Bill Wheeler’s Secret Gallery
A Tale of Two Neighbors and a Common Love Of Art
I remember meeting Bill Wheeler sometime around August of 2014 outside his pip of a Cabin, №59 — a beautiful green cottage in the forest overlooking streams on both the front and the back. What I remember most was that he was wearing open-toed sandals in the canyon, a canyon where I was still pretty terrified of rattlesnakes as the newbie (once you do encounter them in the wild, the only thing I’ll share that’s absolutely true is that they are one-thousand times more freaked by you than the other way around).
We found out we were not only canyon neighbors but also neighbors In Real Life, he’s in Highland Park and I’m in Mt. Washington. East Side.
That introduction and discovery now meant that we bumped into each other a comical amount of times at the Mexican restaurant Villa Sombrero. Great guacamole. They haven’t officially named a Margarita on the Menu for Bill, but they should and his 70th birthday is coming up. Although you’d never in a million years know it. He’s a constant jet-setter and avid hiker and VW collector and master gardener and performer … and all this is during his retirement. I really love catching up with his adventures.
Fun Fact: Bill (aka Wm. Earling Wheeler when he paints landscapes) once stood on the back porch of his cabin and “watered a tree” only to find out he had just given a sleeping bear a surprise over the edge. Thus, he is the only man in the Big Santa Anita Canyon ever to have literally pissed off an Ursus arctos californicus.
As I got to know him, I also learned Bill was a talented and multi-faceted visual artist, and I had the pleasure of visiting him in his Spanish Moroccan house that was built in 1927 to get a tour of his studio. I was really blown away. This is the oasis.
All Bill’s pieces were deep, lean-in experiences. I was always being drawn in to the canvas, whatever the medium. His love and attention to the detail of the usually-unseen and eolian forces of lights and shadows was something I remembered clearly about seeing his work the first time that day.
Bill’s had a fascinating and international life and after we became friends I realized how deeply he also personally honors history. He is a great keeper of all things that need remembering, if that makes any sense? I think it also shows in his work, work I’m really excited is a part of this Spring Equinox show.
Yesterday, promptly at 8 AM, I met Bill again at his home, this time we had to quickly catch up over coffee and discuss the work at hand — to pick his artwork.
As we’ve been exchanging emails and texts and emoji over the last weeks getting ready, I sent him some ideas and photos for what I called “The Secret Bill Wheeler Gallery.” It would be in the old tool shed of my cabin.
I’m not allowed to say more about it at this time.
As I guarded the delicate and works in my car and drove home a hurried 45 mins later, I dreamt of Bill’s talented singing and my hope he just might croon with Ajax Moon if the cocktails and the mood strike him.
When he and I became friends on Facebook years ago now, there was only ONE SINGLE PERSON that popped up as a common connection between us … Jen Kays. The artist I sat in the cabin with and dreamed up this crazy idea in the first place. And they will both be there Saturday.
It strikes me that everything about this project has been “tiny” in scale — tiny dreams, tiny art, tiny space, tiny details, and truly tiny world we truly live in.