We had the good fortune of connecting with Jacob Wheeler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jacob, what role has risk played in your life or career?
The choice of risk is one of the few choices that mankind gets to make everyday. There are levels of risk; risk that you are sometimes consciously ignorant to, like eating greasy foods or deciding when to pull out into traffic. There are bigger risks, like deciding to have surgeries that have no guaranteed outcome, and are dangerous. Whether or not these surgeries cure you, you are sure to have longterm internal damage done because of the invasiveness of all of those surgeries. Yet… we may risk it all for the cure. Then there are those like me who risk it all for the ride, the story, the substance. After awhile, having one or two of those surgeries become intriguing risks. You are not yet cured, but you do find some odd comfort in the risk of death. As they roll you down that long, white hallway, you grin slightly as you think to yourself, “here we go again old friend. Will this be the last trip… the final chapter?” I have had seven heart procedures in my years. My first at 12yrs old. From the very first roll down that cold, bright hallway and when the rolling bed hit those double doors, I smiled. I made a decision at twelve that I was good with my fate, I was good with my path, and that I was good with my death. What was risk to others, was simply living to me. Now, everyday I take my palm full of mental medications and toss them to the back of my throat for one big swallow. These meds are to keep me from doing many things and one of those many things is taking high risks. My mind overcomes what most of these meds are there to hide away. So I wakeup, have my routine, and each day, somewhere inside of my mind, somewhere on the edge of my consciousness sits my hungry reflection as it rubs it’s hands together and is ready to find out if today holds any candidates of risk. Something to fulfill me. Something to feed my writing and art. Chris Cornell wrote, “The seven moons and the seven suns. Heaven waits for those who run.” While I do not know what those words meant to him, I find solace in them, knowing that my end is certain and my life is short. Even more so, what I find in those words is the thought of there being something more rewarding, not for those who walk, but for those who run down their path… For those who risk.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
People often think that I am a photographer or they call me an artist. I am a poet. All that comes after that is just a product of my poetry. When I say that I am an artist, it is just to appease a conversation or to offer an easy perspective in conversation. I am humbled at the the thought of being an artist. Art coming from my poetry was never the plan. There was never a plan. I started writing at 8yrs old for a school assignment. I found the writing to be an easy and fun challenge, so for years I wrote poetry or just scribbled down thoughts in my school notebooks. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that it was brought to my attention that I was anything above an average writer. I had two teachers, Dr. Sylvia Spruill and Annette Tucker that really gave me no choice but to accept that I was good with expressing my thoughts through written words. They made me promise to never stop writing, no matter where life was to take me. After having four unsuccessful heart procedures, playing sports at an intense level and refusing to let anyone know when my heart was giving me problems all by the age of 18yrs old, I found myself lost. I suddenly was an adult. The thoughts of being okay with my death that got me through my youth and sports, no longer served me well. Those thoughts had now needed a home. The home that they found was still inside of me, but were latching onto other newly birthed issues such as PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, and others. My 20’s were difficult. Looking back, they were more difficult than I really knew at the time. I honestly can’t believe that I did not kill myself. I wasn’t properly diagnosed and medicated with my mental issues until 30yrs old. In my 20’s, I went on to have a few more heart procedures. I had a dream somewhere around 30yrs old that I was writing my poetry on someone’s back. I woke up and decided that I was going to do just that. I was going to create a legacy that my future nieces and nephews could see. They’d say, “this is what Uncle Jacob did. He must have been really cool!” Haha You can see that I never expected to be alive this long… for one reason or another. I set out on this new thought of writing on people. My brother Adam said, “if you’re going to do it, do it right.” So instead of a sharpie and a polaroid camera, I hired a photographer. I used makeup for my writing utensils, and created visual concepts that would fit each poem. Overtime I learned more and more about it all; what makeup wrote best, camera lighting, I taught myself photo editing, I explored my mind deeply for shoot concepts that would match the emotion of particular poems. I have been lucky enough to have a few close people who help me when needed and help guide me when I get lost in the process. My friend and often muse, model, wardrobe stylist, MUA, hair stylist, KL has photographed not all, but most of my artwork so that I can show it. It’s been a process and I am lucky to have my people. My brother, Zack Wheeler (Philadelphia Phillies) was playing for the NY Mets in 2017 when sports journalist Kevin Kernan @AMBS_Kernan kept a promise he made to me in 2011 and wrote an article about me showing my work in NYC. At the time that Kevin told me that he’d write an article about me if I ever showed my work in NYC, my brother Zack had just been traded to the Mets and was only a Single A baseball player. 6yrs later when I finally showed my work at a pop-up gallery in Manhattan, Kevin kept his word and did a story about my brother and I, about our paths, and about the timing of it all to bring us to NYC at the same time. I give you this backstory to get to the point of my now friend and Manager Fred Polsinelli picking up that newspaper, reading the article, and reaching out to me about what I was trying to do with my art. He wanted to know what my goal was. I explained to him that I no interest in ever pursuing anything further with my art unless the showing of it would benefit a charity. It was at that point that Fred selflessly stepped up and has to this day made sure that it has happened just that way. Even if it’s only been what seems like a few dollars or whether it’s been to just bring awareness to a specific charity, we have succeeded in that purpose. While I write almost daily, I have gotten to where I create only about 5 to 8 pieces a year. I would like to do more, but unlike most other creatives, I have a hard time bringing what I see in my poetry to life visually. I can see the evolution of my work recently and it is encouraging. I am hoping that the encouragement turns into a momentum that fuels the visual concepts to start falling out of my head and into being in front of the camera.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, for the sake of the people that know me and read this, I won’t lie to you. I go nowhere. If they visit me, they’d only get out of the house to visit the grocery store and maybe the gas station. I stay at home. My mental issues keep me from being this host that you described haha! However, I’ve never had a visitor that didn’t have a wonderful and memorable time. I’m pretty good company.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Thank you to the Shoutout Series! I would like to thank my family & friends for all of their love and understanding. My brothers Adam and Zack are my backbone, my parents Barry and Elaine are my foundation, and my friends are the pillow where I rest my tired soul. Wesley and Lucy, welcome to the world. A special thanks to my friend and Manager, Fred Polsinelli of Polsinelli Public Affairs @polsinellipa. Without Fred, my art would never see tomorrow and would never be able to benefit charities. Another massive thank you to where my art is currently on display in NYC, Jue Lan Kitchen @juelankitchen, for all of their endless love and support. It is an absolute honor to be able to have my art on the walls of such an amazing place with such special history. I love my Jue Lan family, past and present, and I will never take having my art in that beautiful place for granted. Thank you Sasha Dittmann @sashafierce95 for being such a big part of my artwork, but especially for being such a kind soul and patient with me. You’re a dear friend. Thank you Lesa Wilson @hellolesa !! Without you, I would have dramatically tossed hundreds of poems over a bridge in my early 20’s. You told me that I’d better do something with my poetry. I listened to you, buddy! I love you and only you understand how much. My favorite alien and kindred soul, KL @vox.the.visitor @vox.the.fox, thank you. Without you, there would only be a quiet man daydreaming of concepts. You bring me and my internal expression to life. You give my darkness a warm and inviting embrace. I love you endlessly. Tatum @jadedmade, you catch my heart and mind and give them back to me daily. Thank you. I love you. Rest in peace Coach Howard Martin. Your confidence in me lives on. Thank you Coach James Gwyn. You introduced me to my fearlessness and I will forever be thankful. Lastly, I would like to thank whoever’s dream that I am living in. Thank you for letting me chill here. Or thank you to creator of this reality. I have played the part the best that I know how. Maybe “thank you” to me… this dream isn’t so bad. Let’s not wakeup and say that we did.
Facebook: Jacob Wheeler Art
Other: firstname.lastname@example.org Art is on display at Jue Lan Kitchen in NYC.
Photographer Credits: @vox.the.visitor @jacob_wheeler_art