Our eightieth interview in this series of intimate interviews is with talented mobile photographer and artist Wayman Stairs from Madera, California, United States. Stairs’ art study is surrealism, this is a treatise in aesthetics, viewed through the lens of his own life experiences, he represents this art form so well. Enjoy!
To read the other published interviews in this series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry Mitchell, Filiz Ak, Dale Botha, Lisa Mitchell, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki Cooper, Peter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Wahlberg, Andrea Bigiarini, Sean Hayes, Oola Cristina, Kathleen Magner-Rios, Linda Toki, Deb Field, Emilo Nadales, Lydia Cassatt, David Hayes, Jean Hutter, Frederic Deschênes, Mark Schnidman, Fatma Korkut, Fleur Schim, Rob Pearson-Wright, Dieter Gaebel, James Ellis, Marco P Prado, Jeronimo Sanz, Manuela Matos Monteiro, Bleu Chemiko, Manuela Basaldella, Stefania Piccioni, Luis Rodríguez, Marilisa Andriani (@mitrydate) Mayte Balcells (@artofmayte), Nicole Christophe, Jennifer Graham, Cathrine Halsør, Paul Toussaint, Carol Wiebe, Julie Denning, Kim Clayton (@berleyart), Karen Messick, Serap Utaş, MaryJane Rosenfeld, Paul Suciu, Susan Latty (@pause.and.breathe), John Nieto, Phyllis Shenny, Joy Barry, Max Lies Derdonk, Rita Tipunina, Violet Martins, Nizzar Ben Chekroune, Lynette Sheppard, Paul-Andre Hamel, Rejane Rubino, Susan Detroy, Rosalie Heller and myself, go here.
All images ©Wayman Stairs
What was your earliest childhood ambition?
I always wanted to be a professional football (American) player. Growing up around the sport, I was always intrigued by the idea of getting paid to play a game that I love.
I haven’t created art for very long, so the first time I received any type of recognition was not very long ago. In September of 2013, I displayed my artwork for the very first time at a local art show, and I actually sold a piece that night as well. The feeling of someone appreciating my work so much, that they would spend their hard earned money on it was a moment of immense joy for me.
I grew up working on my family’s farm every summer from the age of 12, all the way through my second year of college. I would primarily work during the hot California summers. My dad would drop me off on at 5 am, in the middle of nowhere, with a list of tasks I had to accomplish for the day. This was before the days of cell phones, so if something went wrong, there was no way of communicating. He would then pick me up at 5 pm everyday with the expectation that my tasks were complete. We primarily grew wine grapes and table grapes.
Private or State school?
I went to state school, or as we call it in the U.S., public school. I grew up in a very small town and public school was really the only option, not to mention the huge cost and travel needed for private schools.
University or work?
Immediately following high school, I attended a local community college. Community colleges are a cheaper route to begin your college career here. After two years at the community college I transferred to a University. However, I did work on the farm and at a bakery, as well as coached throughout my college career so I guess both for me.
Who was or still is your mentor?
My dad is my biggest influence. He has taught me what it is to be the hardest working man in the room, a loving person and caring father. I continue to learn so much from him and definitely would not be the man I am today without him.
How physically fit are you?
I would consider myself to be pretty fit. As a physical education teacher and coach, I feel that it is my duty to stay in shape to be a role model for my students, not to mention the fact that I enjoy it. I am currently really big into CrossFit and work out every day, at least once a day sometimes twice. I find it to be very fun and therapeutic.
Ambition or Talent? What matters more to success?
I would say ambition. I am a firm believer that hard work and failure drives success. There is a quote that I have always loved that says, “Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard.” You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t use it to the best of your ability will you be successful? So I will try hard, fail many times along the way, learn from those failures and continue to grow stronger and be more successful.
How politically committed are you?
Not at all.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
Honestly, one thing that I really want is a motorcycle. Currently working on obtaining my motorcycle license so that I can make this happen.
What is your biggest extravagance?
I don’t really have any actually, I try to live a fairly low key lifestyle. If I had to pick something I would say the motorcycle, I will be getting soon.
In which places are you happiest?
I am happiest when I am spending quality time with my kids outdoors. Whether it be playing catch, hiking in the mountains, swimming in the pool or hanging out on the beach. Anytime I can do one of those things I am definitely happy.
What ambitions do you still have?
To continue to improve myself in every facet. I am a constant work in progress, every day becoming a better version of myself spiritually, physically and mentally. As well as continuing to grow as a father and an educator.
What drives you on?
My kids are what drive me to do everything that I do. Whether it’s my career, my fitness or my art they are what drives me. You can also find them in a lot of my art as well.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Without a doubt seeing my two boys grow up to be young men. They are easily my greatest achievement, nothing else can compare. This past year has been a rough one to say the least, and their resiliency and determination has been an amazing sight to behold.
What do you find most irritating in other people?
I really try not to let other people’s actions or characteristics affect me. However, if I had to pick, I would say something that irritates me is dishonesty. I don’t care if it hurts or not, I enjoy hearing and speaking the truth.
If your twenty-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
I don’t think that my 20-year-old self would expect me to be where I am right now, but would be very proud of what I have done with my life.
Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
My first car that was stolen from me, I think about it all the time. Especially now that my youngest son is really into cars, more specifically muscle cars. I had a 1968 Oldsmobile 442 and that thing was fast and loud. I always loved just driving up and down the boulevard on Friday nights, smelling the gasoline and listening to the engine roar.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
I think one of the biggest challenges of our time is the ability to love one another. I think a lot of our problems in life would be solved if we truly loved one another despite our differences.
Do you believe in the afterlife?
I do believe in the afterlife. I believe that when the physical body dies, the soul of a person is rewarded or punished based on a life of faith. Those who believe in Jesus’ work and who expressed that faith in good works will be rewarded with heaven and will live in the presence of God.
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