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Meet Jacob Wheeler

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jacob Wheeler.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
At the age of 8, I developed a heart issue. After a few years of endless cardiologist appointments and wearing heart monitors to school, I was diagnosed at 11yrs old. Between the ages of 12 and 28, I had six heart procedures, with the final one fixing the main issue. After years of playing sports at a high level and against Dr.’s wishes, the wear and tear of it all, even after the original issue being fixed, has caused me to struggle with other heart complications currently.  At 30yrs. old, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder with Chronic Mania and Psychosis, as well as PTSD. After a few years more, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Anxiety. I currently seek treatment for both my mental and physical issues.

It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s that I realized that I started writing at 8yrs old, the same time that I developed heart complications. I’ve been writing poetry ever since. I dated a girl named Lesa Wilson in the early 2000’s and she encouraged me to do something with my poetry.  I never had any intentions on publishing it, that always seemed like the expected route and it didn’t interest me.  I never wrote poetry with the intent of it being read, it was solely a release.  Years passed before I ever found a reason to share it.  Lesa’s encouragement never left my mind and because of a dream that I had at around 30yrs old (2011), I decided to turn my poetry into visual art. I hired a photographer to take the photos of my work and taught myself how to photo edit. After years of my work being edited and printed, the finished canvas pieces sat in my house collecting dust. My anxiety and mental issues kept me from pursuing any thoughts of showing my work. I initially created the work to have something to show for as far as a legacy was concerned; “this is what Jacob once did.”  Eventually, in 2016, I decided to go forth and show my work. I applied to around 200 galleries in the southeastern part of the United States and was either turned down or ignored by every single one. I applied to every gallery in GA, AL, SC, TN, etc. Once I made the decision to show my work, there was no turning back and so my brother Adam Wheeler came down from Indiana and helped me build a gallery in my backyard.  I was going to show my work one way or another. So on a mild, early Fall night under string-lights, 80+ of my closest friends and family came out for a fun night of drinks and art.

After that first showing in my backyard in Dallas, Ga., I showed my work in a group art event in Atlanta where dozens of artists display their work and pay to do so unless they can sell a certain number of tickets. I chose to show with this organization knowing that I could sell the minimum amount if tickets in order to not to have to pay. Once you show with them, you can pick any city that they have their events in and show there for free, I chose NYC. Once in NYC, I contacted a writer at the NY Post to let him know that I was showing there. It was a promise that I made him in 2011 when my brother Zack Wheeler was a minor league baseball player and had been traded from the San Francisco Giants to the NY Mets. He called to interview the family to find out more about my brother and where he came from. My brother was only a Single A prospect at the time, but the reporter, Kevin Kernan, insisted that if I ever showed my art in NYC, to let him know. In April of 2017 I showed my art in another event made up of 100+ artists, mostly local, and the article was written. It spoke of the paths of my brother and I and how we fought to get to a place of reaching our goals, despite great odds. Following the article, both Fox Sports and ESPN featured my art during the broadcast of 2 Mets nationally broadcasted games.  After the article was printed, I was contacted by Fred Polsinelli of “Polsinelli Public Affairs” and he spoke of his appreciation for my art, but especially for my path and need to help benefit ill children. Fred and I partnered up and now we work together in combining my artwork with events that brings awareness to and raise money for causes that are important to us.  I’ve also had multiple solo shows in NYC and have been a part of a beautifully done and inspiring docu-series “Mike Luzio: 52 American Success Stories,” as well as being in other publications.

My art is currently on display at Jue Lan Club in the Chelsea area of Manhattan where we have events that show my art, bring attention to and raise money for chosen causes, mostly to do with children that are ill. My partnership with owner Naiome Ram and co-owner & resident art expert Robert Collins, at Jue Lan, is one of great appreciation, dedication, communication, and passion. After all, the history of the building that Jue Lan is in, once embraced the company and art of Andy Warhol.  Saying that I am humbled to be in the position that I am in and to be able to help people in the way that I can, is a vast understatement.  15yrs. ago I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to 25yrs old, much less be showing my art in Manhattan and raising money to benefit children with medical issues one day.

Please tell us about your art.
I’m a poet before anything else.  It’s the way that I release and keep from letting my thoughts become permanent fixtures in my mind, to keep them from becoming influential to the detriment of my sanity. To put it simply, I turn my poetry into visual art. I come up with a visual concept and find a poem to match or sometimes the other way around, I gather the supplies, find the location for the photoshoot, etc., and then either myself or my amazingly talented friend and photographer, KL Vox takes a photo of the art.  After the photos are taken and I choose the one that I want, I edit them. After the editing is complete, I have the art printed on the selected material and then show the work.

Initially my work is seen as dark in nature, but once the poem is read and the art is viewed in slowed and quiet time, people seem to take away something relative to themselves and their life.  I didn’t share much of my poetry prior to showing it through visual art. I have discovered that while the poetry is my way of releasing, the molding of it into something tangible is therapeutic and inspirational for me. Poetry isn’t for everyone and neither is visual art, but I’m finding that no matter how uninterested someone may be in poetry or art, they often find something relative in my work.

The release that I find in writing poetry is vital to my sanity, but the visual artwork that I produce is a glimpse to what someone may see if that stepped inside my mind.  Showing my work is fun, thrilling, and has indescribable rewards, but he day that I am no longer able to raise money for causes that mean something to me, will be the day that I fall back into obscurity and write quietly until my last days.

With some national exposure, the coverage of my art has been primarily in NYC and has been helpful in bringing attention to the art and the events that benefit others, but in Atlanta, I haven’t found anyone, any gallery, who has been willing to embrace me and my art. I’m hopeful to be able to show my work here, close to home, and to have events that benefit my own community here in the Atlanta area.  It’s my hope that there are galleries and Art Directors in the Atlanta area that will see value in my artwork and purpose.  My artwork is different than most, with the right relationship, my artwork and mission could thrive in the Atlanta area.

Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
Just like anything that is important to you, if you really want to make it happen, you will. If with everything that you do, you have your art in mind, you will find the small sacrifices to make that will get you to where you want to be.  Think it into fruition.

Given everything that is going on in the world today, do you think the role of artists has changed? How do local, national or international events and issues affect your art?
It’s easy for an artist to ride the waves of a political climate and to benefit from it greatly. It’s important for awareness to be had and art is a great way to bring attention to a moment and cause. For me, the art that I create is based upon my poetry and my poetry is about the trials and tribulations of my life and others that I may encounter. The events of our world changed with the wind. It’s my hope that the art that I create can offer hope and understanding now and long after I’m gone.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
You can see my work in person at Jue Lan, W 20th NYC.  You can purchase my work by contacting me through my email jacobwheelerart@gmail.com or by visiting my website jacobwheelerart.com.

Sharing my work via social media and telling your local friends to visit my work in person can always create a buzz that is helpful!

Follow my social media to find out where I’ll be showing next!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Interscope Photography
Jue Lan Kitchen

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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