Roger Wheeler: Behind the Mask by Leslie Cossitt

This article originally appeared in the Winter 1997 edition of
The Phinney Ridge Review,

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If you attended the first PNA Carnaval last February, you probably remember the masks of Roger Wheeler. His collection of over 40 papier-mache, mixed media and cast bronze masks and sculpture range from the huge to the bizarre and the humorous. One of Roger's mask themes is Greek mythology. Several masks portray mythic characters such as Medusa. Wheeler began making masks in 1991 after 20 years as an abstract painter. He was inspired by his participation in the Fremont Solstice Parade.

In fact, Wheeler is one of the founding members of the Fremont Arts Council which organizes the annual parade, known for its pagan revelry and innovative community art. Wheeler was also involved in other FAC-sponsored projects such as the "Waiting for the Interurban" sculpture, the "Fremont Rocket" and the "Troll" under the Aurora bridge.

Wheeler is a Pacific Northwest native. In 1956, he moved to the Fremont neighborhood from Oregon. Since 1969, Wheeler's work has been shown in many Northwest galleries and festival events including exhibits at the Seattle Public Library and Shoreline Community College. One of Wheeler's largest works is the mural "Environments in Motion" painted on the side of the North 34th Street Building.

Wheeler's ink and acrylic works on paper are inspired by natural science. They pay homage to astronomy, microbiology, and the world of minerals. They seek to combine natural history and post-modern painting.

In January, Wheeler will be teaching a mask making class through the Phinney Neighborhood Association. Students will have an opportunity to learn his techniques and produce their own papier mache creation.