Wayne White is an American artist, art director, illustrator, puppeteer, and much, much more. Born and raised in Chattanooga, Wayne has used his memories of the South to create inspired works for film, television, and the fine art world. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University, Wayne travelled to New York City where he worked as an illustrator for the East Village Eye, New York Times, Raw Magazine, and the Village Voice. In 1986, Wayne became a designer for the hit television show Pee-wee’s Playhouse, and his work was awarded with three Emmys. After traveling to Los Angeles with his wife, Mimi Pond, Wayne continued to work in television and designed sets and characters for shows such as Shining Time Station, Beakman’s World, Riders in the Sky, and Bill & Willis. He also worked in the music video industry, winning Billboard and MTV Music Video Awards as an art director for seminal music videos including The Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Tonight, Tonight’ and Peter Gabriel’s ‘Big Time’.
More recently, Wayne has had great success as a fine artist and has created paintings and public works that have been shown all over the world. His most successful works have been the world paintings featuring oversized, three-dimensional text painstakingly integrated into vintage landscape reproductions. The message of the paintings is often thought-provoking and almost always humorous, with Wayne pointing a finger at vanity, ego, and his memories of the South. Wayne has also received great praise for several public works he has created recently, including a successful show at Rice University where he built the world’s largest George Jones puppet head for a piece called ‘Big Lectric Fan To Keep Me Cool While I Sleep.’
In 2009, Wayne’s life and career were chronicled in an incredible 382-page monograph, edited by Todd Oldham. The book features hundreds of images from Wayne’s earliest work as an illustrator all the way to his most recent fine art sculptures. Since the book’s release, Wayne has been traveling the country delivering an incredibly entertaining hour long talk where he discusses his life and work, while making time for a little banjo and harmonica playing.
“I started the word paintings about 17 years ago, and they stemmed out of the fact that I had gone back to painting for myself after years of set designing and puppeteering. I really needed to nurture the painting again, I’ve always loved painting. And of course all of those years of cartooning and storytelling, I eventually wanted to use words to tell little stories and write little poems and do little short narrative things, so the two kind of came together as the word paintings. I love typography, I love just the forms of letters, and I always have. Ever since I was a kid I used to draw letters even before I could read or write because I thought they looked liked people and characters and houses and things. And they are, that’s the origin of them – they’re just shorthand for the symbols of the world. They started as this visual shorthand and evolved into language. I was a sign painter too, as a kid. So the love of typography, wanting to tell a story, trying to find a way of painting that nobody else was quite doing (that’s how the thrift store things came in there, nobody else was really doing that), it all luckily just kind of came together.” – Wayne White (Dirty Laundry)