Favoring malleable structures and expressive color palettes, Wheat’s tactile paintings merge process and narrative to ponder individual and collective human experience as seen through various moments in art history. Drawing on rich traditions from Egyptian relief sculptures to Modernist painting, Wheat’s textural art objects destabilize material boundaries and elevate quotidian life through scale and movement. Borrowing from the logic of medieval tapestries hung as symbols of authority, Wheat allows acrylic paint to ooze through fine wire mesh causing figures to emerge and dance upon lush, fiber-like surfaces that coalesce into heroic history paintings.
Born in Oklahoma City, the artist’s understanding of institutional art centered on Native American traditions of art production, focusing special attention on the connection between human and animal behavior respective to their environment. Rather than making quaint the lives of those who struggle, Wheat dignifies her subjects and decidedly refutes the gender specific representations found in various cultures through history by swapping women into the traditional roles of men. Her figurative scenes aggrandize the invisible work of women by focusing on both their experience and their craft.
Wheat’s practice deftly flattens hierarchies between the fine and domestic arts and crafts, embracing the intuition of felt experience as rival to conventional reason and logic. Inserting swaths of gold leaf and jeweled embellishments, Wheat meticulously makes the mundane regal and monumental.
Summer Wheat (b. 1977, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) received a BA from University of Central Oklahoma and an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. Recent solo exhibitions include Smack Mellon, New York (2018); Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York (2018); Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle (2017); Braverman Gallery, Tel Aviv (2017); and Oklahoma Contemporary, Oklahoma City (2016). Her work has been featured in recent museum exhibitions, including ICA Collection: Expanding the Field of Painting, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2013–14); Paint Things: Beyond the Stretcher, deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park (2013); and Paradox Maintenance Technicians: A Comprehensive Manual to Contemporary Painting from Los Angeles and Beyond, Torrance Art Museum (2013). The Pérez Art Museum Miami acquired a painting of Wheat’s for their permanent collection at the end of 2019, and in 2020 her work will be featured in three additional museum exhibitions at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Kemper Museum in Kansas City, and Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is the recipient of the 2016 New York NADA Artadia Award given to one artist exhibiting at NADA New York.