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Nicola Wheston

STUFF: The Consumption

September 15-December 10, 2018

STUFF reviews how we look at our stuff and advocates a change.

“I grew up in England in the 1950’s when there was a scarcity of stuff. The focus in the UK and Europe was about rebuilding a country with jobs, infrastructure, buildings and communities, all of which had been destroyed by World War II. Then, people were referred to as customers not consumers, as consuming was not the focus. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, that began to change. In the 1980’s, the UK joined North America in the rush of the massive consumer age. Consuming is now the norm and focus of the Western World, with the Third World countries providing the cheap labor to produce stuff at a prodigious rate.

We live in a society consumed by stuff. It dictates how we live our lives and we build bigger and bigger homes to accommodate all the stuff and ultimately it entraps us.


Cracks are showing that the Great Consumer Society is not


sustainable. The environment is under great stress as our oceans are filled with plastic, and garbage; poor countries store the trash for wealthier countries and thereby destroying their environments. Natural resources are being depleted at such a rate they have no chance to regenerate.

The Western World has become addicted to shopping and hoarding is now commonplace. When I was a child,

hoarding was more the result of having lived through the shortages of Great Depression of the 30s and WWII.

Currently, hoarding is less about scarcity and more about addiction and self-medicating to avoid pain, sadness, and


The paintings are inspired by the experience of managing the large estates of family members and friends, as my aunt and father died within months of each other. It took two years for my sister and me to deal with all that was left behind; two years of trips to garbage dumps, thrift stores, yard sales, auction houses, banks, lawyers, and real estate agents. The journey of sorting other people’s stuff on a personal level was a wake-up call to look closely at the impact of a consumer society. Most of what we buy today is not made to last, thus not recycled.

These paintings are a record of the stuff we have, what surrounds us, what we use and see in our everyday lives. Objects are the record of past and present lives. Will this age of consumerism also become a thing of the past?”

“Through my figurative painting, I explore relationships, boundaries and interpersonal connections.”

Wheston’s “figurative paintings focus on the psychological aspects of our humanity, including all the foibles and eccentricities of our daily lives, as well as the relationships we have with each other, ourselves, our pets and our surroundings.” She frequently uses her own body as a model to explore private moments, aging and absurd situations.


Wheston, from Salt Spring Island, B.C. has had numerous solo exhibitions in the US, Canada and the UK.

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