GET FAMILIAR: WES MAPES
For OSCAM's second art exhibition in their new location, Patta curators Violette Esmeralda (head of photography) and Lee Stuart (brand director) have selected a variety of artists from Gilleam Trapenberg, Wes Mapes, Stacii Samidin, Serana Angelista, Shertise Solano, JeanPaul Paula to Dion Rosina. The show has closed for now, due to COVID-19 safety measures, but we still felt you should get to know all participating artists. Last in line: Wes Mapes.
Hey Wes, as a quick introduction to our readers, who are you and how would you describe your art?
I'm Wes Mapes. An artist from Oakland. 510, 94605. Fully from the Town. Spent seven years in LA, six in Brooklyn. Now in Amsterdam.
My work draws inspiration from alternative history models, speculative futures, mathematics, systems, vernacular building practices, modern architecture, post-colonial theory, Pan-African identity and class (exploring the idea of haves and have nots).
My art practice is multifaceted and unites painting, sculpture, installation, musical composition and I make it a point to not get stuck on rules too much.
How did your relationship with art begin?
I've been a music producer for over half my life now. I started with the sax as a kid. Alto. That naturally grew into trying to emulate the music I was listening to (hip hop). I couldn't do that with a sax only. So I starting producing. Over the years, I grew and took on new creative challenges organically.
Visual art started as an attempt to fuse music and building techniques, then other interests became incorporated. I started seeing connections that are unique only to my experience. I hope other people can identify with these thoughts, enjoy the experience and learn something.
What do you feel an artist needs to add on a cultural level?
A critical lens. Examine and critique. A sense of humor. Humility towards the process because art is a personal act, but it should include the public. The public and my peers are two of the four “audiences” in how I gauge my creative output.
What messages are you trying to convey to your audience through your art?
In my work, I examine alternative/rewritten/subjective history. I often get exhausted with digging through history and don’t want to get stuck there. But it is essential to explore past, present and future, and then to really examine how each affects each other. And that these states of time really do not exist in the grand scheme of things.
I also explore mathematics, systems...
A recent one has been vernacular (language AND building). Everywhere and everything has its lexicon (or vernacular). Its coded language. If you’re a doctor or if you’re a truck driver, there is lexicon. I like how language gets grouped like this, by region (in the US) or a shared community. There is also vernacular in building practices. I dig searching for these connections.
Please explain your creative process.
Its visual sampling. Research heavy.
What is the hardest part of being an artist?
I’ve gotten past this point mentally. There are always challenges in daily life…for a lot of folks. There is always someone more blessed than you. Someone who has a much tougher situation. In this process, it's just best to be true with self and go through that exploration. The journey is the destination.
What part is the most rewarding?
Making work that means something. Being in your own head and flushing everything out physically. And it is always a bit different than expected, but I like that part of it.
People's reactions. Feedback. Seeing who gets what you are trying to communicate.
How did you get linked to Patta?
Just around the way. The squad has been good to me, so it’s easy to get along with these type of folk.
What advice would you give to young artists trying to find their voice?
Be you. Research.
Find your lane. Hone, hone, hone.
Then branch out. Find the medium that communicates your message.
In my approach, different media can expressive certain ideas better than others. Video vs. sculpture etc.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing with your life?
Building. Living off grid.
What does this quote mean to you?
We been been been here. There are so many ways to put it. So much game I could throw at it. Black culture, black people and blackness itself will always get repurposed and appropriated, emulated and copied. Blackness is golden. We been here. Even stating this is elementary, rudimentary.
I keep my ideas/cards close to my chest until ready for execution, keep certain people out of my cypher, to keep the energy as pure as possible. Recent happenings have shown that institutions/museums want to become “more inclusive” but as stated before, we have been here and they know we have been here. They are just late to the party. They may recognise our greatness (but are also part of the system contributing to erased/rewritten legacy). Cultural value has made them pay attention to us. Our people have impacted every single lane of culture globally. In these institutions, there is a desire to control the narrative or at least guide it. An institution will never choose a pure agenda because they are an institution framed from dirty history. These agendas will always come with politics and preconceived notions. I respect independent movements making waves culturally because their politics are cleaner. Their agenda is MOOR pure/untainted.
What is dope about this show is that it's in Bims. Bijlmer is the area that is the most interesting in the country. It reminds me of home. There's energy there. These are the people who I want to see my work; who can get something from it.