There is a pervading sense of sadness in the work of Wesley Heiss.

In the beginning it’s negligible… barely felt at all; in fact when you first see it it’s the exact opposite. Childlike excitement and curiosity bubble up as the materials and subject matter seem like something that could bring you joy. It seems as though it will somehow entertain you and being entertained is always exciting.

But then it starts messing with you. You begin to realize you are somehow “necessary” for the piece… that you’ve gotten all “involved” without properly being asked first. There is little opportunity for passive viewing. Arguably the piece doesn’t even work unless you are there.

In order for these works to give you something you have to give them something first.

Suburban has much the same set up for immediate joy; lingering melancholy. Conjuring childhood memories of bounce houses and parades we feel the flutter of excitement that comes with those first few moments of the unexpected. Yet the same excitement that may put a nervous but welcome sensation in the stomach of a child somehow turns into something else as an adult.

Your presence, your breath, that smallest of actions, is translated into something palpable. There is an exchange rate. The breath of your body makes itself seen in the swell of the balloon. It is the most evanescent of life markers and its sweet climactic puff breathes too large for the space now made uncomfortable and claustrophobic. The inflatable is self-declaredly hollow but looms large. Expanding until you are forced to leave, it pushes you from the room only for it to begin its slow, soft, heartbreaking fall.

Complacently watching the crestfallen beast take its measured descent there is a quick surge of optimism. It feels real and sad… but okay. You can always just go stand in the spot again.

Text by Angela Fraleigh 

'suburban' installed in the Arlington Museum Arlington, TX

'suburban' installed in the Arlington Museum Arlington, TX

step here

'Suburban' at the Arlington Museum, Arlington, TX

'Suburban' at the Arlington Museum, Arlington, TX




Walk into the space. Step over the mark on the floor. Lights switch and a blower turns on. The flaccid bag inflates into a huge grey featureless puppy way too big to fit in the room. Step off the spot and the puppy slowly deflates.


'suburban' installed in the MFAH Glassell School Houston, TX
‘suburban’ installed in the MFAH Glassell School Houston, TX
deflated before activation by a viewer
Deflated before activation by a viewer