Joseph R. Wheeler, III Interview

Although this interview with Mr. Wheeler should need no introduction, I feel compelled to do so. It may seem odd for Art Crimes to feature an artist who wouldn't be considered a writer by normal standards, but after checking his credentials it was impossible for us to turn down his offer for an interview. Sometimes we need to look outside of our genre for inspiration, and if we are to do that we should look no further than "Joeism."
Peace and much respect...Brett
This interview was conducted via e-mail in 1996 mainly between Susan and Joseph and has been edited by Brett and Susan. All text © copyright 1997 Art Crimes and JOSEPH R. WHEELER, III, all images © 1997 JOSEPH R. WHEELER, III.

Please direct comments to JOSEPH R. WHEELER, III (

The Afro Gingerbread Man

The Night Before The Players Exam

Ignorance Needs No More Voices
and Thus Time Shall No Longer Defend

In Yo Face

JOEISM is a term that describes my vibe, the creative spirit that drives me, my theories about life, and the art and people I love. JOEISM as a term originally came about in my senior year at B.E. Mays High School (National School of Excellence). I had discovered the work of Salvador Dali in a new light. I had already known about Dali but I had actually begun doing research on him and the Surrealist Party.

I went in pursuit of knowledge about all of the Isms that had caught my attention in the past. This led me to understanding a lot about how modern art is interpreted. I had always known that art was compared to that which had come before it. I did not know how ridiculous criticisms were in reference to new ideas upon their first manifestations. This was so even toward those who were later praised and given their places in history for the rest of us to have to memorize in Art History classes. I was truly getting an idea of how I might be seen later on.

I did not want anyone else evaluating my work and simply stating that I was just a surrealist or an impressionist and on and on. I wanted to define me for me.

Joe was short for Joseph. Joe has always been considered the term that most use as a tool in communication to speak about the "simple". I'm the furthest thing from "Your average Joe". As a matter of fact, I have a euphemism to break this Ism down. That is "NYAJ" I'm NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE".

An Ism is defined in our friend Webster's stock to be - A distinctive doctrine, theory, system, or dogma. So basically, JOEISM changes and molds its self to my growth. It is my "divine order" of respecting and applying my influences to my work, it is my doctrine, my theories on art and life as I have lived it. Last, it could never be least, Joseph is a name of Kings from my roots in the East. I discovered that it means "He Shall Add To It". I apply this to my view of self. I am here to add to the legacy of the Wheeler family and to the legacy of my people as the wheel keeps on rolling. I am here to add to that which is truest, deepest, positively motivated, and spiritual in art.

To be an ARTIST - is to be a shell housing the power of spirits. We are the most powerful beings on Earth. Everyone has an artist in them, I feel. Some will never acknowledge what their art is. For those of us who were blessed to see it in us, we must nurture our talents. Those who dictate the world have always used, and will continue to use, art as a means of controlling minds. This is because art appeals to all of the senses. That which intrigues the senses relays beliefs and thought processes to the mind.

Art Crimes: How and when and where did you get into writing?

Joseph: I am the complete opposite of the average person in how graffiti became a part of me. Atlanta is a big city and it has always had the "I love..., trust in Jesus, Fuck this and that" graffiti, but real graffiti didn't come to anyone's attention until about 4 years ago. When I was growing up there were no throwups or burners on the streets like there were in New York and such. There were probably a handfull of graffiti artists doing anything resembling the artifacts of Hip Hop. So there were no role models if you will. My connection to writing back then would have been watching "Beat Street" and "Breaking" whenever I could rent them, or if they came on cable. My first acquaintance with someone that considered themselves a part of graffiti was a guy I met when I was a sophomore in high school. A fella that wrote D-nice. He showed me how to evaluate the composition of a wildstyle, and I guess I influenced him in realistic, figurative work. At the time I was heavy into fantasy art books and artists.

I never wrote Joeism publicly, at least not enough to get noticed. My lifestyle never catered to anything that would make it "real" for me to express myself in that fashion. I had a lot of support, I still do. I came up on paper and dry mediums. I later took on wet media. In Atlanta, we mostly drive because it's sprawled out. So I had no urges to tag up the MARTA (transit trains).

The entire concept of the so called "illegal" graffiti has always intrigued me, but not enough for me to try to play in a game where I don't have the cards or rules in my favor to win. Temptation has come to me, but it's not my arena. I have to fight this war from my perspective, as we all do, in striving to express the truth in our own unique ways. So to those that did it like that and do it like that, mo powa to ya!


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