Stick Vega Bio
I work with high-speed fuse and gunpowder to create primitive, modern and explosive art. My “pop” expressionism paintings originate in ancient drawings, graphic art, and emotional observations. Through a process of laying fuse, gunpowder, stencils, paint, and scraping I create my paintings in a sudden burst of energy that unites the shapes, color and texture. I believe that when the fuse is lit, there is anticipation. Anything might happen. It is at that moment that true art exists.
I was born in Viroqua, Wisconsin and studied at the University of Wisconsin - Madison receiving a BS in Economics and Mathematics. In 1988, I obtained my MBA from Edgewood College. For over 20 years I was owner/CEO of WinterSilks and President of Venus Sportswear.
With a staff of over four hundred people and sales of over one hundred million dollars, I was increasingly stressed with constant pressure, meetings and the greed of venture capitalists. In the mid-90's I began painting with acrylic as a way of escape. In 2006, I discovered the use of gunpowder and high speed fuse to burn and char artworks through the work of Cai Guo-Qiang. I traveled to China to observe his techniques. Later that year, I sold my companies, retired as CEO, and exploded my first piece of art.
To improve, I studied the science of gunpowder. I mixed salt peter (potassium nitrate), sulfur, and charcoal. I learned burn rates, temperatures, and how humidity and wind speed change the transformation into art. I blew things up!
The more I created, the more I learned about the incredible history of gunpowder. Ancient Chinese alchemists discovered gunpowder while searching for eternal life. Ironically, gunpowder would become the basis of power for empires and for almost every weapon used in war. My mission solidified, “The more gunpowder I use, the less there is for killing people.”
I create and blog from my studio - The Blast Factory - in Madison, Wisconsin. I present my art, story and explosions at stickvega.com. I wrote and released my first book, LESS KILLING, in 2015. A portion of my sales each year go to the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence.
Stick Vega Artist Statement
I am best known for using gunpowder and high-speed fuse to create figurative and abstract paintings. In short, I blow things up. I hope they look cool. I hope they evoke emotion. I hope they depict the energy and chaos of the explosion. My style is often characterized as “Pop” expressionism.
My mission: “The more gunpowder I use, the less there is for killing people.”
My explosions transform popular themes such as income inequality, sexuality, nature and violence into conceptual and minimal art. These meticulously planned works burn and resonate with images culled from common objects and ancient drawings. My work is charismatic and systematic and has a warm (pun intended) and primitive imagery.
As a former CEO, my work often refers to pop and mass culture. Using paint, markers, gunpowder and high-speed fuse, a scraper and brushes, I create a world where light-heartedness rules and where rules are blown to bits. With a subtle minimalistic approach, I formalize chance and emphasize a conscious process of composition. My thought and work processes, which are supposedly private and highly subjective, I make transparent and are a blast. I want viewers to see and contemplate my work step by step.
My art features uncertain, accidental and unexpected connections due to the unpredictable characteristics of gunpowder. When I light the fuse. There is hope.
Combining drawings and paintings with fire and heat lead to surprising, energy-filled works. My art is created violently to reduce violence. I currently live and work in Madison, WI.