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roswell artist-in-residence program
& the
 roswell museum and art center

present in the Marshall Gallery

Wes Heiss


October 28 - December 11, 2012

Making Do (Propane BBQ)
Plastic, wood, gypsum, metal, 2011

Making Do (V8 Hot Tub)
Wood, metal, plastic, stone, gypsum, 2011

33RPM record, acrylic, glass, electronics, sugar. Recordings of the wind in Roswell opposite a silent dust storm trapped within a glass dome, 2011

Dustbowl, Detail

WW2 bomb, stethoscope, silicone, plastic, arduino, electronics. 2011. Wearing the stethoscope one can faintly hear the Skip James song 'Hard Time Killing Floor Blues' coming from inside the bomb.

Making Do (Propane BBQ)
Plastic, wood, gypsum, metal, 2011

In my installations, sculptures, and interactive works inanimate objects are often used as metaphors for emotions, fears, and longing. By questioning our dependency on, and fascination with, “things” this work examines the deep vein of magical thinking and nostalgia that informs the American experience. Central to this experience is the stubbornly held feeling that the right machine, or combination of machines, has the potential to make life secure, happy, and, most of all, meaningful.
Almost always site-specific and often room size in scale; much of my work only becomes fully activated when a viewer enters a space. The question of what is being seen and experienced is integral to the works conceptual foundation. Is it art or has the viewer simply stumbled into an odd snippet of everyday life? It is the uncertainty of what is actually the piece that takes up a central role in grasping both the intent and meaning. In some cases the works exist independent of a greater context and in others the pieces operates in an experientially narrative structure.

Spinning Corvairs, ejection pods for the wealthy, dangerous living shipping containers, rebellious interactive televisions, breathing HVAC ducts, and humidifiers and dehumidifiers wrestling with one another; like Frankenstein monsters come alive they appear trapped with no place to go. Futile, dysfunctional, yet poignant and often lovely, these mutated creatures combine a childlike joy with allusions to a culture grasping, and gasping, for control.

Trained as an architect, my fascination with the relationship between form and function is ever present. In almost every case the pieces themselves perform work in a way not too distant from their design. This focus on function, as well as potential, is often extended in directions that are simultaneously absurd, fantastic, obsessive, humorous and darkly prophetic. Indeed the work often appears to hover in a twilight zone between the living and the inanimate, holding attributes of both and illuminating in the process our continual and collective quest in seeking meaning in the world.


The Rain Follows the Plow, gets its title from a quote by Charles Dana Wilber. It summarizes the 19th century belief that if one were to plant crops in any climate, even a desert climate, the land would automatically adapt to water them. It doesn’t— but in this one little phrase Wilber managed to unwittingly capture the naiveté of the era. While this idea is now understood as misguided and romantically cavalier we still live in a world that assumes mastery of things much larger than ourselves.

The images of the west during the Great Depression are complicated and multi-layered in the American psyche. It was a time when the American Dream seemed to be blown apart and replaced with a never-ending storm of sand and suffering. During my time in Roswell I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the current economic downturn and the 1930s. Situated on the edge of the Dustbowl, the often-harsh realities of the Roswell climate conjured associations that deeply informed both the individual pieces and overall concept of this show.In these works miniature vignettes sprout optimistically out of nothing and depict clever adaptations required to live in a frontier town. A dust storm has been isolated into only sight and sound, packaging its torment into a slick and polite package. Remnants of military equipment from past conflicts unearthed from the hard packed soil reveal a mixture of terrifying power and quiet patience. A juxtaposition of old and new, cold and warm, prickly and smooth…

Today, armed with technology and perseverance, alien spotters, pecan farmers, and strip malls push back against the harsh climate and find a way to make it all work. And I find that American optimism oddly cheering.


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