August 2022

Untitled 30 | David Wiley | Scene4 Magazine | August 2022 | www.scene4.co

Untitled 30


The Art of David Wiley


The Fertility of Mexico

Mexico has played a considerable role in my life as a painter, as it has done for many artists.  During my first prolonged stay there, in 1959-60 I began to notice that in Mexico color seems to have a different meaning, which is to say that color has a meaning, rather than just being an unremarkable part of the environment.   I was not ready then to use color in my painting as I did later.   Nor did I have any exposure to peyote, as I did during my second sojourn in Mexico in 1966.

The effects of peyote are many and varied.   The first time I took peyote and felt its power I was impressed by the sensation that everything was right, even though nothing looked the same, or sounded the same, or tasted the same, or smelled the same.  It was right, in spite of being all wrong.   This led me to believe I was being given a glimpse into a future form of consciousness.  On subsequent occasions I came to think of peyote as a learning experience, and not something to be taken lightly.

It was not that I had been converted to believing in a world according to peyote, it was that peyote had revealed things to me about color, things that had been fomenting in my subconscious and trying to clarify themselves.   I did not want to paint drug-induced hallucinations, but I did want to understand the meaning of color, and I felt that peyote was leading me in that direction.  Little did I realize then that color would eventually become a kind of religion for me.   Whether this was a long-delayed result of my peyote visions or something else I don't know, but I do feel certain that peyote was the starting point in a process that led me to become a champion and lover of color, not perhaps in the strictly religious sense, but in the same way one may love language or mathematics or astronomy or gardening, and find in them something to adore and believe in with all one's heart and soul.  Color had spoken to me through the medium of peyote, and I was listening with every ounce of attention I could muster.

It was then I began to think of color as a language.  Those luminous vibrating colors were most definitely trying to communicate something mysterious and unknown, even though they were obviously not hiding anything.   The idea of color being a language with almost unlimited meaning and nuance became a clear calling.  Peyote had revealed to me what I would never forget, that the use of color in painting is like the use of language in poetry.   It is also visual music which, combined with its poetry, can make color sing.

As the years passed, the more I painted the more my colors emerged as the colors of my long past peyote experiences.  In other words, it was a slow process, and one in which I was never conscious in the intentional sense, of my colors becoming more vibrant and musical.   Nevertheless, I was aware that I was regarding color as a language, and that the application of it was very similar in many ways to the composition of a stanza of poetry.

During a stay of two months in San Blas, in the state of Nayarit, I became familiar with Huichol yarn painting, the bright and vibrant colors of this medium.   The Huichol artists I came to know had been influenced more than I by their experiences with peyote.   Their use of color remained a vision to me, and later, in San Francisco when I was just beginning to understand myself as an artist, a renowned Huichol yarn painter came to the City and gave demonstrations at the de Young Museum.  These two occurrences had an effect on me that continued and developed over the years.

When I was living in Veracruz for a while in the late 1960s, I became friends with a resident of that city who was a fire sculptor. He would invite a few friends to the beach and begin looking around for driftwood and other flammable things.  When it got dark enough he would set his collection of debris aflame, and the result was always an amazing sculpture made of fire.   "Everything can become art," he would say, "because that is what everything wants to be."  It has been said that art is to Mexico as literature is to Ireland.   It's in the blood, in other words.   Whether that is the case or not, I would strongly recommend a lengthy sojourn in that country for any aspiring artist.  Peyote or no peyote.

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Scene4 Magazine - David Wiley | www.scene4.com

David Wiley painter-poet: graduate of U. Kansas; studied at Mexico City College and with artist Ignacio Belen in Barcelona. Widely traveled, he exhibits throughout California and abroad. Wiley has published two volumes of poetry: Designs for a Utopian Zoo (1992) and The Face of Creation (1996). Since 2005, Wiley has received large mural commissions in Arizona, Mexico and California. Wiley is a longtime contributor to Scene4: paintings, poems, meditations on art, creative non-fiction.
To inquire about his paintings, click here.
For more of his paintings, poetry and writings, check the Archives.

©2022 David Wiley
©2022 Publication Scene4 Magazine




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