Steve Wirtz: The man… the myth… the paper mache king
When my husband and I started dating 14 years ago, I was at his house and saw this amazing life size paper mache bust of Gene Simmons from KISS. That was the day I was introduced to the wacky and wonderful world of the art of Steve Wirtz, my husband’s brother. Over the years I’ve been able to go to several art shows of his and have truly become a fan of his work. Steve has an array of work that will take you through all sorts of emotions. Some of his stuff I have stood and laughed at, some I have stood and pondered it’s meaning and then some of it I have quite honestly went HUH? To me that makes for an amazing artist. He has something for everyone’s taste and his talent will quite honestly leave you in awe. At least it does for me and not just because I’m married to his brother. When I talked to Wisconsin Sickness’s fearless leader Charlie about wanting to write for him, he mentioned he was looking for artists to add to the page. My first thought was of Steve and since I haven’t been able to get him drunk enough to spill any secrets to his paper mache talent at our annual Halloween Party I thought “Hey I’ll interview him and maybe he’ll answer the questions I’ve always wanted to know” and it worked! So here are the questions I asked Steve or as I like to call him The Man, The Myth, The legend.
[dcs_hightlight rounded="0"]Kellie[/dcs_hightlight] Did you just wake up one day and say “Hmmm, paper mache would be cool to do?” Or was it a process you went through to find your medium you were going to concentrate on?
[dcs_hightlight rounded="0"]Steve[/dcs_hightlight] No, actually, in my own arrogant, ignorant way, I was certain I was going to be the next great syndicated cartoonist. I mean, Garfield….really? But, after I had collected a box load of rejection notices from a variety of media outlet sources, I thought I’d take a break and make some 3-D art-just for my own amusement. That’s when I made my first paper mache fish. I loved it. I actually couldn’t stop. After filling the walls of my apartment with fake mounted fish, I thought I’d try to sell some of them. Well, that didn’t go too well, but another artist suggested I try to make something smaller. So I created a small dog sculpture. I sold that piece rather quickly, and the rest, as they say is struggling artist history.
[dcs_hightlight rounded="0"]Kellie[/dcs_hightlight] Observing people at one of the shows in Wausau you had stuff in, the big draw was the dog biting the butt of different subjects. What inspired that?
[dcs_hightlight rounded="0"]Steve[/dcs_hightlight] I was dealing with the reality of being a self-employed person and my health insurance company raising my premiums by 15-20% every 6 months just because I was 6 months older. I think all of my “dog bite” series stemmed from that. I started with the old cliché of dog biting the mailman, and it kind of expanded from there.
[dcs_hightlight rounded="0"]Kellie[/dcs_hightlight] You have a wide range of different subjects you cover, I’ve seen breathtakingly beautiful (ie your sea horses you did for the Art Awarehouse show), funny stuff, thought provoking stuff, of all of them which is your favorite to work on?
[dcs_hightlight rounded="0"]Steve[/dcs_hightlight] I’m most excited when I feel I have a good design or good concept. Some may be funny, or more serious, but if I feel it really works as a sculpture, then I get really stoked about creating it.
[dcs_hightlight rounded="0"]Kellie[/dcs_hightlight] I know that people can come to and ask you to make specific things, what is the craziest thing you’ve been asked to do?
[dcs_hightlight rounded="0"]Steve[/dcs_hightlight] Great question, and rather hard to answer, as I have done so many commissions over the years and there have been so many odd requests and interesting stories behind them. One that comes to mind-because I was thinking about it recently for some reason-was the piece I did for a couple who referred to themselves as llamas. Yes, llamas. They liked to gamble, so I was asked to portray them as the Andean beasts playing poker. I’ll attach a photo if I can…
[dcs_hightlight rounded="0"]Kellie[/dcs_hightlight] What is the one piece you have done that you’re most proud of? You know the one where you look at it and say “I’m an ART GOD!” Or something like that! 9laughs]
[dcs_hightlight rounded="0"]Steve[/dcs_hightlight] Oh, just to have that feeling once! Ha ha! The sad truth is, it is a rare occurrence indeed when I am totally happy with a sculpture I’ve made. Usually, when a piece is done, I’m thinking of the ways I can improve upon the next one I may make of that subject. That’s not to say I haven’t been pleased with some of my work. Sometimes I do ‘hit’ it right-at least to the best of my current ability. Sometimes the large or more complex pieces I’m most proud of, but sometimes it’s the more simplistic dog sculptures that I can look at and think “I cannot make that piece better than that at this point in time”. But I tell ya, it’s almost painful for me to look at things I’ve created from say, five years or more ago. But I don’t know, I guess it’s that type of attitude that has made me a somewhat better artist over the years, even though I still feel like I have a long way to go. Funny, I’ve been at this f o r e v e r, yet I feel like I’m just getting started. Oh well, ask me this question again in twenty years, maybe I’ll have a better answer.
[dcs_hightlight rounded="0"]Kellie[/dcs_hightlight] Last question….Where are you gonna be in Wisconsin this year so that people reading this can come see your amazing work?
[dcs_hightlight rounded="0"]Steve[/dcs_hightlight] Hey, come to Madison on July 14 and 15. I’ll be at Art Fair Off the Square. Great show. Great art. I’ll have other Wisconsin appearances this year I’m sure, but they’re not scheduled yet. Stay tuned to my website cartuna.net for updates. And, as one of my favorite art teachers always says: “Keep art in your heart”. I know, awwwwwwww.
Thank you Steve for taking the time to answer my questions. Please check out his website to experience Steve’s talent – www.cartuna.net. You won’t be disappointed!