Please join us to learn more about outsider artist and punk rock musician Wesley Willis who is one of the artists featured in our current exhibit “Show Off: People Who Collect”. Written and directed by Chris Bagley and Kim Shively, the documentary “Joy Rides” reveals the brilliance and struggles of this incredibly talented artist. “Show Off” Curator Peter Lemke will share stories of his experiences with Willis preceding the film. Your $10 donation at the door includes lecture, film, soft drinks and popcorn. A cash bar will also be available.
Born in Chicago in 1963, Willis grew up in Chicago’s projects as one of 10 children, spending time in several foster homes and essentially raised by two older brothers. By the end of the 1980s, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and institutionalized for two months.
During childhood, Willis developed an interest in art, and in 1988, he was featured in a Chicago public access documentary feature entitled Wesley Willis: Artist of the Streets. His ink and pen drawings typically encompass detailed Chicago streetscapes, including buildings, vehicles, trees, and landmarks. Willis was known for his ability to draw from memory a completely different location than the one in which he was sitting. After his death, Willis began to receive recognition in the art community for his large body of visual art. In 2008 his artwork was exhibited at the Mohamed Khalil Museum of Egypt.
He also recorded several solo albums and formed the punk rock band The Wesley Willis Fiasco. The band developed a popular underground following as well as attention from musicians such as Eddie Vedder, Henry Rollins, Mike D., Jello Biafra, and the members of White Zombie; He went on to record numerous solo albums of novelty rock, toured frequently, and was profiled on MTV and was a guest on The Howard Stern Show.
Willis died due to complications from chronic myelogenous leukemia in 2003.