Introduction to Wolfgang Fletcher:
Wolfgang is Born
In 2004, Thedra Cullar-Ledford was disgusted by the vast majority of the work she saw in Chelsea galleries. She and her family had moved to New York as a pilgramage to the art capital of the world and desperately wanted to be a part of an exciting and interesting community that made fantastic work. Instead, she struggled to find any work that was even worth thinking about. The least-depressing way to justify what she saw was to write it off as art reflecting society, and society was not in a good place.
In a fit of vengeful deviousness, she had an idea: take all the terrible things she had seen in Chelsea and intentionally combine all of them in one piece under the name of a fictional artist and apply to galleries? That would be a piece of performance art in and of itself!
She quickly came up with a name for her fictional artist — the name she would have been given had she been born a male – Wolfgang Fletcher. She developed the character: Wolfgang would be about 26, male and bisexual. He would be short, dress as a hipster (but several months behind the style), craved fame above all else and only chose art because he could get away with being extremely lazy while doing it. He would be heavily into drugs, do anything to get a show, (including sexual favors for powerful people), would step on others to get even just a little bit ahead, and was generally a vile scumbag.
His “art” followed a recipe: it cost almost nothing to produce, completely lacked any regard for production quality and required very little thought or effort. Thedra would wander the streets looking for the ugliest things she could find, photograph them with the worst compositional framing and lowest technical quality she could manage, manipulate the images to create collages, moving elements around until that exact moment when her gut retched at how hideously awful this picture was turning out to be, print it onto canvas and stretch it over old, crooked stretcher bars.
The scary thing was that the finished piece was compelling. At every step, she had done the “wrong” thing to it, yet she ended up with something that had interesting artistic qualities to it.
Wolfgang Grows Up
Through the Wolfgang Fletcher mask, Thedra was able to see the world in entirely different ways, get away with exploring subjects that would be taboo for “Thedra” and not have the pressures associated with trying to advance her career or build a cohesive portfolio. By 2012 however, she had started to realize that maybe Wolfgang wasn’t just a fun fictional character to play with — maybe he represented another side of who Thedra really was. She wrestled with whether to keep these personalities seperate, finally deciding that there was no point. Wolfgang’s thinking had blended into Thedra’s “good” art and the mix was exciting and liberating.
The new work combines elements of Wolfgang (a disregard for what other people might think, an interest in highlighting the so-called seedy underside of society) with Thedra’s typical approach of collecting everyday things, putting them into some sort of container and presenting them in an interesting way. The work is still uncomfortable, but it is firmly grounded in the spirit of performance art and conceptualism: the art isn’t what the artist makes, the art is in the experience of the viewer.