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Imagination is the Only Defense


Shea Stanfield
Arts Columnist

Lewis Carroll wrote in his classic story Alice in Wonderland, “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” Local glass artist David Wheeler’s glistening and fanciful glass sculptures beckon us to a “wonderland” of glorious hues, sparkle, and dancing forms, transporting the viewer from their busy reality to a land of serenity and boundless space.

David was born in Lincoln, Nebraska during the 1940s, and his family was rolling across the prairie residing in a variety of towns from Nebraska to Illinois. “Falling in love with the variety of place,” as David describes it, he continued moving through the Midwest, East Coast, and West Coast as he pursued his education and career goals. Highlights of his adventures while pursuing an artistic career included life drawing and design at the University of Iowa, as well as visual imaging, photography, and film in New York City.

The stint in NYC led David to the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California, where his focus on photography and film was a natural for an environment of West Coast bright skies and warm salty breezes. Yet, it was when David attended the Atelier Studio Program of Fine Art in Minneapolis, Minnesota that he became interested in the magical qualities of stained glass as an art medium. David discovered he could take glass from two-dimensional surfaces into the world of three-dimensional form, creating compelling and intriguing sculptures. This work in sculptural glass led David to the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington State as the “creative element” of a five-man team in 2013.

Today, David and his wife Patty make their home in Arizona, and David works at Desert Studio in Cave Creek. The studio contains 13 kilns, providing him with maximum flexibility for his glass sculptures. David shares that, “Varying combinations of casting, fusing, slumping, draping and cold work result in forming tremendous depth of color, refracting light, and the glistening depth of sculptural glass.” He recounts the transition from oils to glass as, “While working with oil paints on canvas it was the shape and shine of the pallet knife that would attract my attention time after time, therefore, light and sparkle in its most translucent form became my inspiration.” Who would guess a simple tool, a palette knife, could bring David Wheeler to his most authentic art expressions?

David is a member of the Sonoran Arts League. His sculptures can be seen at the Boulders Resort, of north Scottsdale, in the el Pedregal Gallery. David participates as host of the Desert Studio, during the Hidden in the Hills Studio Tour & Sale held annually in November.  He is available, by appointment, at his studio located just five minutes north of the intersection of Cave Creek Road and School House in Cave Creek. Currently plans are underway to collaborate with Desert Rat Forge and metalworker Paul Diefenderfer to present demonstrations and public events on their jointly shared studio property.


To view a variety of David Wheeler’s glass creations, make an appointment, or to contact David for a piece for your home, or office, visit his Web site at

Contact arts columnist Shea Stanfield at