Fellows Friday: Q&A with Brent Wahl

Brent Wahl, 2014 Pew Fellow. Photo by Ryan Collerd.

As part of our “Fellows Friday” feature, we focus on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges. Starting this week, we’re pleased to introduce the 2014 Pew Fellows, and to unveil their official portraits. Visit us each Friday to meet a new Pew Fellow and to learn more about his or her artistic practice.

We begin with visual artist Brent Wahl, who works primarily in photography and time-based mediums. Wahl transforms everyday materials and detritus into mesmerizing compositions, and his work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions at Philadelphia’s Vox Populi, as well as in group shows at London’s Tate Modern, Philadelphia’s Institute for Contemporary Art, and the Print Center in Philadelphia.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?

I have been involved in map making, encyclopedia sales, picture framing, waiting tables, advertising, editorial photography, and photographic ghostwriting. I do love the pairing that I have in my life right now, which is making art and teaching, but if I had to do something different, I think I would have been a musician, scientist, architect, or maybe something nutty that involves nature and survival. Maybe this is why I became an artist—I can incorporate or use any of this stuff whenever I want.

When did you know you were going to be an artist?

I fantasized about being an artist in elementary school, when I had this very inspirational art teacher. But if I had to choose a particular point in time, I think it became apparent when I was 19 and worked in the photographic division of a university science department. The very generous guy that I worked for gave me unlimited access to his darkroom and that was it—everything just exploded from there. I spent many all-nighters in that lab.

What images or things keep you company in the space where you work?

I have lots of little things around but I always have my picture of Glenn Gould, a postcard of this amazing Van Gogh drawing, an image of Yves Klein’s Leap Into the Void, a picture of my oldest friend and myself in Nepal crossing over the Ganjala Pass, and five different announcement cards from shows that I saw in the early ’90s: Bruce Nauman, Matthew Barney, Terry Adkins, Roni Horn, and Terry Winters—all artists that were very inspiring to me when I started my life in New York.

Which artist would you most like to have dinner with, from any time in history?

This seems like a question designed to torture me.


Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts exhibited the first career retrospective for this American figurative painter of African descent, born and educated in Philadelphia.

The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance launched this community outreach program in order to empower its member organizations to build relationships with local communities.

The Village will host two accomplished West African social practice artists, Kwasi Ohene-Ayeh and Olanre Tejuoso, during residencies in which they will collaborate with north central Philadelphia’s families to design and execute a public art project, nurturing a space for community members to creatively transform their physical landscape.

Grants & Grantees

Becky Birtha is a writer and a 1993 Pew Fellow.

Grants & Grantees

Fleisher Art Memorial is a community arts organization dedicated to the ideal that people of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds have a right to experience art.

Questions of Practice

We posed our questions of (co-)authorship to Goldsmith, a visual artist-turned-writer whose prose consists simply of re-typing existing information.

Published in 2001, Curating Now: Imaginative Practice/Public Responsibility documents a symposium that addressed the state of curatorial practice.

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage’s partnership with United States Artists (USA) allows Pew Fellows to participate in USA’s unique online fundraising platform to raise money and awareness about upcoming projects.

Located in Independence National Historical Park, the Independence Visitor Center is the official visitor center of Philadelphia and the region and is the primary point of orientation for Independence National Historical Park, the City of Philadelphia, and the Southern New Jersey and Delaware River Waterfronts, as well as Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties in Pennsylvania.

Grants & Grantees

Judith Schaechter is a sculptor and stained-glass artist, and a 1992 Pew Fellow.

The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia opened to the public in 1954 and is located in the former home of brothers Philip and Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach, international dealers in rare books, manuscripts, and fine and decorative arts.

On Monday, June 15, 2015, we announced and honored the 2015 grantees of The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage with a celebration at the Curtis Institute of Music.