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Inspiration through Incarceration: The Voice & Vision of Corey Dean Wagner
"I choose to describe my style as a paleontologist. As one may carefully fan the earth’s surface with a small dusting brush to expose human artifacts below."
DENVER, CO.- There is something divine about Colorado artist Corey Dean Wagner – in the most authentic sense of the word.

Is it his philosophical and sanguine attitude about currently being incarcerated? Is it the extraordinary, highly personal task he has undertaken to elevate himself way beyond his sixth-grade education, nourishing his mind regularly with the works of Nietzsche and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Or is it the fact that Corey’s God blesses him daily with a vibrant spectrum of spiritual visions and images – as well as a delicate, talented, and obedient hand to reveal their significance? In a word…yes.

“I choose to describe my style as a paleontologist. As one may carefully fan the earth’s surface with a small dusting brush to expose human artifacts below, so do I, in a similar manner, scrape at the plate of my bleached wood with a five-point utensil to expose the illuminating miracle beneath. As a sculptor chisels away at his element (wood, ice, rock, etc.) to release the life within the restraints, so do I carefully and methodically scrape, brush, smear, and blow away at the exterior of my 100 lb. paper to reveal the life that I know exists beneath the facade. What may appear to be a blank sheet of paper — a snow-lit cardboard, a shingle — is a comfort to me. It’s the cloud that retains moisture without buckling under the weight of what it retains. It maintains its valued possession until tickled properly, bound up within its core.” – Corey Dean Wagner

His Voice
If we look at the logistic MO (modus operandi; particular style of operating) of Corey Wagner with an analytical eye we would be extremely intrigued; even compelled beyond the thresholds that retain his physical person. “I, like every other being in the world…” begins Wagner, thoughtfully and candidly, “…as well as a history book, have a past. My past is nothing to boast about. I’ve said and done things that I’m ashamed of; however I’m not quite sure if I’m repentant of my past or if it’s the fact that I’ve been apprehended and sanctioned that makes me remorseful. I do know that God has given me beauty for those ashes and prosperity in the place of pain.

“By society’s standards I’m but a statistic — an utter fool who compliments the recidivism rate. I first came to prison at age 18, early 19. Before that I received a barcode — a ‘livestock number’ if you will, or a processing number at age 16. I’ve always found security…solace…within pencil and paper but I wasn’t much of an ‘artist.’ I’d doodle and draw women along with Chicano arte as a young man, mostly with the result of a raised eyebrow like that of a condescending superior. But one thing I did possess as a young man was belief. No matter how clumsy a project turned out, I was confident that I would eventually ‘get it.’ I knew that I liked the way I felt when I was in a passionate/creative state. I liked how I felt ‘free’ and safe…nobody could tell me what to do, how to draw. I was in charge. I regained my loss of power that way; drawing was, and still is, a positive outlet…a creative desire.

“I was probably about 21 when I was given a book called Unlimited Power authored by a gentleman named Anthony ‘Tony’ Robbins. My buddy at the time told me to read it – really urged me to. He told me that I’d be highly impressed. In somewhat of a pompous attitude I wondered what made Tony so profound; how he differed from the others. But I soon found out why and how. This man talked about things I’ve only felt when I was alone with my pencil. There was an immediate connection. He spoke of things like neuro-linguistic programming, self-fulfilling prophecies, body language and communication as a whole, how to break habits and how to escalate to your desired level of excellence. Even though I was reading a book with millions of prints published, I felt this man was speaking directly to me. Freud didn’t think like that; neither did Masters or Johnson. Robbins talked of having the best, being the best…and that everything you need is right on your own shoulders.

“About that point in my life my work began to elevate. Although I had the desire I didn’t have the patience. Years went by and tragedy struck — I ended up with more (prison) time than I could pronounce. What I had feared most had come upon me — life plus 32 years…18 years of mandatory parole to cap that, and $20K in restitution and victims’ fees. It’s kind of hard to weasel out of that…

“My mind was a mess, I felt on the verge of snapping. Indeed, ‘a mind is a terrible thing to waste.’ At life’s bottom, mourning the loss of my life, not those of whom I affected, I felt hollow…shallow…like a zombie. Being locked up all my life wasn’t anything new, but definitely more severe. I had been to the pen (penitentiary) twice — this was looking like it was going to be my third and final time. I was done! Like pages out of the Bible my reality was this Jesus who was betrayed and scorned by mankind. I wanted to behave, to do well, live my dreams, live that unlimited power of life. I just didn’t know how. Lord Alfred Tennyson said, ‘Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.’ In that respect I didn’t know how to make this knowledge work for me. In 2006, early 2007 I eventually migrated to the Bible. I began reading things that not only awed me, but hurt and offended me. The truths within those pages at times were unbearable.

“I began drawing again, seeking that outlet and inner-peace. My mind was in shambles…deteriorating…I found my solace in the “graphite” yet again. As time progressed I began drawing for Jesus. It wasn’t about feeling good anymore; it was my obligation to convey His message to young and old alike. The best way to capture the attention of the masses was through picture. When the people were good and intrigued I’d explain the pictures to them and lead them to the Scripture I was translating. Hence the birth of my tagline: ‘Graphite Articulations — Officially Bilingual.’ Naturally my confidence began to advance with every ‘ooh’ and ‘aahh’ response! Unfortunately the law of gravity would take its toll only to leave me with the realization that…in this (prison) environment a nobody can become a somebody…

“As my stay in the County lengthens and hope of liberation becomes more and more vague with every passing week I find myself being enveloped and carefree in this Jesus and this ‘Word of God.’ I began working with the Jail’s Chaplain — one Yong Hui McDonald, a Korean woman affiliated with the United Methodist denomination, who seemed to possess a genuine love for people and hurting inmates. Eventually she befriended me and I showed her some of my art projects. She was captivated and put me to work immediately! She said that it was her duty to make me famous — and so help me God she tried hard! I had interviews with local newspapers and even papers from other states were intrigued about this ‘Wagner cat.’ I went on to make ministerial DVDs and wrote a book (Maximum Saints: Ordained By God) witnessing to the transforming power of God. (Had this occurred the first time I got imprisoned I wouldn’t have seen the second or third time). The closer I got to God the more I fell in love. The more I studied and learned about Jesus the further out of love I became with myself. I became almost disconnected from myself and my worldly concerns. I didn’t care about my life or getting liberated anymore. My only concern was (and is) being liberated of self and praising God. These walls have become my sanctuary — I’m alive in Christ.

“The Bible teaches that we must die to live…from a worldly standpoint that’s insolence, complete contradiction. As one who experiences this daily I can assure you that this is the essence of life. Only until you’ve experienced life in death can you say that you have truly lived life at its fullest. The same area of your brain that lights up when you receive money glows even brighter when you give money. How could one possibly be euphoric about giving in an economy that is plummeting and the cost of living is outrageous. God said, ‘No weapon brought against you shall prosper’ — which inspires my love and devotion to this amazing King. I was encouraged through my grief to produce ‘Amor de Rey’ — ‘Love the King’ or a more accurate, direct application…‘Love of Christ.’

His Vision
“Amor de Rey” by Corey Dean Wagner

This illustration depicts an all-faithful servant in bondage to his Lord. A servant not bound against his will or by manipulation, but by virtue that has motivated this submission. The crown medallion that hangs upon the chain signifies that bondage… chained to the Christ, bound to Jehovah. He’s around my neck. ‘Wear my laws around your neck…as not to forget them,’ as the Scripture teaches us. The character stands between two faces to depict that Christ is the center of his attention. The screaming faces take it a step further and exclaim, ‘I’m crazy about this Christ!’ The piercings and shiny watch say ‘I shine for Christ now.’ The character’s ‘GQ build’ allows others to realize its kool to be a Christian; you can still rock Dolce&Gabbana (an Italian luxury fashion house specializing in expensive fashion items) as long as God is first. Since we are joint heirs of the Kingdom it’s only fitting to be accentuated with the Crown of Life, the Mark of God! The hand gesture emphasizes the point, ‘Amor de Rey,’ which is a secular view…

“Flor” by Corey Dean Wagner
My illustration called “Flor” (an alias for ‘my Queen’) defines the softer side of man — his estrogen make-up. Though that portion may be just a fraction it is a rib and a necessity to the bodily functions. The rib cage protects our vital organs; the ribs protect the lungs and the heart. This rib (or curved side) may look like a delicate flower. The fact is, it is close to my heart — the protector and keeper there of. This “flor” comes from my side, therefore it is my equal — not less than or above. This graphite articulation is a portrait of my significant other and how it has taken so(ooo) much effort and study to captivate and cultivate her fragile, velvet petals. I liken her to a queen; she is tiny, but potent, small but radiant. Like the flowers of the earth their soul purpose, every day, is to illuminate vibrantly while reaching for the sun. Indeed, Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as beautifully as she! Velvet life!

“Life” is another of my recent artistic expressions featured in my Graphite Articulations photo gallery on my Facebook page. The piece conveys madness. Though life in Christ is abundant life, it nevertheless is ‘life.’ The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. For the things I do not want to do I do — the very things I hate. The things I want to do I do not do. I want to love my neighbor; even more so, my enemies. I want to find the good in people…authority. I find myself entertaining worldly ways and convicts’ views. My substantial reality wars against my compassionate motives and desires. Only when God liberates us will we be complete…Hallelujah!

“The project in which I’m currently engaged is my ‘Angel Series’ — a collection of angel images I’m depicting in different ways, but each signifying purity; the holiness of Heavenly Beings. My Queen — upon departure from visiting me and returning to her place of residence was blessed with seeing the silhouette of your stereotypical angel within the sky…created from the clouds. Stereotypical as it may be this vision she saw alluded to God’s sovereignty…His ever-reigning presence. It brought comfort to My Queen as she endured the more than 2-hour trek from the prison in southern Colorado back to her beloved Denver area. She told me that the angel cloud appeared to linger and follow her all the way home. The Psalms tell us (91:11) ‘God commands His Angels concerning us.’

“The sum of these, and all my other artistic expressions, is an allegory to one’s walk with Christ. “Amor de Rey”…you should have no other God, including self, but God Almighty – El Shaddai. You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. ‘If you do not hate your own life you are not worthy to be my Disciples,’ saith the Lord. Jesus is the way — the life and the truth — no one gets to the Father but through the Son. He is the Bread of Life; the Living Word, the Dayspring. We’re taught that if we love Christ we will abide in Him. We love the Lord by living by His decrees. Our very life is in His Word, His direction. His Word is a lamp unto my feet. Christ is the Lilly of the Valley…the Rose of Sharon…man’s “flor.” He is our Lord — the Angel of the Lord. Should we make sense of it, Christ is our Angel in battle, our refuge, our strength in time of war, our Good Shepard. Love of the King brings forth life…a fragrance after the rain…

“God has blessed me with the hands of a masseuse; to deliberately liberate these pages that team with life. They invite hidden treasures to the surface, from the depths of these bleached diplomas that have manifested from earth’s timber — the offspring manicured lumber, smooth and blemish-free. They lie — packaged in wait of being led astray…manipulated with a five-point; the captives have been set free. Were it not for the fate of external incarceration God would have never introduced me to these certificates of purity and invited me to bring the potential within forward!” – Corey Dean Wagner

Corey Dean Wagner enjoys acclaimed recognition as a featured artist at the Chicano Humanities & Arts Council in Denver, Colorado. To learn more about Wagner and view more of his inspirational artwork visit his Graphite Articulations photo gallery showcased on his Facebook page or email coreydeanwagner@gmail.com.





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