"You are so young, you stand before the beginning, I would like to beg of you dear friend to have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your hearts. Try to love the questions themselves. Like locked doors and like books written in foreign languages."
Rainer Maria Rilke
Art is a means of exploring. Art is communication to ourselves and to the others around us. Art is based on process and on processing. Art is regurgitating; taking the details of what we have seen and felt and considering them, assembling them, and sharing them. Among his other titles, Wes Bruce is an explorer. He is constantly in motion and constantly questioning and processing in fascination with the world we’ve been dropped in. He is someone who frequently goes without food, sleep, and possessions simply because he has bigger things occupying his mind and doesn’t want to sacrifice time to comfort. As an artist, Wes is also constantly on the move; he never keeps old art so that he never has anything to fall back on. He seeks to be constantly making and constantly seeking growth and understanding, exploring himself, people he knows deeply and people he just met, and the natural world.
Three months ago, Wes went to explore the Western States for a little over a month via trains and car rides from friends and strangers. The goal was to explore internally, to reflect on the preceding months and consider what they had made him, but found that the exploration of himself inevitably went into the exploration of others. Through the conversations and shared experiences with a long list of new and old acquaintances during the trip, Wes found himself exploring not only his own influences, but those of people around him, even people he knew almost nothing about. His new project, Evidence of Searching, derives from the sharing and searching of deep and simple truth with everyone who has shared life with him.
On one of the first days of the trip, Wes met some people in a Denver park (he was planning on sleeping there) and spent the rest of the night and following morning with their small group of friends. Wes found himself in conversation with one of the girl who, as she described to him in detail, had been through a series of emotional events over the previous years. They wound up staying up most of the night discussing questions of God and of love and exchanging stories. A complete stranger, she told Wes that she was unsettled and that she still had secrets, things she was afraid to face and even more afraid to tell her friends. They needed to be shared but she didn’t know who to share them with.
When Wes returned to San Diego after the trip, he found a letter in the mail from the girl outlining some of her deepest thoughts and worries; sent with the idea that the act of sharing them with anybody was a necessary step in her growth and understanding related to the past year. Wes, already a frequent user of the postal service, decided to use the medium of letter writing to gather and share thoughts, secrets, questions, wonders, and worries. The idea turned into a huge project that has taken literally every free hour Wes has had for the past six weeks and is broken down into several elements and branches. The project as it stands is outlined here, but true to Wes’s form, continues to mold and grow as he finds more connections and more questions.
The first step of the process was hand-writing over a hundred letters to friends and acquaintances from all the different chapters of Wes’s life. The letters contained a statement about the project and a request for answers to ten or so questions related to who they were, who they are, who they are going to be, and the way they are threaded to others through all that.. Wes wrote thousands of questions so that no question was asked of more than one person, and the prompt also requested four new questions to be asked of someone else. Quotes from the letters were extracted and re-written by Wes and a couple of his friends to be used tangibly in the work.
In addition to the gathering of words, Wes has been scavenging the city by foot and bicycle for little hints about the lives of others. Notes, receipts, flyers, to-do lists, forms, and whatever else could be found in gutters and garbage cans was shoved in a backpack to be sorted through and used for the project. Wes is always collecting and is interested in items that are discarded and unvalued, but tell so much about who somebody is and what is normal to them. The full collection is a mix of newly found pieces; objects found and kept over the last year, and pieces from Wes’s life specifically. During his wanderings of the city, Wes has also been taking photographs of keys and locks, referring back to the Rilke quote.
Over the last year, Wes made a lot of paintings derived from conversations and thoughts, but felt that the stories were getting lost because they were simply arrangements of store-bought paint and canvas, disconnected from the original people and stories involved. To make the canvases for his current series of paintings, Wes has been collecting garbage, found objects, personal mementos, and quotes from letters he has received back. With the help of a few friends, he has spent countless hours arranging these elements and sewing them together into a dozen or so canvases. Rather than making paintings about people and conversations, he is weaving pieces of others directly into the work.
Much of what Wes has gathered are scraps of paper that can be sewn together, but Wes also has an enormous collection of physical objects that are important to either his story or the stories of people around him. These objects were arranged into hundreds of different compositions in a photocopy machine to make prints, some to be used in the final installation and some to be distributed to other people.
As one of the final steps of the current phase of this project, Wes is illustrating and painting the canvases with symbols of truth and the pursuit of it. The compositions and intricate textures of the paintings are interesting in and of themselves, but come to fullness on the collections of stories and searchings. We get to see all of our stories being woven together and each of our tiny memories and interactions, an array of conversations and objects we don’t know that make up the whole. We get to see fragments of memories of circumstances and seasons that, although we had little control over, make up our deepest core and define truth to us. We are never absolute, but rather an ever-changing collection of experiences and questions, each one contributing to who we are and who we are becoming.
True to its concept, this project is a constant process with no decided end or final output. Wes is currently squeezing every minute he can to finish the first body of work to be shown, and even he is not completely sure what it will look like. Here, he gives us a little insight into his process down in the basement:
Evidence of Searching comes together for the first time this Thursday (12/11) at Cream Coffee Bar as the third and final round of the Sezio vs. Adapta series. Jorge Tellaeche will represent Adapta with paintings and Joel P. West will provide songs. 4496 Park Boulevard, 7-10 PM. A photo gallery with images from the installation will be added to this feature following the event.