By Christopher Harrity
Originally published on Advocate.com April 26 2014 4:00 AM ET
St. Louis sculptor Deborah Alma Wheeler is at her most subversive when appropriating the simplest found objects: water fountain, baseball bat, rearview mirror. She recombines the everyday objects to make giddy 3-D political cartoons that take the viewer on a ride. The work is funny, aggressive, and nervous-making all at once, especially if you have a penis.
Wheeler has exhibited nationally and internationally and has had several pieces collected by museums and galleries, including Tom of Finland’s TOM House in West Hollywood and the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction Gallery in Bloomington, Ind. Along with exhibitions, Wheeler has presented her work abroad in 2012 at the Lesbian Lives interdisciplinary conference in Dublin and the Erotic: Gender and Sexuality conference at the University of Oxford in England. Currently, she is a contracted artist, fabricator, and instructor for St. Louis ArtWorks.org.
In Wheeler's words: "Objects, in certain contexts, have the ability to either free or oppress us. By reappropriating American culture through found objects, I question social, political, and cultural issues about sex, gender identity, and marginalized groups. A form of semiotic manipulation occurs through the recontextualization of objects and their conventional spaces. As the signifier is removed from preconceived material frameworks, shifting context exposes charged meaning behind ordinary objects. The viewer begins to perceive my reconstructed objects and environments through a new signified idea or sign, thus creating a poetic metaphor that is both strangely familiar and jarringly awakening. The concept of each sculpture or installation is critical in determining material choice, site specificity, and aesthetic direction. My intentions are to reveal and illuminate a hidden cultural agenda that subjugates individuals and perpetuates false stereotypical norms that accompany sex and gender identity."
You can see her work this June in the exhibit "Body, Body, Bodies…" presented by the Queer Cultural Center in San Francisco, June 7–28. Admission will be free.
Check out her website here. She is currently engaged in a project selling limited-edition posters signed and authenticated to raise funds to present her art work and research at the Lesbian Lives Conference in Brighton, England.
The Dream I Woke Up From, 2012, white picket fencing and articifial grass (Detail below)
Introspection, 2012, sanitary napkin/tampon dispenser, rearview mirror
Choice or Chosen Carnival Wheel, 2012, weighted carnival wheel where 'Homosexual' wins every time (Detail below)
Ear Muffs, 2007, felted Himalayan cat hair
My Ex-Girlfriend's Ex-Boyfriend, 2012, Everlast punching bag, bean bag
Womankinn Series: Nothing Runs Like a Deere, 2009, fiberglass, enamel, leather
Yeah, I Played Softball, 2012, catcher's mitt, softball bat
Privilege, 2012, water fountain, signage
Gay Precious Moments, 2012 (women edition), Gay Precious Moments, 2012 (men edition), cast porcelain, fake wedding cake
Straight Trap, 2012, shopping cart, gold baby, rope, wood, male armature hiding behind wall.
Will Do Anything for a Carrot, 2012, exercise bike, carrot
Family Bed, 2013, wooden crutches. (Detail below)
What I Wish I Had Engraved in My School Desk, 2014, school desk, graphite, engraving ink
Reccession, 2007, leather wallet
Womankins, One Player or Two, with artist