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Summer Wheat Biography

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. In addition to her exhibition here at KMAC, Wheat also has an upcoming show at the Kemper Museum of Art in Kansas City that will more widely survey the progression of her most recent work. Other recent solo exhibitions include Shulamit Nazarian, Los Angeles (2018); Smack Mellon, New York (2018); Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle (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). She is the recipient of the 2016 New York NADA Artadia Award given to one artist exhibiting at NADA New York. She is also the recipient of the 2019 Northern Trust Purchase Prize at EXPO Chicago and is now part of the permanent collection of the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. Wheat’s work is also in the permanent collections of Pérez Art Museum, Miami; the Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; The Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, Seattle; and The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC.