Since forming the platinum-selling band Tesla back in 1981, bassist Brian Wheat has had the opportunity to tour the planet many times over, visiting far-off lands and the sorts of exotic locales that most people merely dream of. The band’s acclaimed 1986 debut, Mechanical Resonance, set the course for decades worth of globetrotting for Wheat and company, and he appreciates the places that success has taken him.
“It’s why I starting photographing places on the road and sharing them on social media,” he told me. “To give people a taste of what the world is like out there, Bangkok, Hanoi, Tuscany; wherever we are, wherever we go, I like giving people a peek in the window.”
A number of years ago, noted rock and roll photographer Ross Halfin whetted Wheat’s appetite with the gift of a Leica camera, and there was no looking back. He began finding his eye, crafting his subjects and shooting wherever life, family or rock and roll took him.
This past weekend at the Wentworth Gallery at the Hard Rock Cafe & Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Wheats’ travel hobby reached an entirely new plateau with his first-ever gallery exhibit. Tesla fans showed up, but so did plenty of art lovers that were not even familiar with the band.
“That's what was really nice for me, said Wheat (who played a show with Tesla later in the evening). “There are people that actually bought several of the pieces that did not know the music. They were just there for the art. That felt really special to me and seeing pieces of my work get purchased was kind of like hearing my songs on the radio. It’s just a new kind of artistic expression I can share with people. And seeing my work alongside Peter Max was a trip.”
Wheat’s medium is a self-branded genre called “Enhanced Photography” which involves transferring an original digital photograph to canvas, then painting directly onto the photo with everything from acrylics, paint pens, watercolors and Sharpies to even charcoal. A clear finish gives each piece of work a final preservative touch as well as added texture. As to how the showing came to be, Wheat had been encouraged by Wentworth Gallery’s Christian O’Mahony last year aboard the Monsters of Rock Cruise. O’Mahony had arranged an on-ship exhibit by Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen, and Wentworth (which has 8 different gallery locations) has a colorful history of showcasing rock star-cum-artists from Ric Ocasek to Paul Stanley to Mickey Hart in addition to the aforementioned Allen. So it was a natural fit.
“Christian was very encouraging and instrumental in helping me develop this style. It’s really changed my life. Creating these pieces help me deal with the stress of being on the road with Tesla and anything else that comes up in life. I find creating this kind of art far less stressful than being a musician.”
One of Wheat’s signature creations is transforming Hofner basses into one-of-a-kind pieces of art by transferring his pictures directly on to the iconic, violin-shaped instruments popularized by Paul McCartney while playing in the Beatles. “I play a Hofner onstage for part of the Tesla shows,” he shared, “they have long been a part of my life and that’s why I wanted to include them in this first gallery exhibit.”
Wheat says he’s anxious to do more gallery exhibits and expand his visual repertoire. “I'm building a new studio at home down in Texas which will really give me an opportunity to explore more within this realm of “enhanced photography.” There is so much more experimentation that I want to do and I'm anxious to have the kind of dedicated space that will allow my art to evolve.”
For more information on Brian Wheat’s exhibits, Tesla tour dates and more visit here.
Enhanced Photography samples by Brian Wheat: