The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts presents the exhibition, “Punctum: Painted-Light Photography by Thomas Wheeler,” from September 8 to October 28 in the Upstairs Gallery at the Newport Visual Arts Center. Wheeler’s photographs, shot on solitary, vast locations, highlight the bewildering wonderment of distinct landscapes. The artistry found in Wheeler’s painted-light photographs comes from the combination of long exposures, hand-held light-emitting tools, and the artist’s talent to create a personal touching detail, which then establishes direct relationship with an object or person within a photograph, or “punctum.” A reception for the exhibition will be held on Friday, September 8, 5-7pm at the VAC, with an artist’s talk at 6:30pm during the reception.
Thomas Wheeler produces digital photographic images—both haunting and playful—without the use of any post-production software or equipment. All images are created wholly at the time of exposure, at the scene. While traditional photography generally captures a frozen moment in time, Wheeler’s images are developed within the fluid period of long-exposure.
“Like some sort of sci-fi episode, I manipulate the world within a moment, not just reacting as a viewer of any particular scene,” Wheeler says. “I encourage movement, painting of subjects with light, and the addition of various elements to the photo with whatever light tools or props come to mind.” Wheeler’s newest work is experimenting with pre-dawn and post-dusk light and uses light-conduction materials such as Lucite sheets of plastic and acrylic rods.
“Night photography is so trendy now I could barf,” Wheeler writes on his website. “My local art center seems to offer more night photo classes than classes that teach basic photography skills. (The latter much needed, btw.) The truth is, I should really look inward instead of freaking out about a growing trend in night photography, because I too appreciate what digital photography has done for making long-exposure, low-light photography a lot easier that it was, say, in 1989.”
Wheeler calls the ease of digital photography equipment “simply relative.” He puts many hours and effort into each image, what he calls the “slow-food” of photography. Each image is wholly created by hand during the image-capture process, which can be as long as 30 minutes. And before that moment, Wheeler has spent time scheduling his shoot, considering moon-phases and sunset/sunrise charts, researching locations, and making or acquiring light tools. His photographic journeys into remote landscapes can last upwards of four days, not knowing exactly how the images will turn out.
“Imagine if someone actually saw me out in the foothills of Mt. San Jacinto, marching around in the dark by myself with a green light saber. Yeah, death by embarrassment,” Wheeler writes. “But then there are some real concerns. I’m impartial to being a mistaken buffalo-wing snack for animals that hunt at night, for example. Stepping on rattle snakes by accident might be a tad inconvenient.”
Thomas Wheeler grew up in Portland, Oregon, and currently resides with his family in Palos Verdes, California. His creative photography pursuits stand beside his work as the founder of Los Angeles-based recycling company working closely with Hollywood studios. More and more though, Wheeler is being recognized as much for his artistry as his entrepreneurial business spirit. Wheeler’s work was recently included in the Inaugural International Juried Art Exhibition, “CA -32 Degrees Latitude: Landscapes,” at the California Museum of Art, Thousand Oaks (as one of three featured artists with honorarium. He was featured in the 5th Biennial of Fine Art for Abstract and Fine Art (London, 2017), the Soho Photo Gallery (New York, 2016), the 4th Biennial of Fine Art (Berlin, 2016) and in the Top 40 Artist Show at the LA Center for Digital Art (Los Angeles, 2015).
Visitors to the Upstairs Gallery will enjoy viewing 16 of Thomas Wheeler’s painted-light photographs. The Upstairs Gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 4pm.