The exquisite work of Adam Wallacavage turns the notion of stuffy luxurious décor for the well-heeled upside-down. Instead, his lavish chandeliers and candelabras appeal to the wild-at-heart seeking a life less ordinary. His colorful, iconic octopus pieces are so playfully energetic it is easy to imagine them squirming to life and wrapping a charming tentacle over one’s shoulders.
The complex colors and always changing assemblages allow Wallacavage’s chameleon-like works to slip between the styles of 16th century ornamental Baroque, Victorian era Steampunk, lush Art Nouveau and even through to modern day. I believe Wallacavage’s chandeliers would look smart hanging in a Jules Verne’esq stateroom, as well as, above an Eero Saarinen tulip table.
In addition to tentacles, he also has many other shapes and themes in his repertoire including Medusa-like snakes and even adorable castings of vintage rubber squeaky toys.
His 2008 show at Jonathan Levin gallery entitled, “Les Trésors de la Tanière de Neptune show” Adam engulfed the gallery with hand crafted wallpaper. Allura Dannon of XLR8R had this to say, “Wallacavage transformed the space with a panoply of beautiful octopi-meet-Gothic light fixtures set against a backdrop of undulating kelp wallpaper, all in a ’60s cartoon palette of flat mint, purple, turquoise, and black.”
Not surprising, inside of Adam Wallacavage’s unassuming Philly brownstone lies a wonderland of fantastically decor’ed rooms that are literally plastered with highly detailed ornamentations created by the artist. There is a hunting-lodge living room, an underwater deep sea diving room, (outfitted with portholes and of course a magnificent octopus chandelier) and a bustling 1940s era “dime-store/ curio cabinet” kitchen. No detail was left unconsidered. From the hand-crafted intricate plaster molding, to the complex colors schemes to the vast selection of exquisite sconces and chandeliers, Wallacavage hand-crafted it all.
Below is an assortment of photos from Wallacavage’s home taken by photographer, Todd Selby.
Many of Adam’s artistic skills have been self-taught and honed over the years. This includes his large cast plaster work and his hand-sculpted pieces from epoxy-clay. He has even developed his own unique “secret-sauce” glaze and technique to give his pieces their unique vibrant shimmer. Below are a variety of studio pictures shot by Todd Selby (unless noted).
Wallacavage’s work can also delve into deeper, more somber content which compliments his more colorful, light-hearted pieces. In this series he deftly interweaves the skulls of elk and employs their antlers as the means to hold the lights. It also employs somewhat mono-chromatic palette that allows light to cascade over the rich ‘wet’ surfaces of his pieces. They are sophisticated with a sprinkling of sinister and even (dare I say) modernity.
Wallacavage is also a published photographer known for his ability to capture all walks of life in a loose and unobtrusive manner. He spoke with Caleb Neelon of Swindle back in ‘06 about his experiences as a photographer. Below are two excerpts that give perspective on Wallacavage’s early influences and core approach which still seems to translate to all facets of his creative life.
“Most of my aesthetic comes from Wildwood, New Jersey – what we in Philly call ‘down the shore.’ I spent almost every summer there as a kid, and as a teenager, my folks got a summer house there.” Wildwood is a kind of Coney Island with seedy edges smoothed over by crazy ‘50s –style motels. The Wildwood tourism office boasts that the town contains, along with the National Marbles Hall of Fame, the largest collection of mid-century commercial architecture in the United States, now labeled “ Doo- Wop,” lining a two-mile boardwalk.“ I picked up a camera for the first time in Wildwood when I was about 16. I wanted to document all of these old 1950s motels that are in that area, that and things like the Wacky Shack and Castle Dracula.”
“I was never the kind of skate photographer who ‘bro-downed’ and went for the big names, mainly because I’m a bit shy, and because of that I’ve developed this idea of avoiding the obvious. What’s the point of shooting something everyone else is shooting? It’s being documented, so I like to concentrate on things under the radar. Some of those things end up becoming big, which is always fun to see happen.” The result of avoiding the obvious has been an especially broad body of photography work.”
In 2006, Wallacavage’s work of fifteen years was published in the book, “Monster size Monsters.” Below is an excerpt of a review by Jonathan Levine Gallery.
Jonathan Levin Gallery Notes :
Wallacavage’s first published book of photography is an intriguing collection and introduction to the artist’s uncanny world. Fans of art and culture will enjoy Adam Wallacavage’s charismatic photos documenting everything from the absurd to the spontaneous in locations like Asbury Park, Coney Island, and skateparks and flea markets around the country. His eclectic portfolio includes images exuding elements of humor, irony, and bizarrerie. A reference section with miniature images and descriptions of all photographs by Adam Wallacavage is included.
In addition to documenting amazing moments in the evolution of these emerging art collectives, Adam Wallacavage has photographed seminal underground bands like Gwar, Slayer, and Turbonegro. His work has been published in Thrasher, Transworld Skateboarding, Strength, and Slap magazines. Adam Wallacavage is also a regular contributor to Swindle, artist Shepard Fairey’s influential pop-culture and lifestyle magazine.
Adam was kind enough to grant an interview. Below are the five questions I ask everyone plus a few personal ones. A really fantastic interview by Allura Dannon can also be read at XLR8R.
Ransom Notes : Adam Wallacavage
What artists or creative person has influenced you?
Antonio Gaudi, Louis Comfort Tiffany. As far as a creative person who has influenced me personally, I think most of my friends actually. Starting the art collective, Space 1026 in Philadelphia back in the day. All the people involved with that place were a huge influence.
Not including other artists or art, what inspires you?
Mysticism, Religion, Spirituality, Mystery, the ocean at night.
You clearly have a sharp witted sense of humor and have on occasion playfully embellished interview answers with outlandish descriptions of your home or experiences. To me this is further proof of your intensely creative mind and your desire to have a world more surreal and fantastic than is really possible. I can only assume these wild thoughts occur to you on a regular basis. Do you record your extravagant ideas in any manner?
I don’t like over thinking because I do it way too often on a daily basis. If I just forget about what I’m saying and write it down really fast, it just comes out that way. I’d rather be silly than serious because being serious is boring. I respect boring serious things because it is needed in the world, but I’m not good at it myself, kinda like figuring out math problems vs. decorating with Christmas lights. Someone needs to do.
What is the part of your process you enjoy the most?
Putting the chandelier together after finishing all the separate pieces and seeing it for the first time, that’s always fun!
… what is the least?
I don’t like doing detail work like sanding and I don’t like mixing the resins.
Your blog drops the hint that your upcoming show at Corey Helford Gallery, “Dreamhome Heartaches” is a nod to Roxy Music’s early 70s recording titled, “In Every Dream Home a Heartache” – is this true? Would you like to expand upon the meaning behind the themes of your upcoming show?
It’s not based on the song meaning so much but more on some of the words in the song and the times listening to music late at night in the house and being inspired. It’s about the idea of having this wonderful place but also having nothing. Love and loss and realizing what is truly important in life. Material objects and a pretty house are nothing compared to love. The past year was really intense and then it all evaporated just before I started working on this show.
You attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia (and majored in photography) and were a Navy Seabee (a member of the U.S. Naval Construction Force) so you have been taught to be resourceful and to think creatively. It is STILL impressive how adept you are at so many vastly different artistic mediums. Other than your formal training, what do you attribute to your ability to be so artistically versatile and curious?
My mom always asked me how I knew how to do this or that. I just answered by saying it only takes common sense and confidence. I don’t worry about messing things up. I think that if I can create something that entertains me, it will probably entertain someone else. I like my photography to be entertaining and I like my chandeliers to decorate a house. It’s not hard to make things that people like to see. Look at things that are pretty like flowers and pretty sunsets and mix it with whatever. Or make something that would look good in a photograph! I never thought of it like that but I probably do that a lot in my subconscious when I’m creating something.
I admire your desire to create objects of art that are also practical. This seems to lend itself to mass-production on some level. Much like we have seen done by Philippe Stark and Jonathan Adler, have you considered creating ‘affordable’ pieces that could be purchased by the public in boutique stores?
I’ve been thinking about doing something like that for a long time but these things are complicated. As I learn more each time I make something new, I’m getting closer to figuring it out. I think the first things I’ll make will be a line of baby toys such as mobiles and lighting fixtures for kids.
If you were NOT an artist, what would you be doing?
I’d be doing the exact same thing only I wouldn’t be calling myself an “Artist” I only use that term to be cool.
You may view more works by the artist at Adam Wallacavage’s website.
Thank you for your time, Adam!