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“You did that!?” is a frequent reaction Greg Wefing gets from people who know him as a house painter, a neighbor, a father or a Steelers fan. In his man cave, the basement of his house in Maple Springs, stunning woodscapes are stacked against the walls of his workshop. A sketch shows the nascent beginnings of the next project.
Like the waterwheel in one of his recent woodscapes, Wefing’s artistic life has come full circle.
He first studied fine art at Maple Grove High School, where Cecil Rhodes was the art teacher. Next it was the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, where he majored in Illustration. After a couple of years working as an illustrator in Houston, Texas, Wefing returned to Maple Springs, where he had grown up after his family relocated from Pittsburgh. That probably explains the Steelers fandom.
“I didn’t like being indoors,” Wefing said, so he started painting houses with one of his brothers. For the past 35 years, he’s run Greg Wefing Painting and Wallpapering, Inc., doing mostly residential work all over Chautauqua County.
His artistic background helps him assist customers with paint selection. “I tell them they don’t need a decorator,” he says with a laugh.
Wefing’s daughter, Carly, is working toward a Master’s in Guidance Counseling at Duquesne in Pittsburgh, and his son, Corey, the New York State champion in 800 meter track, is at Edinboro University. Now that the kids are out of the house, Wefing has taken up his artists’ brush again, along with some tape, glue, and a variety of wood chips, twigs, hunks, chunks and other materials he uses to create what Cecil Rhodes called “woodscapes.” Wefing has retained the name “woodscape” for his own work, along with a garage-full of bins, boxes, shelves and other containers of the natural substances that he bought from Cecil Rhodes’ brother after Cecil died.
“Cecil was a teacher, a boatbuilder, a craftsman and woodworker,” Wefing said. “After he retired he began creating the woodscapes. And Cecil taught me.”
Although they are landscapes made out of wood, grasses and other natural materials, from a distance the pieces look like oil or acrylic paintings – of barns, covered bridges, and other structures in nature. Only closer inspection reveals that these paintings have literally been built, almost like the structures they represent. Wefing starts with a rough sketch and then paints the sky. He uses tiny chips, or flakes, or pieces of bamboo, quill, scotch broom, bark and driftwood to create detailed scenes. They draw your eye and beg your touch.
The materials themselves are subtle, earthy and textured. Bins are labeled curry split bark, nugget, raw mahogany shaving curls, white punk, redwood warwood. The pieces of driftwood, broom straw and barks from beech and elm look reptilian and alive. Individually interesting, they are transformed and completed after Wefing arranges them with his meticulous eye and steady hand.
Sometimes a particular material inspires the work itself. Other times, Wefing knows the effect he’s trying to achieve and has to search for the specific object to capture his vision.
“Cecil’s woodscapes are more detailed than mine, more refined,” Wefing said. “They really look like paintings. I would say that mine are more rustic. I’m trying to keep them natural looking.”
Even though one taught the other, there is a difference between the mentor and the protégé’s work. If Wefing’s work is more rustic, as he says, it is also more experimental. When one looks, the skies are moodier, and there is a different sense of light, or more experimentation with light, in Wefing’s pieces. The colors and textures are perhaps a bit bolder, more striking.
Greg Wefing is just beginning to flex his artistic muscles. Although he will do work on commission – your house, your barn or your covered bridge! – his goal is to get into an art show or gallery. He will. Greg Wefing is changing his life, moving toward art, just as it is so perfectly described in this poem by Ranier Marie Wilke:
The Archaic Torso of Apollo
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
Wefing doesn’t have a website or Facebook page. People find him by word of mouth, mainly, though he wouldn’t mind a call at 716-665-8828. Visitors who may see him having a beer in his Steelers shirt, riding his bike or painting the neighbor’s house, may ask to see a picture of his latest piece, and then ask to see the original. Because, yes, he did that.