Wendy Lee Gadzuk Rocks East Oakland
This Southern belle is a provocative practitioner when it comes to art and music.
She mixes music and art.
Courtesy Mike Rosati and Gadzuk
This story from our October issue will be available online Nov. 1. Copies of our print issue are available by calling 510-238-9101.
Blues music plays softly in Wendy Lee Gadzuk’s East Oakland studio, packed with well-worn and comfy furniture, rock memorabilia, a three-legged cat, and the raw materials of her mixed-media assemblages: animal remains, a bag of baby doll heads, old jewelry, and hardware she scavenged from furniture discarded by the roadside, stripped with a screwdriver kept in her purse for just that purpose.
She concedes to being from the South, “technically,” born below the Mason-Dixon line in Maryland.
Soft-spoken, bordering on demure, she has the unmistakable air of a Southern belle, despite her flaming red hair, full-sleeve tattoos, and provocative art.
The centerpiece of “This I Know to be True” is a turkey carcass from the first Thanksgiving she spent with her then-boyfriend’s family, painted in layers of acrylic wash. Exhibited at the Alameda Museum with Alameda Women Artists in 2010, it added “new energy and a different perspective,” according to AWA president Bonnie Randall Boller.
She created “The Sickness” for a group show at San Francisco’s Modern Eden Gallery earlier this year, adorning a birdhouse with lace, bones, female genitalia crafted in white leather, an ex-boyfriend’s hair, and her own menstrual blood—contained in glass vials—the piece illuminated from within by a glowing red bulb. “I’m at this age now where things are starting to change in my body,” she says. “It’s a reflection of both the physical and the mental states that we all go through that are natural and normal but can also be classified as being a sickness.”
Gadzuk earned her BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 1993 with a concentration in jewelry and metal smithing. When her jewelry was stolen from a gallery, she took the insurance money and bought a guitar. The rest was rock-and-roll history, with Gadzuk fronting several acclaimed bands, notably the post-punk folk-rock group The 440s. “That was like a new chapter,” she says. “I started doing the band, and touring, and putting out records, and focusing on that.”
She had an unfinished piece languishing for over a decade, “these cool metal hearts that represented different feelings I had about love and how it’s changed over the years. Guarded, and the inside is very soft.” Her cat gave her the nudge she needed … by urinating on it. “I took the piece apart and cut out some new leather pieces, and all of a sudden this whole flash of inspiration came. Everything came flooding back. That was when I started doing what I’ve been doing.”
Gadzuk now unites her art and music. She is currently working on a piece housed in a guitar case, and images of her work grace the CDs for her new band, Andalusia Rose. “For years I felt like my creativity had to be compartmentalized,” she says. “The music or the art. I couldn’t do both, or if I did they were both very separate from one another. I’m realizing now that it all comes from the same place.”
More work can be seen at WendyLeeGadzuk.com. She can be reached at Sparkle440@Comcast.net to schedule a studio visit.