Adam Oehler‘s work is a carousel, sometimes ambling along, sometimes spinning like a madwoman, carrying its riders through a sun shower of melancholia and into a nursery rhyme without words. It is voodoo for children, a profound sort of hocus-pocus. Oehlers is an illustrator and sculptor, cooking magic for the mortals.
Oehlers often recreates scenes from storybooks, bringing characters from Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz into his endless world. I especially like his portrayal of “The Caterpillar”; hookah smoke swirls around a sullen yet comforting face and a tiny owl, perched on a mushroom in the background, acts as either a charming accent or a hint of death. A little girl looks to the caterpillar, perhaps seeking advice or wisdom or a good story. This little girl is present in a number of Oehler’s pieces, with different hair, a different face, another age, but with the same blithe spirit. We see her dancing a child’s waltz with the moon and running among autumn leaves on her wedding day, holding on to her groom’s hand. I especially love that particular piece, titled “The Runaways”, because of its make- believe quality. It’s an idyllic scene of youthful frenzy and a stumble into adulthood, highlighted by wooden stars hanging from the sky. There is no reality in Adam’s orb, only a reverie.
The steampunk influence in some of Adam’s work, paired with the fairytale aspect, makes his body of work a modern brainchild clothed in veils, a honey- flavored mutant cross between Jules Verne and Hans Christian Andersen. Oehlers is influenced by the stories that survived the world around us- La Diablesse, the temptress of a gruesome Trinidadian folktale is as much of a muse to him as is Little Emmie, whose name he read on a child- size gravestone. I admire the fact that Adam can be inspired by fables of long ago, yet create work that is undoubtedly original and intoxicating in its gentle innocence. He is preserving the art of the storyteller, all the while creating more to tell.
Oehlers combines the marine, the terrestrial, the cosmic, and the heavenly to bring us a rare grace. Autumn leaves torn straight from Rip Van Winkle’s beard join forest cottages and create a familiar spell- the one we all fell under as children, listening to fairy tales we never thought could come to life. Adam’s work proves this assumption wrong. To check out more of his work, visit adamoehlers.com.