Interview: Adam Wallacavage


Adam Wallacavage was born in 1969. He currently lives and works in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia where he received a BFA in Photography in 1995. In 2001, Wallacavage taught himself the art of ornamental plastering and began making octopus shaped chandeliers. His chandeliers have been exhibited in galleries in São Paulo, Rome, London, Miami, Los Angeles, Vienna and New York. In 2012, Wallacavage had a solo exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Alliance titled Shiny Monsters. His chandeliers have been featured in publications such as The New York Times, New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine and TIME Magazine. Beyond making sculptural works, Wallacavage is also an accomplished photographer. In 2006, Gingko Press published Monster Size Monsters, a book documenting fifteen years of his photography.

When did you discover your interest in sculpture? What was your early work like?

It might sound weird, but I think it was building forts as a kid. I made tree fort, underground forts, and a fort over the stream next to the house I grew up in. I remember really going for it with the designs. After that, I would say going to Eyes Gallery on South Street in Philadelphia in the mid-1980's and being inspired by the Mexican paper mache sculptures I saw there. I tried recreating what I saw and started making these two-headed giraffe sculptures probably inspired by Salvador Dali.

How did you get started on creating your beautiful chandeliers?

I bought a Victorian Brownstone in South Philadelphia back in 2000. The first-floor interior was turned into a doctor's office in the 1940's so most of the ornamental elements were taken out and modernized. I wanted something opulent, and since I had taken a molding and casting class in art college, I realized I could make something quite elaborate with a few bags of plaster and some latex molds. The better I got with this technique led to more confidence, and that was when I decided to try making my own chandeliers for my home. I made five octopus chandeliers for my Jules Verne themed room and after that, I just never stopped making them.

We love your work and the otherworldly organic forms you create. Where do you come up with your ideas and what are your references?

Well, I just mentioned where the octopus came from, and it is my most popular and my favorite to make, but I'm inspired by Art Nouveau and art forms from nature. Ice formations, bats, sea creatures, snakes, birds, then silly kitsch.

What is a typical day in the studio like for you?

Lately, I've been all over the place, so time in the studio is erratic. I'm working today but going to the beach in the afternoon. I live in Philadelphia, but the beach I go to is about an hour and a half drive away. There's really never a typical day for me ever.

How do you balance your time as an artist with your personal life?

I'm always thinking about art no matter where I am. I go out as much as possible and even if I see a band, I'm always thinking about photography as well and seeing if I can document everything I'm seeing. I made a living as a photographer for a long time, starting with shooting for skateboard magazines and moving to shooting bands and street art in the mid 1990’s then to commercial photography. I stopped shooting professionally but it only helped my passion for documenting things.


What important life event or piece of advice helped you discover your unique voice and vision?

I went through a divorce 10 years ago and it forced me to really figure out a way to keep the house. I basically had to triple my income right away. This was also at the time where I was getting away from commercial photography. What happened is I found confidence in my own work and with that came the ability to sell my art. I'm quite fortunate for that. It came from making something I loved first but realizing what other people might want as well. My art comes from a deep place, but I don't care to make that part of it an issue. If a child likes it, that is all that matters to me.