IMAGINED AND REAL

by CONNIE DUFNER / photography by HOLGER OBENAUS

Marsh King, Oil on linen, 48″ x 60″

FOR WILFRED SPOON ART HAS BEEN a lifelong passion. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he grew up painting. He earned an undergraduate art degree at East Carolina University, then went on to Parsons for his master’s degree.

“I had the New York art world at my fingertips,” says the Charleston artist. “I’d go to museums two to three times per week in addition to studying at the school.” As he studied with painters and mentors at Parsons, including Paul Resika, Leland Bell and Robert De Niro Sr. (the actor’s father) and other visiting artists, his formal education gave him confidence to begin to forge his own way.

Linville Falls, Oil on canvas, 36″ x 48″

“Once I had gotten on a path of trying to learn the formal materials, methods and tools of painting, such as light, color, value and composition, I realized that rules could be broken,” he says. “The rules are just guidelines once you let yourself become part of the process; every artist sees that differently.”

This epiphany continues to infuse his work. “I don’t have to look at the world literally,” he says. “I try to convey the experience of what I see, rather than copy what I see. That to me is really exciting.

I don’t have to see a still life to paint a still life. A lot of times a still life isn’t an apple next to an orange but a color next to a color. You can energize a place in a painting by the juxtaposition of passages of color.”

Still Life With Pineapple, Oil on linen, 30″ x 40″

Spoon describes his work as “primitive representationalism,” influenced by early American art and primitivism, Gothic and pre-Renaissance painting. Of particular inspiration to him is Henri Rousseau, “whose view was more dreamlike, rather than a literal interpretation.”

The artist’s style is constantly evolving. What’s satisfying to him is knowing that he is creating as he goes along. “I can manipulate light, color, proportion and relationships by using the tools that an artist has at his disposal,” he says.

While pursuing his painting career, Spoon encountered a practical problem: finding beautiful and appropriate frames for his work. “When I first started, I couldn’t afford nice picture frames. So, I started making frames on my own using a vise and miter saw, and over time I learned more and more,” he says.

Night Watch, Oil on linen, 42″ x 32″

His skills earned him a job in a frame shop in San Francisco, where he lived for 10 years, and ultimately to owning his own shop in Charleston, Carolina Fine Art Framing in the historic Faber House. “I love handmade museum-quality frames, and that has been an accompanying business to my painting,” Spoon says.

Whether finding joy in interpreting the world through his painterly eye or enhancing the experience of art through a custom frame, Spoon continues to evolve his own work and share his passion.

Still Life Nocturne, Oil on linen, 20″ x 24″

“From the beauty, mystery and balance of the natural world around me to the most mundane collection of items in a still life, this world shows me something amazing every day,” he says. “Often, I fail to appreciate the world through a lack of mindfulness, and painting can be a useful meditation and therapy to reconnect with myself and my
surroundings.”*

Freelance writer and editor Connie Dufner is a proud Texan transplant living in Washington, D.C. She is a former editor for Modern Luxury Dallas and The Dallas Morning News who has been covering interiors journalism since 2001.