Behind the Scenes at the DAM

13 Quotes from Artist Tom Wesselmann

American artist Tom Wesselmann (1931-2004) was one of the leading artists of the pop art movement in the 1960s. Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective, on view at the Denver Art Museum beginning July 13, will explore the creative journey of the artist from his earliest collages of the pop period to later steel-cut drawings that literally "pop" off the wall. 

In anticipation of this summer's show, we’ve compiled a few of the artists insights about the work from interviews he conducted and his 1980 autobiography, written under the pen name Slim Stealingworth:

  1. “The challenge for an artist is always to find your own way of doing something.”
  2. “Growth is the goal, and that goal is never completeart must be in constant change.”
  3. “The prime mission of my art, in the beginning, and continuing still, is to make figurative art as exciting as abstract art.”
  4. “I find sometimes I get so excited working, especially when starting new ideas; I get so excited that I get uncomfortable. It almost feels dangerous, like I’m flirting with something dangerous. “
  5. “At first glance, my pictures seem well behaved, as ifthat is a still life, O.K. But these things have such crazy give-and-take that I feel they get really very wild.”
  6. “When a new billboard arrived and was spread out on the floor, it was immensely excitingthe size, the huge-scale dot-printing technique, and the fact of suddenly being in possession of that image and being able to use it.”
  7. “For many years, drawing, especially from the nude, was a desperate attempt to capture something significant of the beauty of the woman I was confronted with. It was always frustrating because the beauty of the woman is so elusive.”
  8. “I don’t depict nudes from any sociological, cultural, or emotional intentions. My one intention is to always find new ways to make exciting paintings using the situation of the traditional nude.”
  9. “I used what was around me, so my culture was what I used. But I didn’t use it for cultural reasons, it was not a cultural comment.”
  10. “As pop art became linked with Coca-Cola and soup cans and road signs, I pulled back. It was becoming a subject matter and the subject was very limiting.”
  11. “I can’t talk about Matisse without talking about myself. He is the painter I most idolized and I still do.”
  12. “I have always used drawings as a necessary part of my paintings and my paintings are almost always an outgrowth of drawing.”
  13. “I don’t like to be self-conscious about my workimagery. It’s intuitive.”

Image Credit: Tom Wesselmann (American, b. 1931, d. 2004), Still Life #35, 1963. Oil and collage on canvas; 120 x 192 in. Lent by Claire Wesselmann. @ Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY, Photo Credit: Jeffrey Sturges.

 

Danielle St. Peter is the master teacher for modern and contemporary art at the Denver Art Museum.