MFA, Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia
BFA, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
When Canadian Métis Nation artist Wendy DesChene graduated with an MFA in painting from Tyler School of Art, she immediately began to utilize activist and dialogical art concepts in her work. Weary of the limitations placed on art by institutions, for example, she integrated the audience into her installations to promote community conversation. The outcome was a socially engaged exhibition, "WYSIWYG," which toured 11 different communities, including the Art League of Houston, the Art Academy of Cincinnati and The Henry Street Settlement in New York. She exhibited painting and drawing projects that grew from these concepts at The Drawing Center New York, The Soap Factory Minnesota and the Tomio Koyama Gallery Japan. DesChene has received an Alabama State Arts Fellowship, an Andy Warhol-funded Verdant Fund Grant and a Canada Council Travel Grant (twice), and support from the Pulitzer Foundation for these and other projects.
The Boston Globe titled DesChene a "conceptual prankster," much like her favorite trickster and cultural hero Nanabush (Ojibwe), in a review of her collaborative projects at the 2017 HubWeek, sponsored by Harvard and M.I.T. The varied artworks from her collaboration as PlantBot Genetics with her husband, Georgia Southern University (GSU) Professor Jeff Schmuki, have been exhibited at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Marfa Dialogues, St Louis; The Goethe Institute, Egypt; The Fuller Craft Museum, Boston; and The Contemporary Craft Museum, Pittsburgh. In addition, the team twice received Sustainability Grants from GSU, which supported environmental education from an 18' cargo trailer converted into a portable, off-grid art space. This project was further expanded with the backing of an N.E.A. ArtWorks grant through St. Norbert College in Wisconsin and an extended residency at the McColl Center. Selected PlantBot solo exhibitions include Wayne State University, Detroit; Austin Peay University, Tennessee; C.R.E.T.A., Rome; and the Lakkos Project in Crete, Greece.
Due to racist and outdated laws in Canada, DesChene’s family has only recently been able to reclaim their indigenous status as part of the Métis Nation of Canada. As a large part of being First Nations is finding a path back to one's ancestors, her future artworks will focus on reclamation and reinvestigating what it means to be indigenous. Plans to explore First Nations experiences will manifest in both artworks and lectures. DesChene has lectured extensively, at Long Island University, New York; MediaMatic, Amsterdam; University of West Florida; The Figge Museum; Virginia Wesleyan University; Brigham Young Museum, Utah; and The Environmental Art Biennale Il, Finland, among other venues. Public exhibitions and projects while an artist-in-residence and at The Hafnarborg Art Center and Museum, Iceland led to invitations to the Landscape Laboratory at Buitenwerkplaats, the Netherlands; the KulttuuriKauppila Art Center, Finland; and the Mauser Eco House, Costa Rica. She has also earned international residencies at The American Academy in Rome; Jentel Artist Residency, Wyoming; I-Park, Connecticut; Pouch Cove, Canada; The Atlantic Center for the Arts, Florida; Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Nebraska; and The Studios of Key West.
As her research continues to critique structures, systems and protocols, intervention remains the most direct route to achieve her goals: DesChene places works on the street or within institutions with or without permission. Using art liberation tactics, she has commandeered the world's most prestigious art institutions as her studio, material and target. Documented work from her "Unauthorized Series" has been exhibited in numerous international exhibitions, including the Sanlun Yishu Project Beijing, China; C.I.C.A. Museum, Gimpo, South Korea; Governors Island, New York; The Ice Box Project Space, Philadelphia; and the International Center for Art and Design, New Mexico.
DesChene was elected to represent Alabama on the board of the non-profit arts organization SECAC (2014-2020). In 2018 she received an award for teaching excellence from the organization. The same year, she received the AU College of Liberal Arts Outreach Award for her service-learning projects. Currently, she serves as the Jane Dickson Lanier Endowed Professor.
Painting, Murals, Installation, Socially Engaged Art