Dennis McNett’s woodblock prints, installations and sculptures are visual narrations of intricate mythologies and often inspire crowds to participate in elaborate outdoor rituals.
ART (inter) contributor Jilli Bean leads us in conversation with the artist:
JB: It is clear that your art is a result of a fierce imagination. Borrowing from Greek and Norse myths, Mexican muertos, and the animal kingdom, you have synthesized your own personal mythology into an idiosyncratic style that is deeply profound. What was your early childhood like growing up in Virginia Beach to inspire such a unique vision?
DM: I grew up by the ocean and used to surf and watch the water. I would get lost in the patterns across the waves, the texture of the sand, and the shoreline breathing in and out. When I was a teen I got into hallucinogens. I definitely had some altered reality experiences that probably influence some of my aesthetic and the way I view things. Skateboarding was a huge influence as well. The graphics, raw energy, music surrounding it, were all a huge influence. I got into a lot of trouble too.
JB: You once stated that you had a pet Timber Wolf from the ages of 18-20. Could you explain what it was like living with a wolf in Brooklyn and how this wolf inspired your work?
DM: I had my timber wolf in Virginia. I would never have even a dog in the city. It’s not fair. She was amazing. They are not like dogs. They are way more intelligent, aware of your every mannerism, consider you pack, and are very expressive in their actions. When she was angry or intimidated she wouldn’t growl or bark like a dog. She would through her front feet down, bristle up the fur on her back, roll her lips up to expose her teeth, and be dead silent. When she was calm, she would look like she was in trance. I’ve just always connected and have been drawn to wolves.
JB: You have orchestrated incredible happenings/ performances/parades around America including resurrecting Nordic giants on West Broadway, Dragon slaying in Oklahoma, and Parades of Viking Ships and spirits in Philadelphia and Kansas City. If you had unlimited funds to create something in the Lower East Side what would you produce?
DM: Wow. That would be amazing. I would probably orchestrate a huge ceremonial parade that encompassed all ethnicities, cultures, and walks of life from the LES. A moving breathing art piece that anyone could contribute to and that pulsed with music, howls, and dances. Maybe it would end in a Wolfbat ceremony with fire….. a cleansing of sorts with huge movable sculptures, floats, handmade everything (maybe from workshops with kids leading up to it), masks, drumming, and chaos.
JB: A lot of your work draws from nature, what is it about the urban environment of New York that keeps you here and inspired?
DM: I ask myself that daily and never really come up with a good answer. Something about this place pushes me to do more, better, and evolve. It’s so tough trying to live here off of my work, but I don’t know that I could get the same opportunities or energy elsewhere. I also leave here quite often.
JB: Your work often captures the spirit of close friends and admired figures. How do you envision your spirit to be captured?
DM: You can’t capture a Wolfbat. They are never still, kinetic, and cut through time like hot knife through butter.
Dennis McNett: wolfbat.com