Wikstrom's art earns trip to the White House
Magnolia News, Gary McDaniel June 3, 1989
"You asked me to call you if anything significant came along", came the voice out of my telephone receiver during a recent conversation. Well -- I'm going to be at the White House on June 15th."
"That's interesting all right" I replied, "uh, who is this?".
"It's Brom -- Brom Wikstrom -- I'm the artist you talked to in the bakery a few weeks ago". If you're a careful News reader, you may already know that Wikstrom will be a part of the International Very Special Arts Festival that was held in Washington, D.C. June 14 - 20.
Very Special Arts is an educational affiliate of the Kennedy Center that was founded by Jean Kennedy-Smith in 1974 and sponsors many local, national and now international festivals.
I decided that I needed more information than a simple phone call would reveal so I drove over to Wikstrom's combination house/studio to continue the interview and to look at some of his recent work. The front door was wide open and the smiling, bearded artist welcomed me inside to view some of his work, which was spread out on a table.
"My work is an expression of the way I'm feeling and the way I'd like things to be", Wikstrom told me. "It's a powerful witness and landmark of my progress as a person".
Wikstrom works with a cubist technique of painting that reduces many natural forms to their geometrical equivalent. He readily admits Picasso was an early influence. What amazed me was the detail and gradual tones of shading employed as he moved across the many segments of each panel. Wikstrom works in pencil and watercolor.
"I can't remember a time when I was not producing some sort of art", Wikstrom said. He cites his father's influence as perhaps the strongest in his art career.
"He once ran an independent art service that I worked as his assistant at, and then he became art director of a large packaging firm down in Tukwila. He was my harshest critic at times, he knew when I was just goofing off".
Wikstrom graduated from Queen Anne High School in 1971. He produced pictures for the yearbook during both junior and senior years, and he then enrolled in commercial art courses at Seattle Central Community College. After college he went to work as a sign painter. Later he sought to satisfy the travel bug by taking numerous short trips to California and the midwest. He even worked processing seafood in the far reaches of Alaska for awhile.
The travels continued until mid-July of 1975 when Wikstrom miscalculated the depth of water he was diving into in the Mississippi River in New Orleans. The accident injured his spinal column, leaving his unable to use his legs entirely and his hands and arms almost completely.
Wikstrom never considered the possibility that he would no longer be able to create the art which for so long had been a central part of his life. He went through a painful period of adjustment. Relief finally came when he began to see some inprovement in the quality of the pictures he produced holding the pen or brush in his teeth.
The artist gained confidence with the mouth painting technique he developed and decided to share what he had learned with others. Soon he was voluteering at Children's Hospital and working with young patients who, in many cases, were much more disabled than he. Wikstrom found that the strength of spirit demonstrated by the young patients was a source of inspiration that helped him to reform and fulfill his new goals in art, goals to use forms of non-verbal therapy to reach special populations and help them think positively about themselves.
When Wikstrom showed me a list of permanent art collections that feature his work, and the number of demonstrations he presents and other activities he's involved in, I felt like a slackard. He shouldn't be getting too much grief for goofing off.