Charleston artist Wilfred Spoon has always had a love for the visual. Immersing himself in picture books, maps and paintings since youth, he was fascinated with studying how shapes interact. Eventually, he found he had a natural talent for painting and representing visual images. Spoon turned his talent into a full-time career after earning an MFA from New York City’s renowned Parsons School of Design. Inspired by Gothic frescoes and panel paintings, medieval art and the paintings of the cubists, surrealists and abstract modernists, his creative process varies and is informed by his subject matter.
“I often use influences from nature, but my artistic influences are vast,” says the artist. “I have a special affinity for primitive art and folk art, and movies and stage are also great inspirations. Sometimes I look at my paintings as set design, and I respect the liberties that stage and movies take in lighting design.”
Working in oils of various sizes, Spoon’s compelling subject matter includes birds and animals, nature scenes, still life, cityscapes, interiors and pet portraits. His intensely pigmented compositions, which are often infused with whimsy and his own imaginative perspective, immediately draw the viewer in for a closer look. Most of the pet portraits he’s created are commissioned—though he’s also painted his own dogs—and he sometimes likes to interject his subjects into fantasy landscapes. He also enjoys painting birds and other fauna in landscapes that are often based on Lowcountry settings. During his creative process, Spoon allows his imagination to compose rather than represent reality literally. He approaches his still lifes in a similar manner and notes that they are typically not literal representations.
“I tend to want to manipulate scale, perspective, color and light to create an idea of a still life,” Spoon says. “Taking liberties with the rules of art is possibly my favorite part of painting. You can break the rules of painting and reality—the surrealists were famous for breaking the worlds of reality, as were the cubists. Of course, there are no real rules of painting, but I can let my imagination dictate what I paint rather than what I actually see.”
In addition to his artwork, Spoon also owns Carolina Fine Art Framing, a custom picture framing business located in Faber House, one of Charleston’s exquisite historic landmarks on East Bay Street.
“It’s a wonderful historic mansion not far from the city’s well-known Cigar Factory,” says the artist. “Customers are surprised and elated to find my ground-floor gallery in such a magnificent building. I have an extensive collection of antique reproduction frame samples, which fit well with the city’s historic tradition. I also design frames that are more modern and have a wide collection of modestly priced frames.”
When he’s not painting or designing frames, Spoon participates in art events throughout various communities in South Carolina. He has been a participant in ArtFields in Lake City for several years and has recently been offered a solo exhibition at the Sumter County Gallery of Art in Sumter, which will run from February 24 through April 22, 2022.
“My paintings are not for everyone, but when an audience connects with my work, I can’t help but feel I’ve done my job,” says Spoon. “Of course, it’s the greatest compliment when someone is willing to pay for a piece. Painting is definitely cathartic, though it can have its periods of frustration—similar to writer’s block. It’s thrilling to have an audience, but I don’t relish the attention of a gallery opening. I like to let the work speak for itself.”
Spoon is available by appointment only.*
Jeanne de Lathouder currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama, where she works as a freelance writer for books and publications across the country. Contact her at email@example.com.