Richmond, Virginia-based visual artist, Dennis McNett, is a storyteller at heart, whose inventive and imaginative personal mythology about the world directly translates into the lively works he creates. Drawing from varied sources, including traditional folklore as well as popular culture stories, he continues to innovate while still honoring age-old traditions.
McNett has over twenty years of experience specializing in woodcarving and wood block/relief printmaking. Using a V-notch chisel he creates rich surfaces and deep contours which have a living quality about them. While wood engraving itself has its roots in 2D applications, McNett transcends those limitations by using carved markings as the basis for relief prints which become collage materials. They are then used to bring to life grandiose, three-dimensional installations at museums, art centers, galleries, city streets and other diverse environments. Despite the scale, McNett always starts with patterns and lines and slowly builds upon them adding depth and complexity to his narratives.
Having shown internationally at spaces like The Victoria and Albert Museum in London and notable domestic spaces like the Jonathan LeVine Gallery and Joshua Liner Gallery in New York City, McNett has also contributed as a visiting artist/lecturer at Universities throughout the country in addition to receiving numerous residencies.
Heralded in the past by The New York Times, Houston Chronicle, NPR, Juxtapoz and other notable outlets, Dennis McNett – like any good storyteller – has plenty of twists and turns planned for the future.
What is a Wolfbat?
There once was a great wolf called Fenris. Fenris was one of three children fathered by the half giant half god Loki. Fenris’s brother was the Midgard Serpent who was banished to the sea and his sister was Hel who was cast to the underworld. The gods feared Fenris and thought that he had the potential to one day harm them. (But I have affection for wolves and have been obsessed with them since I was very little… so I was reading this Nordic tale in a different way than was intended) Because the gods were afraid of the wolf, they tricked him into being bound and then cast him to live beneath the earth. ( now this didn’t sit right with me because up until this point in the story Fenris was just hanging out being a wolf… strong and beautiful) During Ragnarok, which is the great battle between the gods and the giants, the battle that would destroy the world, Fenris breaks his bonds and hunts down Odin on the battlefield. He had grown so large by this point that his top jaw scraped the heavens and his bottom jaw racked the earth. Fenris found Odin and devoured him. (at this point of the story, the way I viewed it, Odin asked for that for treating Fenris so poorly) Then Odin’s son kills Fenris. (and I was pissed because why does the wolf have to die?) Anyways, I didn’t like that ending, so I rewrote it. You see, Fenris’s sister Hel was one of the only characters in Nordic mythology with the power of resurrection. I wrote that Hel had retreated to the underworld when she saw how things were unfolding in the battle. When the flames had burned out and the battle was over, Hel found her brother’s mangled carcass on the battlefield. All that was intact was his head, so she resurrected him with bat wings so that he could fly the earth and destroy the gods. A Wolfbat was born.
I have viewed the gods as “the man”, corporations, banks, etc… dictating a world to the giants, you, people, who are strong and beautiful in their own way, just trying to be themselves, and suppressed like Fenris by being bound to a 9-5, finance, rules and regulations, surveillance, etc…
In 2006 I actually resurrected Fenris at the Deitch Art Parade in NYC. A Wolfbat was born. I viewed this new Giant more as a spirit that would wake people up, shake things up, allow you to participate……. I paraded the 16 ft. Fenris down West Broadway with wings flapping, drums pounding, and jaws gnashing along with 20 or so friends dressed in Wolfbat masks, fur boots, and covered in sacrificial blood. This was a new tribe.
I continue to use this tribe, the Wolfbat, and Parades/happenings, performances as a platform to set a stage of collaboration, story telling, comradery , and experience.