Meet Chris Wheeler of Pergamena Fine Art
I grew up in Philadelphia and stayed in the Northeast until I graduated from St. Joseph’s university. Shortly after, I was able to travel to Europe for months at a time. I spent most of my days in the art museums and galleries storing ideas and absorbing the creativity. At the age of 26 I had the opportunity to moved to Seattle where I began painting and sculpting in a small studio. I spent three years in the Northwest working various jobs and searching for my art form. I decided to move to Tainan Taiwan to travel, teach ESL and study art specifically Chinese landscape painting and calligraphy. Since Tainan was the old cultural center of Taiwan there was a thriving art community that I became involved in. My wife was studying ink and brush and we realized that we would need someone to mount her paintings when we returned to the United States. I apprenticed under master Huang for 5 years in the traditional method of stretching shoji screens, scrolls and works on paper. It was in the studio that I found an art form that truly appealed to my creative side. With this skill I was able to stretch and manipulate paper in ways very few people can. Almost instantly I began creating my own art using these techniques. I had finally found my art form and the discoveries I made in Tainan during those years made all my future work possible. I returned to Seattle in 2005 and immediately opened Nha Vuu Studio and Design with my wife. Our studio also restored works of art on paper for galleries, Asian antique dealers and collectors from all over the country. I was one of the few people in the US able to do this kind of work. During this time I repaired and rebuilt dozens of shoji screens some 200-300 years old. I also began producing and selling Shoji screens of my own. Today I live in the Fort Colins, Colorado and run two art studios, Nha Vuu Studio and Design and Pergamena Fine Art. My wife and I split our time between Fort Collins and Seattle. I still make time to restore art while producing new works year round.
My journey has been interesting to say the least. I began this journey as a full time artist just as the recession was hitting in 2008 and shortly afterwards my daughter was born. I knew that being an artist was going to be difficult, however the lessons that I have learned along the way were surprising. I not only learned about time management, accounting, taxes and general daily business practices but I learned about the concept of working. Working until you complete a project and also working under pressure and stress. I found that what would set me apart from other aspiring artists was my discipline, mental strength and will to get up at 5:30 every morning, including weekends, and create in the studio. To work through ideas from beginning to end was the best way to progress in a series. Creating a large inventory of work was also a lesson not readily taught in art schools. Getting my art career off the ground took a lot of time and mental strength so it left me with little time for friendships and leisure activities. It’s only been til recently that I’ve reached a place in my career where I can take a little time to do other things. I’ve learned that one of the challenges as an artist is to view one’s career as a marathon and not a sprint. Milestones happen in a career once the person is ready for it to happen.
My studio name is Pergamena Fine Art and pergamene means paper in latin. I love working with paper and find its ability to stretch and manipulate it in many different ways fascinating. When you pair different mediums with different papers the texture, bleed and look is infinite. Paper is often overlooked as the preferred substrate in art. I started stretching my wife’s ink paintings and restoring antique shoji screens and scrolls, however realized that paper was the perfect medium for me. The edges of my collage are sharp and precise. Since the glue that I use is strained the finish is clean and refined and not typical of other collage work.
Every morning I wake up, stand on my patio and look out at the trees on the property and the studio 30 feet away. The journey to afford 2 acres and a 1000 sq foot barn on the foothills of Fort Collins Colorado has taken 15 years. The life of a full time artist is all consuming and I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to get where I am today. I had to look deep down in myself and have faith in my vision and abilities. Success for me is knowing that I have no regrets in the choices that I have made and continually having the feeling of excitement as I step into my studio every day. Most importantly success is the sense of pride that I feel in the body of work that I’ve created and all the lives that my artwork has touched.