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Arts & Culture

Steve Wiman delivers his personal story of stuff

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

Steve Wiman, "There's More Where That Came From," installation view.


Steve Wiman's installation lines the walls of the back room at Sala Diaz with running piles of debris that form bands of red, yellow, green, and blue. It is visually stunning, like a huge color field painting. Close-up, tiny plastic toys and nondescript pieces of wood and metal appear. Here and there a slip of paper or bit of string pokes out. Wiman, who is based in Austin, is a collector. "I collect because there is great pleasure in doing so," he said. "When the beauty or poignancy or humor in an object reveals itself to someone else, we share that connection. And if you think this sounds like bullshit, there's more where that came from." I asked him to elaborate.

You say you are a collector, not a hoarder. What's the difference?

Intent, and the ability to manage. But I could see that the balance scale could tip quite easily if someone was unable to manage the quantity they take on. It can happen slow.

You have a lot going on here. I see sections of blues, yellows, and reds. Aside from that, it looks like pure cacophony.

It is organized chaos. Mostly, it is organized purely by color. These are just dumped piles, but I do a bit of primping, and arranging to make sure something has its best color-face forward, or whatever. But it reads as if it is just simply piles of stuff pushed to the edge of the wall.

How did this exhibit begin?

We were recently at the beach in Mexico, and every single day we went walking on the beach and gathered a fairly large quantity of stuff. And after I got it back, I cleaned it and got the gross smell and stuff off of it. And I ended up with these incredibly beautiful piles, mostly of red, blue, and yellow. There were some oddball colors, too. That was the tipping point, the stepping-stone to inspiration.

Now that you mention it, the only thing missing here is a line of seaweed mixed in with the plastic.

The tidemarks, the washing up of stuff on the beach was absolutely part of the inspiration.

You mention recycling in your exhibition statement. How does that fit in? This looks like cast-offs.

It's mostly cast-offs. Lots of toys, lots of things that end up in garage sales. Sloughed. But lots of it is absolute garbage that has no value, or context, other than looking at it as a component in something like this. I have an antique business, so I've been a recycler in that capacity for many years.

Then you know about hoarders.

Oh my God, I know them intimately, yes. I went to a lecture recently with a panel of psychologists who were talking about the hoarding instinct. And what I came away with was that the compulsion to control your environment by not getting rid of anything is the absolute same compulsion that makes people minimalists. They get rid of everything, but they keep one magazine, and it has to be on the table, and just in a specific position — it has to be lined up with the edge of the coffee table. That same compulsion of absolute control over the physical environment is what hoarders are doing, and it drives those who are austere. It seems in our culture that compulsion, austerity, is revered and honored and looked up to, while the other compulsion is not.

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