Ken Wolverton, Studio 3115
Madrid, New Mexico, 87010, United States
Wolverton welcomes visitors to his studio and corral when he is at home; many of the works are visible from the road even if he is not.
About the Artist/Site
Born in Pueblo, Colorado, Wolverton has been involved in a variety of visual and performance arts for over forty years. He has also taught, designed websites, worked in a variety of educational and commercial environments, organized arts festivals, directed children and adult theatre, and written grants. He lived in Europe between 1973 and 1986, creating “over 100” public artworks. Afterward he returned to work as an artist-in-residence at several court youth centers in New Mexico as, at the same time, he continued to work as a self-employed artist, doing mural commissions for restaurants, schools, and parks. Then, at mid-life, he returned to school, attending New Mexico State University before graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2004 from the University of Arizona in journalism and creative writing. He has lived and/or worked at the Studio 3115 site north of Madrid, NM, for at least twenty-five years.
Facing the highway, a series of interlacing sculptures, signs, and found objects immediately attract the driver’s eye. Much of the work is brightly painted, and is stacked or attached to fences, nonoperational vehicles, or his studio in a way that at first looks jumbled but that later visually sorts itself into discrete sections. The studio itself appears to have been created from found and recycled lumber and plywood placards, and includes both interior and exterior working areas, so that the artist can take advantage of – or see shelter from – New Mexico’s varied temperatures.
Wolverton’s work includes a range of media in both two and three dimensions. He is particularly interested in “organized accidents as art.” “Nothing is precious,” he says. “And I discovered a long time ago that my worst accidents were beautiful events. And vice versa, some of my most beautiful events were accidents. So that’s what I try to do when I paint: I try to have good accidents, and not think, really, at all…. It’s kind of like some kind of DNA historic picture show starts unfolding for you: a slow motion inner historic picture show.”
He changes his work constantly: “this is what it looks like today,” he says. “Who knows what it will look like tomorrow?” Yet despite the stream-of-consciousness and somewhat devil-may care affect, Wolverton also ironically tweaks those who would choose to consider him solely as a burned-out or out-of-touch creator. Among the signs posted in front of his studio are “Outsider Art Inside,” “How Much do you want to Spend?” and “Butt [sic] is it art? All Works for Sale.”
One of the noteworthy works in the corral in front of the studio is the entire team of “Santa’s Reindeer,” all constructed of found branches and twigs, and painted a bright yellow (presumably, the better to guide the sleigh at night). Led by a prancing Rudolph and a skinny standing “Santa” made of branches and found objects including animal hooves, they are attached to a fence that Wolverton’s nephew Billy had built, created from six vertical poles stabilized by three horizontals. They perfectly fit that expanse, as if they had been built to fit, although they had actually been relocated there after Wolverton removed them from his studio. After the initial installation, a cutout plywood horse, painted in blues as well as whites and browns, was added to the south, as if racing the reindeer team to the finish.
Wolverton’s works range in quality and craftsmanship. In particular, the animals created from found branches gracefully stand out against the cerulean blue of the New Mexico sky, their arching antlers tracing flowing patterns in the air. Other works, such as some of the paintings, are awkward in gesture or muddy in palette. And he will often work and rework his oeuvres, belying his professed reliance on accidents; he will also often extend them, by adding plywood panels, expanding his concept as he continues his image across the different substructures.
Older now, and happy to stay at home and work after his forty years of wide-ranging work here and abroad, Wolverton welcomes visitors to his studio and corral when he is at home; many of the works are visible from the road even if he is not.
~Jo Farb Hernández
Map & Site Information
Madrid, New Mexico, 87010 us
Latitude/Longitude: 35.406705 / -106.152523
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