Patrick Hofmeister has a freezer full of bugs. His mom sends them to him from Arkansas. “They stink by the time they get here,” he said.
But some creepy entomological obsession it is not. Hofmeister, who goes by the artist name WäDL, is interested in the bugs’ intricacies, their super fine details and patterns. Four hexagonal honeycomb canvases covered in bug images are some of the pieces Hofmeister is showing in “Spiral: Art of the Street” at the Triton Museum in Santa Clara. “Spiral” is a group show with Jason Adams, Pez, and Nicole Repack a.k.a. Jocelyn Superstar. All four artists share an origin in street art.
Pez “still gets up” often, Hofmeister told me, meaning he’s still an active bomber and street artist in San Francisco. Hence, he was particular about his anonymity, about who met him and who knew his real name. Hofmeister himself had his origins as a street artist, but has now moved on to studio work exclusively. Although, to hear him tell it, graffiti was never a strong suit.
“At 17 I got back into art because of graffiti,” he said. “From 17 to 20 I was partying a lot.” (He’s still a dedicated house freestyle dancer today.) The graffiti on the walls at warehouse raves back then caught his eye. When asked what the best piece he ever threw up was, he laughs and says, “I was awful at graf. When I sat in my room doing stuff I got good.” The one piece he does remember though: “My friend and I did it around Christmas time. We must’ve been 18. We went down to the Santa Teresa light rail station and painted MERRY X-MAS on the bridge. It was big and ugly.”
At 20, Hofmeister became homeless and eventually wound up in a program at the Bill Wilson Center. The center bought him his first paint set, and there, he tried to stay out of trouble by staying in his room, teaching himself how to paint. Since middle school, drawing intricate patterns calmed him down and focused his mind. Now, he incorporated those patterns into his art, much the opposite of his “big and ugly” (though festive) graffiti work.
The four hexagonal patterned canvases make up only a small part of his piece of the exhibition. In the center of a curving wall at the Triton sits a huge, detailed painting on plywood, around it exploding rays of black and gray patterned wood. This large-scale piece is one of two works that have taken a year to finish. It’s a globe burning, curled about by branches/tentacles and flying prisms. In the center there’s a kind of layered cocoon, a shape that started out as a “grenade looking thing” then “a wasps’s ass.” Hofmeister paints over and over again, starting with a vague notion and exploring til the painting comes out the way it was meant to be.
“For me it’s about self-exploration. I can only do that through art. It’s like therapy,” he said. “You know maybe you have a bad day and you go out and hit the spot. What people see is the product of a moment. There’s so many things that’ve happened to me in these pieces.”