The tagline of graduate student Dewayne Wrencher’s website reads “Native Born Black … Artist.”
“There is so much meat in that little center,” Wrencher said, referring to the ellipses. According to Wrencher, there is so much more to him than just the color of his skin.
The Chicago native, a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts at Stony Brook University, is featured in the current exhibition at the Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery titled “Bodies: MFA Thesis Exhibit 2017.” The show features the artwork of four graduate MFA candidates whose work holds a special emphasis on sculpture, printmaking and photography.
The gallery features a 13-foot piece by Wrencher called “Collection of Questions.” The linocut, a design made by carving into linoleum, asked a series of background questions such as, “When and where were you born?” which he says is meant to build a sense of identity.
In order to answer these questions, Wrencher interviewed a series of people and used those answers in three separate pieces. Each piece features men and women strategically placed at the bottom of a canvas so that their hair takes up the rest of it, acting as a frame.
“In their hair there are going to be visual representations of the answers I got from all these people,” Wrencher said.
Two of the pieces, titled “Beliefs” and “Tradition” have one person depicted on the canvas. The other, “Social Behavior,” has multiple people but is much wider, creating a bigger story.
Wrencher said he uses various mediums for his art, preferring those that most effectively illustrate his creativity. He often uses linoleum because of its smoothness, allowing him to create his desired curves and shapes.
“I will use anything,” he said. “I mean anything, from spoken word, poetry, canvas, inks, washes, paintbrushes, anything.”
His favorite medium to use is printmaking, something he is now teaching at Stony Brook in ARS 274: Introductory Printmaking. Printmaking is a task he describes as “delicious.”
“That’s a term I use a lot,” he said. “I even put it on my bookmarks. I give to my students. It just represents so much, like it’s so good. All you need to say is delicious.”
Wrencher’s love of art began in his junior year of college when he tried to bond with his eldest brother, Edgar. Though it was Edgar who taught him how to draw, Wrencher says his passion for art truly emerged around the same time, while he was watching people perform spoken word, a type of performance art that uses poetry.
“The energy, and the exchange of emotion, and sacrifice from the crowd, and the poet was just unbelievable,” Wrencher said.
The 30-year-old’s work is centered around getting people to talk about the complex question of identity, something even he has struggled to understand, according to his website.
“I’m a thinker by nature,” he said. “It just comes. I think about everything, I question everything. I noticed that one of the things I was struggling with was identity.”
Although Wrencher said that he likes to be honest and truthful with himself, he added it did not always come so easy for him.
“Identity was a big thing to me because I was trying to figure out, how do I explain to someone who I am if they ask me?” Wrencher said.
Because of this, he said that he is the primary audience of his own work. He believes that it is an artist’s job to be as honest as they can with their work because the easiest person for an artist to lie to is themselves. Aside from himself, Wrencher targets a minority audience with his work.
“Anyone that identifies as black or is under the umbrella of, you know, the term black, for sure that’s my core audience because I’m trying to push out that identity, that sense of self,” Wrencher said.
Growing up, he felt like he lacked education about his own roots. Wrencher tried to learn about his identity during his senior year of college at the University of Wisconsin, where he had the opportunity to focus on African American studies while earning his Bachelor of Science in art. Though he is unsure, Wrencher said that he may pursue a degree in African American studies in the near future.
Ultimately, Wrencher’s goal for his work is to introduce questions of identity to the viewer.
“Then you can build a beautiful sense of identity and know yourself, just like I know who I am,” he said.