ICT Art Scene: Wade Hampton

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By Amy Geiszler-Jones - Photography by Aaron Patton

   A bunny a day keeps artist Wade Hampton in play.
   Known as one of the founders of a Wichita artists collective and for eschewing gallery shows in favor of home shows, Hampton’s artistic endeavors these days are focused on drawing bunnies, making films and creating graphics that can be printed on demand on different items.
    His bunny-drawing endeavor – ranging from innocuous ones to cursing ones – started more than a year ago, with a new image posted on his social media accounts every day for a year. His drawabunnydaily Instagram account has been renamed drawabunnywhenever to reflect that after a year of daily drawings he now creates a new drawing when it strikes him. He’s done more than 400 postings, and will likely stop when he hits 500, he said. The bunnies have also been joined by cats. 
    Using print-on-demand vendors, followers of Hampton’s work can order pieces like clothing or die-cut vinyl featuring select designs of his bunny drawings and other pieces.
    Having a full-time position as director of Spectrum Promotional’s award-winning art department allows Hampton to be as irreverent, edgy, creative, innovative or whatever adjective one wants to ascribe to his work when it comes to the art he creates in his personal time.
    “I have the luxury of having a job so I don’t worry about money,” he said. “I’m a big believer that the best art is embraced by some and ostracized by others.”
    At work, he creates designs for clients such as high schools and Wichita State, while at home he can draw, paint and film movies with what he describes as “bizarre characters and bizarre story lines” in the basement studio of his College Hill home. 
    “I’m a big David Lynch fan so that gives people an idea of where my head is,” he said. Hampton, like Lynch, likes to leave the interpretation of his films for his audience. 
    “I allow them to come to their own conclusions, and sometimes they’re much better than mine,” he said.
    After a stint of doing music videos, including for Gooding, an American rock band now based in Nashville that got its start in Wichita, Hampton started focusing on making short films under his label, Art Brut Film, which he founded a decade ago.
    The films he produces are solely his vision, he said, as he writes, directs and edits the movies. A core group of other artists – in the roles of actors to special effects – join him on his movie-making ventures during which Hampton often tells them, “no one will see this,” “we’re just having fun” or “it’s experimental.”
    Some of his movies, along with his other works, can be seen on his website, wadehamptonart.com.
    Growing up in the small town of Clearwater, Kansas, Hampton got encouragement from his parents to pursue his art. His dad, a former Wichita Eagle sales rep, suggested he show his portfolio to local Wichita artist who told Hampton he needed to attend art school if he really wanted to be any good. In his 20s, his mom told him that he had turned into a very good artist.
    He attended but never finished art school at Wichita State University, where he made some important connections. He still visits the personal studio of Clark Britton, a now-retired WSU professor who has a similar “bonker artist’s brain,” Hampton said. Britton shares eclectic artistic endeavors, from puppet-making to film-making, as well. 
    In the early 1990s, Hampton helped found the Famous Dead Artists collective, which held its early shows in Commerce Street, before its transformation as a cool, artistic place to be. He developed a following for his work, and in 2011 had a piece of his art featured on “The Colbert Report.” In recent years, Hampton would hold home shows of his work, allowing followers to purchase his artwork directly from him. He gave those up when the number of visitors outgrew his home. The fact that his astrological sign is a Gemini, he said, may explain why he signs his art with two different names: Wade Hate for his more edgy works and Wade Hampton for other pieces.
    The walls of his home reflect his own support and love of local artists, with works by Mary Werner, Dustin Parker, Hannah Scott, Tabitha Oblinger, Curt Clonts and others.
    Even before the current local pride trend, Hampton was a big proponent of Wichita and of Kansas. “I’ve always been publicly pro and started putting ‘Made in Wichita, Kansas,’ on my work,” he said.
    One of his current POD designs features a halo and a skull and the words “Kansas Till I Die.” 
    “Our politics can be what they are, but I disconnect from the politics and say don’t hate the state because of a few people,” Hampton said. “I’m not going anywhere so it’s Kansas till I die.”