Art History Interview with Manuel Wilhite

12 / 26 / 2012

Earlier this year, Manuel Wilhite, an aspiring artist and student at Full Sail University contacted me through the site for an interview for a report covering art history. I thought it would be interesting to share the transcript since I went a bit deeper into art than I usually get on the site.


What do you see as the role of the visual arts in our mass-mediated world and particularly in your profession?

youtube era 300x300 Art History Interview with Manuel WilhiteVideo is the new photo. With internet speeds climbing every year, even mobile phones can be a place to watch high definition video. This convenience factor will be similar to what the mp3 has done for music. However, I feel visual content reigns over audio because it is much easier for the consumer to sense the value of spending top dollar to watch a movie at the theater as opposed to on their mobile phone. I don’t see the movie industry taking a hit like the music industry due to the scope of projections which are getting bigger and bigger.

“Seeing is believing” sounds cliche, but with the user it is very true. Hearing rumors about something that happened isn’t as satisfying until you see the visual evidence in the form of a photo or even better yet a video. Visual arts is pretty broad, but it all comes down to capturing everyday emotions that people can relate to or foreign emotions that people are interested in. I feel that natural, unrehearsed art is the best and with technology advancing, it is much easier to capture this art on a whim.

With new communications and media technologies, imagery is almost instantly available. Do you believe that this is having a positive or negative influence on the industry (provide example)?

The digital camera brought photos to another level by bypassing the developing stage and making images easier and faster to share. Also, achieving a good photo is becoming very affordable and more mobile with smartphones like the iPhone that can create good images with little to no photography experience. At first glance, this may seem like “Oh no, the regular people are going to take our jobs” from a photographer standpoint, but I feel like it is not what you use, but how you use it.

A lot more clients are electing to shoot images or video themselves to save a few bucks and this only makes the pool of creators larger. However, I feel it is positive overall because we are getting more diverse content which increases the quality on the top of the spectrum. Finding the quality among the quantity is where consuming art can be more of a challenge. These new technologies make it easy to be good, but it is still as hard to be great. It comes down to the desire to improve your work and effort put in instead of the tools you have.

What popular images do you see that are frequently rechanneled throughout the entertainment industry?

duchamp fountain 253x300 Art History Interview with Manuel WilhiteSuccess and failure are two emotions that everyone can relate to. Everyone wants to be successful and everyone know how it is to fail. Overall, I see a correlation between what people desire and what people have a disinclination for. On both ends, the images are provocative and trigger more emotion than images that don’t show cause-and-effect. For example, I feel Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” which is just a signed urinal was so provocative because the subject is familiar to everyone, but also widely detested. Defining art is subjective and the underlying emotional triggers are what makes the art effective, not the physical properties of the subject.

Who is one of your favorite visual artist/s, and or what is your favorite style of visual art?

Design is more nameless than video and audio so I can’t say I have many favorites nor do I want to put labels on individual art pieces. There are many art pieces I like that inspire me, but I try to keep the identity of the piece themselves as standalone pieces instead of part of a collection.

emma watson martin schoeller 240x300 Art History Interview with Manuel Wilhite

For photography, I have been following Martin Schoeller’s work lately. His bountiful face portraits of celebrities are what he’s known for and I like how the subject’s eyes stand out even in a blank stare. However, I have found his non-studio shots to be even more interesting. It’s as if he takes a famous subject and finds a way to put him or her in the most random location based on what you already know about them.

For video, I feel it is easier to put a label on the pieces as a collection. I follow Colin Tilley partly because he is a local guy who I saw come from where I was as an amateur and emerge as the top music video director in the hip hop and pop industry. I like how when you see the video after hearing the audio, it fits well, but it’s not really predictable.

For movies, Quentin Tarantino breaks all the rules before they become rules. I always strive to be the first to do something new that many will follow and try to duplicate. My favorites like the Kill Bill’s and Pulp Fiction all have that look and feel to them that really sunk in. I like how he takes odd camera angles to capture a scene in a different way which breaks the rules, but complements the content of the story to where it is justified and better than a conventional approach.

How has your knowledge of famous artworks influenced your creative process?

One approach that I feel I differ with a lot of artists is that when I really like a piece I try to soak in the subliminal feeling or emotion in the piece and try to channel that in a way that has nothing to do with the shot. I see a lot of artists see something they like and then try to copy the look without being noticed. When I see a piece that’s amazing, I think “well, too bad I can’t do it like that anymore.” I feel like the main goal for me is to come up with the piece that unimaginative artists will want to steal. When I see others copy my work it is frustrating at first, but deep down it is the ultimate satisfaction because that is where I want to be.

However, I do value seeing someones art and twisting the art in an obvious way to a new meaning. Without it being obvious or having a new meaning is copying. Stealing is when you at least give the translation a new identity.


“Bad artists Copy. Good Artists Steal” – Picasso

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