December 2012

Scene4 Magazine: The Art of David Wiley | December 2012 |

Sometimes a person gets more than his share of talent, and David Wiley is a person like that. I first mentioned David Wiley to Scene4 readers in 2004, as an inspirational preface-writer and journal-keeper (see here). In October , readers of Scene4 "met" David Wiley as the author of the story, "The Devil Tree," and in November, as a poet. I have a particular interest in artists who work in more than one medium, and in this context, I've been astonished by Wiley's work for over twenty years—knowing him first as a painter, and then as a poet. I am pleased to introduce you to these two gifts of his together: here is an Appreciation I wrote about his work, followed by a selection of his paintings and then of his poems.



Wiley the shaman-poet is not the shaman in a trance; rather, Wiley is fully awake, clambering to be more awake still, and to touch, to connect: Kansas, Wyoming, Paris, Africa, Mexico; the Trojans, the Toltecs, TV, pinball. Wiley the seer-poet is not Rimbaud the seer-poet entering torments of madness to reach the unknown; instead, Wiley enters mysteries, miracles and an exotic merriment to make a conscientious inventory at the far-reaches of everything that can be known, to record raw experience shaped but not mitigated by refined thought. Artaud signaled to us through the flames; Wiley calls us to our own surprising world, full of gleaming and dusty domes, strange and familiar animals, lush and languishing landscapes. Wiley's poetry has the extended line of the ancient incantation, the sensual speech rhythms of Whitman, the intrepid rhythms of the car engine the Beats took to the road.


The ink drawings: deceptively random squiggle-mazes and arabesques from which emerge celestial or outlandish beings and locales, the improvisational line informed by long investigation. The paintings: hardly flowers, figures and dwellings at all, but their essences, their forms outlined by a black line like litmus that reacts to life energy.  These being-objects are oxygenated not by breath, but by color. The absence of any apparent brush stroke gives the eerie impression that the areas of delectable, ringing color have arrived directly from within the artist, without recourse to mere brush.  The shiny surface Wiley has developed tells us the atmosphere these inhabit is not our own.  


David Wiley stands firmly in the tradition of artists who work in two or more media.  Painter Wassily Kandinsky wrote that all arts stem from the same root, and that his remarkable poetry was simply "a change of instrument": "—the palette put aside and in its place the typewriter."  This change suggests the synesthete's ability to experience correspondences between the different senses ("All scents and sounds and colors meet as one." – Correspondences, Baudelaire). Kandinsky was himself truly synesthetic; Wiley at least works as if he is one.  When I read Wiley's poetry or see his paintings, I feel as if I might become synesthetic, too.

Lissa Tyler Renaud


Scene4 Magazine: The Art of David Wiley | December 2012 |
View of Village with Clock Tower


Scene4 Magazine: The Art of David Wiley | December 2012 |
The Enigma of Contemplation


Scene4 Magazine: The Art of David Wiley | December 2012 |
Nature Girl


Scene4 Magazine: The Art of David Wiley | December 2012 |
The New Mascot


Scene4 Magazine: The Art of David Wiley | December 2012 |
Anthropophagus Hornyfooted Goatsbeard


Scene4 Magazine: The Art of David Wiley | December 2012 |
Fruit and Bird



An Artist's Instruction to Himself

Let nothing that seems to be remain
if it isn't what it really is.
Shade all the white parts, columns
and sidewalks, ledges and lintels,
the dancer's eyes after blinking.

Darken leaves of bushes, balcony,
tether rings and poles; lighten space
under the door, green in the water.
Open the sky a little more
so the sun can
freely maneuver.

Raise the angel's wings higher, lengthen
the bridge; blend the seams
in the flat places. Whatever
must be done do it
now before the light vanishes.

Four American Haikus

The sun opens a pine cone and
out tumbles the dark seed blinking.

On the mountain the snow grows thin
as the stream grows fat.

Ten thousand leaves fall
and I only have two eyes.

At the bottom of the pond
minnows hide from something
ninety-three million miles away.

River Crossing

The trail plays hide & seek
with the sound of the rushing water.
Every green door opens with a light touch.
Every room is filled with sunbeams.
Here is the river,
the bridge made of tree material,
sinewy like a tight muscle
pulling continents together.
Over the river lies a history of animals.
Half way across I feel hypnotized:
the roar of the water,
the swaying of the bridge,
the brilliance of the sun,
my dry mouth.
Let there be fish in the pools!

You Were My Epiphany

I think the body knows
that its own enlightenment
takes form and substance
at the moment the mind
dissolves into flesh

at the instant the winds
from the vast interiors of the soul
spring forth to open
the countless apertures of the skin
and sing with a million voices
caressfully blended
into the colors of thought
without thought

a million ears listening
to the echoes of a lifetime
filled with dreams of yeses.

You were an unlikely vision
a book thrown into the fire
and all the words
rising to paradise together

I saw you perform
I was your accomplice

I saw that light
at the center of the heart
where blood is mixed with essences
known only
in the language of our fingers

That light in your eyes
when we melted into BEING
still illuminates my sadness.

I remember how you began to unfold
like the vague designs
imagined in the black emptiness
at the beginning of time

how they began at last
to explain themselves
the why and the how
the paths perfectly taken
the odysseys of sun and moon
the birth of a whale

how everything appears and disappears
how the sky and the ocean
are old lovers
forever looking at eachother
in eachother's mirrors

and how your smile
erased a thousand years of war
of death and pain
plague and famine

how all of history
was a preparation
for that moment
when two spirits fused
a universe ended
and another one was born

how the music we made
was a true form of magic
as powerful as a nova
as peaceful as the deep sleep
of a forest

how we tried to continue
floating forever
on a stream to an unknown sea
lying naked under the sun
on a raft made of touches
while the whole of nature
silently watched

our mind's tongues
testing and probing
with the various flavors of life.

The Language of Color

Only when the Darwinian greenery
began to unfold in the basements
            of God's institutions,
tossing off the little seeds
            that used to stick in the
            bulbous craws of the blue goats
            in my dreams,
only then were there also blossoms
            posing as eyes
            posing as noses
            posing as tongues,
            waiting for the machinery to stop.

When the light began
            to dance underwater
and the glaucous fingers
            of time uncurled,
muttering in the sunpowered babble
            known to hummingbirds
            known to the fine skeletal
            antennae of cobalt fish
            (the pale shadows of mermaids)
            known to herds of anemones
            glowing with an inner light
            impossible to reproduce,
then the wheels began to spin,
our grandfathers waved their
            personal flags in the dark,
petals unfurled in the rhythmic heat,
and sparks of color became
            the true food of the soul.

Cover Photo: "Wiley at Reyna's," Alamos, Mexico. Winter 2006. Photo by Robin Hiersche

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©2012 Paintings and Poetry-David Wiley
©2012 Publication Scene4 Magazine

David Wiley, painter-poet: graduate of U. Kansas; studied in Mexico and with artist Ignacio Belen in Barcelona. Widely traveled, he exhibits throughout California and abroad. Wiley has published two volumes of poetry: Designs for a Utopian Zoo (1992) and The Face of Creation (1996). Ongoing since 2005, Wiley has received mural commissions in Arizona, Mexico and California. A book about his work, The Poetry of Color, is in progress.


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©2012 Text-Lissa Tyler Renaud
©2012 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Lissa Tyler Renaud, Ph.D., has taught acting, voice, directing and art theory in the U.S., Asia, Mexico, and in Russia in 2010 and 2011. Renaud is co-editor of the international Critical Stages webjournal (UNESCO culture sector) and The Politics of American Actor Training (Routledge 2009/2011). She is also known for her recitals of unusual and neglected texts.
For her other commentary and articles, check the


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