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Wayne White : Artist You Should Know

Updated: Apr 13, 2017 10:16
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The “Artist You Should Know” series is our way of supporting the creative community and helping to keep San Francisco a strange and wonderful place. This weekend local artist Woodrow White and his father Wayne White begin a dual exhibition at Heron Gallery

wayne white pee wee

Wayne With Pee Wee in the late 80’s

Wayne White is the puppeteer behind one of the more incredible art projects to ever hit network television, Pee Wee’s Playhouse.  If you remember it starred Phil Hartman, Laurence Fishburne, and of course Paul Reubens. It was weird and chaotic but perhaps most importantly it was original, unrestrained, and massively creative.  Wayne also did the art direction for the The Smashing Pumpkins Tonight Tonight Video, and more recently was staring in a film about his own art called “Beauty Is Embarrasing“. They’ve given his work Grammys, Emmys and MTV music awards.  He also did his own Ted Talk.

Wayne White is constantly testing the relationship between fine art and humor, mixing in a combination of Southern charm, humility and bravado.  His work is eye catching, passionate…and well, funny.  This month he is teaming up with his son Woodrow who is a fine artist here in the Bay Area, and Wayne was nice enough to answer a few questions for us.


Wayne White’s ‘Word Paintings’. Fanfuckintastic

Name: Wayne White

Where ya from?

What was your first job?
Short order cook at IHOP.

Ever had a great night out in San Francisco?
Yes, recently. I started out sipping Manhattans at The Redwood Room at the Clift and wound up at The Rich Table eating delicious and original food.

“my mission is to bring humor into fine art, I’m not talking about coy art-world funny I’m talking about real world Richard Pryor funny.”


Why is it important or interesting to put humor in fine art?
Laughing is important because we would die and not be invited to things without it. It’s important to stay alive and be invited places.

Your set and puppet designs won three Emmy awards on Pee Wee’s playhouse…so…did you do a lot of drugs in the 1980’s?
Just weed and a few mushrooms.No coke! Coke bad. Your drawings come out shitty…It (Pee Wee’s Playhouse) was a New York art project that just happened to get on television

Your art direction on the Smashing Pumpkin’s video was very well received and helped win the video a lot of awards…Is Billy Corgan a jerk in real life or does he just get a bad rap in the press?
They kept a firewall between the lowly art department and the rock stars. I didn’t even meet the guy. Despite all my rage etc.

What’s the relationship between adversity and art?

“If you’re doing it right,it ain’t easy. You will suffer. I’m not kidding”


‘Halo Amok’, by Wayne White at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art 2013


You’ve said that ‘beauty is embarrassing’, what does that mean?
We can’t handle physical beauty. If we have it, it goes to our heads and we act like embarrassing assholes. We see something overpoweringly beautiful and the tears pop out of our eyes before we can stop them. It’s embarrassing.  That’s just two examples.

How would you describe your upcoming exhibition at Heron Gallery SF?
It’s a two man show with my son,Woodrow White. He is showing his Bigfoot paintings and I’m showing my word paintings and some giant puppets and masks.

How would you describe your son Woodrow White’s art? Is it any good?
My son is one of the best painters in the Bay Area. He paints beautiful,figurative images full of soul.


‘Bigfoot’, by Woodrow White, 2014


When I say “San Francisco Art scene”, What comes to mind?
It needs a shot in the arm, like ASS KICKING CONTEST!

What else is new with you?
I’m making some really cool giant puppets for the Osheaga Music Festival in Montreal July 31 and August 1-2.

Is writing considered art? And if so should I be embarrassed by this beautifully written interview?
Writing is the highest form of art and you should be completely red-faced.  Thank you.


Heron Arts Presents:
Ass Kicking Contest 
Wayne White and Woodrow White

Opening Reception: Saturday, July 11, 2015 7-10PM
Exhibition Dates: July 11- August 8, 2015 by Appointment Only
7 Heron Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

This is what Wayne looks like. Picture:

Oh, and this is what Wayne looks like.  Photo courtesy of



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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

I'm the managing editor here at Broke-Ass Stuart. I enjoy covering Bay Area News as well as writing about Arts, Culture & Nightlife.

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