The Philadelphia Wireman


Joseph Massey posted these links to Facebook and I wanted to repost them because they are fascinating: the Philadelphia Wireman and a mini-gallery of his work.  I’d never heard of this person until Joe posted these links about 24 hours ago.

Compared in the Wikipedia article to Henry Darger for his “unusual, possibly monomaniacal devotion to the particular demands of his chosen form,” the Wireman reminds me less of Darger and more of Philadelphian Alexander Calder. The characterization of of the Wireman as someone “[monomaniacally] devoted to the particular demands of his chosen form” also reminds me of most of the best artists and poets I know (including Massey).  I have long considered “monomaniacal devotion” as one of the hallmarks of a great artist– the artist has one idea, or one kind of material, and works his or her way through it with a loving and relentless but often frustrating devotion to pulling every possible thing out of the idea or material (think Monet, Pollock, Dickinson).

(Not that there isn’t something to be said for the interdisciplinarian inventor, whose ADHD “devotion” to constant change and experimentation often hits upon a delightful discovery… but often those who seem to be running around to every new ride at the carnival are actually under the spell of a single driving idea.)

The gallery’s biography of the Wireman offers this tantalizing tidbit:

Heavy with associations — anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and socio-cultural — to wrapped detritus, the totemic sculptures by Philadelphia Wireman have been discussed in the context of work created to fulfill the shamanistic needs of alternative religions in American culture. Curators, collectors, and critics have variously compared certain pieces to Classical antiquity sculptures, Native American medicine bundles, African-American memory jugs, and African fetish objects.

The “poetics of objects” (beaulieu variation) here described remind me of the ritualistic object-art and object-poetry of “interdisciplinary artists” like Ono, Cha, and Vicuña.  Cecilia Vicuña, who is visiting Buffalo this week, often starts her poetry readings with small object-oriented ritualistic performances, such as blessing the reading space.


About Jessica Smith
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2 Responses to The Philadelphia Wireman

  1. yesisaidyesiwillyes says:

    Consider also, along these same lines, Judith Scott (Wireman’s work sort of is similar). Read an article about her (from the NY times) here . See a few samples of her work (scroll down, then click on the thumbnails), here.

  2. The story of Philadelphia Wireman is very charming. Never heard such a thing before.

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