Artist Wylie Caudill blends art with commerce
BY KEVIN NANCE
Central Kentucky has become a hotbed for public art in recent years, with muralists from all over the country competing for commissions in public and commercial spaces around every corner. Now there’s a new kid in town, and his name is Wylie Caudill.
Only two years into his professional career, the fresh-faced Caudill, 24, is popping up everywhere. He’s painted commissioned murals in Cynthiana, his hometown — including several at the historic Rohs Opera House and a recent one featuring Authentic, winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby — and in Lexington, where he now lives, including works at Soundbar, the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall, Rise STEM Academy for Girls, and Futile Bakery. He’s also beginning to work in neighboring states including Ohio and Tennessee, where he created a large chalk mural in Nashville this fall for MTV’s early-voting campaign.
Caudill has yet to develop a signature style; he tailors his work to the specific requirements of the commission, drawing on influences from Art Deco and traditional equine art to comic books and video games (especially Pokémon, an enduring obsession). He’s consistent in his use of big, bold colors and his emphasis on interactivity, and creating a fan base.
“I always like to do projects that people want to photograph, stand next to, interact with,” he says, giving as an example a series of Instagram-ready angel’s-wings murals he created. “The wings were really popular with artists a couple of years ago when I was starting out. It was a trend I wanted to follow and be a part of. It was kind of a ploy, really, to get my art out there.”
The strategy worked, with gigs coming in at an impressive rate for a young artist. “We’re very happy with the job he did for us,” says Isaac Kurs, owner of Soundbar, where Caudill painted a mural on the bar’s patio as part of a promotion for Ketel One Vodka. “The mural is all fruits and flowers inspired by Ketel One, and it really brightened up the patio.”
At the Rohs Opera House in Cynthiana, Caudill recreated historic murals on the interior and also spent two weeks repainting the theater’s Art Deco proscenium arch and significant sections of the auditorium walls. “Wylie just totally transformed that building,” part-owner Roger Slade says. “It’s beautiful work — unbelievable, really. I expect big things from him.”
Caudill got his first inkling that he was destined for an artistic career in 2013 as a student at the Governor’s School for the Arts, where he studied film and photography. “That experience was really impactful because I loved being around other artists,” he recalls. “I realized I have to be creative my whole life. It put me on the path of the arts in general.”
Since graduating two years ago from Eastern Kentucky University — where he studied broadcasting and drew local TV news coverage for a giant Pokémon chalk drawing on the quad — Caudill has continued to search for the sweet spot between the artistic and commercial sides of his work. “I’m always trying to find that balance,” he says. “I try to bring a level of artistry into the commercial side of it, and that’s what sustains me.”
This article also appears on page 18 of the January 2021 print edition of ace magazine.
Subscribe to the Ace e-dition for Lexington news, arts, culture, food, and entertainment news delivered to your inbox.
Call today to advertise in Ace, 859.225.4889