Abandoned objects become works of art for former Santa Barbaran
“Are you nuts?”
This was practically the unanimous reaction of friends and colleagues when Monica Wyatt decided to leave her highly successful career as a TV producer/director to become a “dumpster-diving sculptor, drawing inspiration from abandoned, overlooked objects and turning them into poetic, sophisticated works of art.”
A selection of recent sculptures will be on display from Sunday through May 7 at the MorYork Gallery in Highland Park. An opening reception with the artist will be held from 2 to 7 p.m.
The title of the exhibition, “curiouser: assemblage creations from wonderland,” whimsically hints at Alice in Wonderland.
“I am deep down the rabbit hole with my exploration of materials, where I can take them. I hope to entice viewers to plunge into this wonderland of their imagination,” said Ms Wyatt, who grew up in Santa Barbara, attended Laguna Blanca School and graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1981.
“I went to UC Berkeley to study architecture but changed my mind and became an English major. During my senior year, I had an internship in TV production and radio at KGO-TV in San Francisco, which I loved,” she told the News-Press.
After graduation, Ms. Wyatt moved to Los Angeles, hoping to snag a job in the entertainment industry but not knowing anyone to contact.
“One day, I found a UCLA alumni binder, which had a list of graduates in all fields. I made a cold call to one of them in the TV business,” said Ms. Wyatt.
Eight months later, she was called about a new show that was in the works. Would she be interested in a job as a production assistant?
The show became the blockbuster hit “L.A. Law,” which ran for eight seasons on NBC and won 15 Emmy awards.
“I worked my way up to associate producer in charge of all post production, working closely with Steven Bochco, one of the show’s creators and directors. I also worked with (current Montecito resident) Dick Wolf on his ‘Law and Order series.’ He was living in L.A. at the time but knew I was from Santa Barbara and kept asking me about it,” said Ms. Wyatt, who met her future husband, Mark Horowitz, who was working on “Doogie Howser, M.D.” at the time. He is now an executive producer of “NCIS.”
The couple, who live in Studio City, have two children, Lucas, 21, a senior at Bard College in New York, and Lauren, 19, a freshman at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
“As much as I loved my job, I decided to leave it when Lauren was 2 years old. I was working 70 to 100 hours a week. My body gave out,” said Ms. Wyatt.
But she found herself adrift when she became a stay-at-home mom.
“I went from this high-powered, full-speed-ahead, all-consuming job to being here full time. I was used to all nighters and these crazy hours. But it was motherhood that brought me to my knees,” Ms. Wyatt said.
Motherhood would also change the course of her professional life.
“The messy, joyful, chaotic parts of being a mom turned out to be the inspiration for my art. I also came by my chaotic creator role honestly because I grew up in this Dr. Demento kind of aesthetics of materials. My dad is a physicist-inventor, and as the weekend janitor and chief bottle washer for many years, I was surrounded by test tubes, lasers, petri dishes and other laboratory wonders. I would collect all types of found and broken knick knacks and fashion them into odd keepsakes within glass petri dishes or test tubes from my dad’s lab.
Her father is Philip J. Wyatt, founder and chairman of Wyatt Technology, and is known for his contributions to laser light scattering. Her mother is Debra Wyatt, and her brothers are Geofrey and Cliff, who work in the family business.
Ms. Wyatt said she started getting her “creative mojo” back by making assemblage boxes for special occasions for her family.
“I re-imagine unexpected and overlooked materials, transforming them into intimate assemblage sculpture. I call it material alchemy. Ordinary objects — zip ties, hairnets, electrical components — defy the confines of their humble originals, metamorphosing into poetic three-dimensional creations that look as though they might have evolved organically,” said Ms. Wyatt.
She finds materials everywhere –– on the sides of the road, swap meets and recycling places. Art From Scrap in Santa Barbara is one of her favorite sources.
“When I began producing and directing television shows starting with the writer’s script, my palette was everything seen through the camera’s lens — actors, movement, light and mood. Shot by shot, I wove these images into two dimensional dramas.
“I longed, however, to tell my own stories, to move beyond words and pictures and to explore themes that ignited my imagination. My sculptures and assemblages became the three-dimensional stories I wanted to tell — stories about relationships, childhood, time passage, marriage, motherhood and secrets never told.”