Gray Wielebinski (b. 1991 Dallas, TX, USA) received a BA from Pomona College, Claremont CA, USA in 2014 before completing an MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art, London, UK in 2018. They live and work in both London, UK and Los Angeles, CA, USA.
In Wielebinski’s expansive practice, incorporating video, performance, collage, installation, sculpture, and more, they explore the intersections of mythology, identity, gender, nationhood, and memory. Reconfiguring and transforming iconography and visual codes, their work seeks to navigate and question society’s frameworks and belief systems. Wielebinski deftly confronts realities in order to imagine and propose alternatives.
Mythology weaves a strong thread throughout Wielebinski’s works, they draw on both ancient and contemporary myths that exist in our daily lives. Their interest in myth making stemmed from an upbringing in Dallas, Texas, which created a deep fascination with Americana, particularly the narratives that surround cowboys and sports. Wielebinski notes that Texas has a potent mythologizing of itself and a specific history and culture. They then moved to Los Angeles, California which has its own relationship to fantasy and myth making via Hollywood. Wielebinski states ‘myths past and present can tell us a lot about power and who is able to craft and retell narratives. So, I think it’s supremely relevant and necessary to revisit and interrogate them and make our own.’1
Collage is an essential mode of making for Wielebinski, for in its hybridity there is a sense of becoming – they are drawn to its potential power to subvert or create context or meanings, often from what already exists. The process of collaging runs through their practice in many forms – there is a constant layering of imagery, materiality and concept, to create works in textile, video, sculpture and on paper. An avid collector, Wielebinski’s source material comes from their vast archive which has developed from a childhood of collecting baseball cards.
Wielebinski repurposed their personal collection of baseball cards, transforming these emblems of a typically ‘American’ sport into a new collector’s item – an artwork. Keeping the scale of the original cards brings an intimacy, inviting the viewer to look closely and deconstruct their relationship to the familiar object. Leather, fur, threads and nail polish are accrued on the works surface – using textiles and sewn decorative elements Wielebinski references craft and traditionally seen as feminine modes of making layered onto sportsman’s bodies.
In Wielebinski’s mixed media installation, A Dog Pees On Things For More Than One Reason (2018), shown as part of Wielebinski’s final exhibition at Slade School of Fine Art, they created a dream‐like queer locker room which reconsidered how the locker room occupies our cultural imaginations. Sports provide a rich area of exploration for Wielebinski, who uses sport for both the aesthetic and as an entry point to discuss gender, surveillance, desire, race, national identity, the body, celebrity, costume and power dynamics. Through multifaceted works, Wielebinski highlights that sport is prevalent in our daily lives and is politically charged.
In collages and soft sculptures, Wielebinski puts together new forms and ways of embodiment, questioning what makes a body more than the sum of its parts. They dissect figures, directly challenging our obsession with ‘reading’ bodies – in their intuitive combination of body parts, they make new creatures. Anthropomorphic and ambiguous, their soft sculptures draw from Frankenstein’s monster and the genre of body horror. Stitched together from fragments of clothing, the works are somewhat ominous and grotesque whilst maintaining a cartoonish, cute quality, reminiscent of childhood toys.
Engaging directly with the contexts in which we live, Wielebinski reveals how narratives reflect and shape our identities. Their work opens up the possibilities for a more inclusive storytelling, by reimagining dominant societal mythology. Wielebinski creates a world that rejects the duality of feminine and masculine for an inclusive utopia where multiple identities can exist.
Wielebinski has exhibited internationally and their work has been written about extensively, most notably in Art Maze, It’s Nice That, Dazed, Time Out London, AQNB and Hammer Museum Graphite Magazine. Wielebinski’ work is in the collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA, USA and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Library & Archives, CA, USA.