called Laluzapalooza, which opens March 1.
You can also follow me on Instagram to see more of my process and some of my inspiration as well.
My Bay Area band is called Andalusia Rose and you can learn more about us here: www.andalusiarose.com
- Website: www.wendyleegadzuk.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @wendy_lee_gadzuk
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/wendyleegadzukart
- Other: www.andalusiarose.com
Photo of Wendy playing guitar by Mike Rosati.