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Fred Tomaselli Painting Purchased by Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Fred Tomaselli's "Woodpecker" is a 2008 painting in acrylic, gouache, photo collage, and resin on wood panel measuring 6 by 6 feet. Photo by Katherine Wetzel, © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

RICHMOND, VA.- Two contemporary works, a painting by Fred Tomaselli and a photograph by William Wiley, have been added to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts collection.

The Tomaselli painting, “Woodpecker,” is a 2008 work in acrylic, gouache, photo collage, and resin on wood panel measuring 6 by 6 feet.

“’Woodpecker’ belongs to a series of magnificent birds that Tomaselli painted as surrogates for humans,” says John Ravenal, VMFA’s Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “They derive from his deep interest in nature and his love of ornamentation.”

Born in Los Angeles in 1956, Tomaselli credits growing up near Disneyland for his lifelong interest in artifice and visual excess. His work embraces both high and low culture and combines intricate, ornate and exquisitely rendered images with what he calls “artificial, immersive, theme-park reality.”

Ravenal says the artist sees his paintings as windows into a surreal, hallucinatory universe. “His imagery ranges from utopian visions to apocalyptic events.”

In “Woodpecker,” hundreds of collaged beaks form the bird’s own beak and thousands of flowers make up his body, “thus building the bird out of his own sources of nourishment,” Ravenal explains.

The painting was purchased by the museum with funds provided by Pamela Kiecker and William A. Royall Jr. and with support from the VMFA Sydney and Frances Lewis Endowment Fund.

The pigment-print photograph by Wiley (American, born 1957) is titled “#2001-113, Carrara,” and is a 2006 work from his “Carrara” series made in the Tuscan quarries that supplied marble for the Pantheon, Trajan’s Column and Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.

Wylie uses large-format, black-and-white photography to portray themes of landscape and place, curator Ravenal says. “His elegant, formalist approach to nature recalls late 19th-century expeditionary photography as well as 20th-century images by Ansel Adams.”

VMFA’s new photograph shows a monumental block of dark stone, craggy and faceted, dominating the foreground. Two years ago, VMFA acquired another of Wylie’s “Carrara” images, this one showing a towering block of smooth, white marble pushed up to the foreground.

“Both works reflect Wylie’s eye for balanced composition and spare renditions of the natural world,” Ravenal says.

Wylie is an associate professor of photography at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where he has taught since 2000. He holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Colorado State University and an M.F.A. from the University of Michigan. He was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 2005.

The photograph was a gift to VMFA from Jeanne and Richard S. Press of Weston, Mass.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is at 200 N. Boulevard in Richmond, Va. From extraordinary collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, American and British art to internationally recognized collections of the work of Peter Carl Fabergé as well as decorative arts, Contemporary art, South Asian art and African art, VMFA’s holdings include more than 22,000 treasures. The museum also presents a wide array of special exhibitions that engage visitors. For additional information on VMFA events and exhibitions, telephone (804) 340-1400 or visit the museum online at

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts | John Ravenal | Fred Tomaselli | "Woodpecker" | William Wiley | "Carrara" |

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