Kurt Wenner attended Rhode Island School of Design and Art Center College before working for NASA as an advanced scientific space illustrator. In 1982 he left the NASA to pursue his passion for classical art and moved to Rome, Italy where he learned and experienced from the masterpieces first hand.
When asking him how it all started, Wenner reveals how he needed a way to make ends meet:
“For six I spent eight hours a day drawing and learning from paintings and sculptures. At first I sold the studies to tourists and museum guards, but it did not cover my expenses. I did not speak Italian and had no permission to work in the country. One day, I saw a street painting and asked the artist what he was doing. He explained the tradition of street painting in Europe to me, where it was a traditional form of folk art. After viewing my museum drawings he asked if I’d like to paint the head of an angel while he went to lunch. At the time, it was not a sophisticated art form, and my drawing skills were more than sufficient in order to distinguish myself. Working with the chalks came very naturally, and from that point on I’ve been street painting.”
Ever since, it became his mission to rediscover classical art and communicate it to the contemporary audience. He experimented with traditional paint media such as tempera, fresco, and oil paint, and over time became a master of this art form, winning numerous gold medals at European competitions. In 1984, Wenner finally invented an art form himself, which has come to be known as anamorphic or 3D pavement art. Anamorphism was already used by the great European Masters to give the illusion of soaring architecture and floating figures in ceiling frescoes. However, in Wenner’s art form compositions appear to rise from, or fall into the ground. While in traditional anamorphic perspective painted forms appear correct when viewed from one point in space, Wenner’s geometry corrects the specific distortion caused by viewing his large images at an oblique angle. This type of geometry has come to be known as Wenner’s hyperbolic perspective.
Being a firm believer in arts education, Wenner taught more than a hundred thousand students over a 10-year period for which he received the Kennedy Center Medallion in recognition of his outstanding contribution to arts educations. In addition to teaching, he has lectured at corporate events and conducted seminars and workshops for organizations ranging from the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institution to Disney Studios, Warner Bros. Studios, Toyota, and General Motors.
He is now working on several new projects which will have unusual geometry. He enjoys using multiple surfaces to create single illusions and is currently moving in the direction of creating illusions as permanent installations for interior spaces. For more information check out www.kurtwenner.com.
All images © Kurt Wenner