Avery Wheless | Los Angeles Debut Solo Exhibition 'So does everybody else'

On view through December 17th, 2022.

Written by

Bella Gadsby

Photographed by

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Styled by

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Installation view courtesy of SEASONS LA

Having a body, particularly a female body, is a horrifically gorgeous, agonizingly terrible, and exceptionally beautiful experience. To have a female body is to know hurt, know pain, and know what it is to be acutely and consistently aware of one’s own form. This grotesque dance of being alive, of having a female body is exaggerated, celebrated, and put on display in Avery Wheless’ first LA solo exhibition at SEASONS LA, “So does everybody else.”

Wheless’ take on the human form is equal parts adoration and horror. As we talked on a call earlier this month, her voice comes gently through the phone as she grapples with the push-and-pull of what it means to have a body, or as Wheless puts it, “The problem of having a body.” Throughout our call, something becomes obvious - it’s not that Wheless doesn’t want to have a body. Instead, what frustrates, ignites, and inspires her is the idea of it constantly being on display. We do not get to choose when to be on display or even if our bodies are on display. We are simply perpetually visible. On a warm November day, I stand amongst several other women who listen closely as Wheless guides us around the larger-than-life paintings studded across the gallery walls. Enter the exhibition and you’re immediately immersed. This is by design. Set to a score composed by Dylan Brosnan, surrounded by painted figures, the viewer's body instantly becomes a part of the everchanging figurative dance that prompts Wheless' work.

Wheless at SEASONS LA, photographed by Bella Gadsby

“So does everybody else” seeks to display the truth of having a female form. While the bodies on the walls offer an intimate glimpse into interior moments, Wheless emphasizes this point: You’re not taking anything by looking at them. They are exposed as you are exposed, two figures looking at one another. Unlike the world out there, this world is for observing - not taking.

Wheless in her studio, photographed by Bella Gadsby

“It’s gory to have a body,” Wheless says as her hands motion to a painting of a figure leaning against a rock. The figure is clad in a black bikini, her body twists away from the viewer. From a distance, the piece “Looking Back, Moving Forward” feels whimsical and light. As one draws near, a series of red strokes compose the face. Wheless smiles, “It’s almost scary, right?”, I nod. This translucency of the interior fascinates Wheless.

Wheless at Seasons LA, photographed by Bella Gadsby
Held together, 2022

“Sometimes you have to be performative in your life, you know?” Wheless says to the group I’m with. “You have to be so giving of yourself to make others comfortable.”
The bodies on the walls, however, are not trying to please. As with all of Wheless’ work, the paintings are beautiful, but there’s something else in this set of work that separates it from past paintings. A red heat glows from faces, bodies, hands, the backs of heads. There’s a persistent intensity and strength. The paintings are large. Very large. The brushstrokes are decisive, often broad. The larger-than-life bodies unapologetically take up space. In places the paint is translucent, seemingly saying see us for all we are.

Looking Back, Moving Forward, 2022

Dance, in particular ballet, was the first place Wheless became acutely aware she had a body and that this body was on display. While ballet is notoriously visually stunning, it comes with a grueling underbelly. Ballet was the first place where Wheless endured the grisley in order to create something beautiful. Wheless drew on this experience for “Lyrical Exposure,” a short film that joins this body of work as a moving painting. A few months ago, I shot video content of Wheless as she danced against a darkening sky. Wheless took this content along with writings and Brosnan’s score to dancer and childhood friend Danica Marsh to develop choreography that would become this moving painting. Videographer Corey Rood captured Marsh in a series of movements across a variety of sweeping landscapes. In keeping with
the rest of the exhibition, this piece breathes undeniable strength. No matter how large or vast the plane, Marsh demands the viewer’s attention. Her delicate movements command power and space. Strength is not at odds with her female form, it emboldens and underlines it.

Looking Back, Moving Forward, 2022

The group of women and I look up at Wheless’ figures. “They’re almost like guardian angels,” someone says. Wheless smiles, “yeah, they are.”

I leave the exhibit and write this poem:
I am burning red, hot
can’t you
won’t you? see my insides
or are my outsides (once again) the thing

The thing could have just as easily been a butterfly or a worm
if a few atoms, particles went a little differently
as it turns out
I am a Woman
and I have a body
Oh, baby!
I am sorry to say, I have hated this body
for aches, pains, blemishes and the like
But if I didn’t have ugly
then, I wouldn’t have a body
I am learning, you see
To live with(in) my body. beautiful body.

“So does everybody else” is currently on view at Seasons LA through December 17th, 2022.

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Avery Wheless, SEASONS LA