Born in Denver in 1959, Wenzel lived in California and Alaska as a youth, then returned to California for his postgraduate education. At the University of California at Berkley, he pursued sculpture, studying and working as a teaching assistant with the renowned ceramic sculptor Peter Voulkos.
He also studied drawing and painting with Elmer Bischoff and Joan Brown, both expressionist painters identified with the Bay Area Figurative movement.
In 1983, Wenzel earned a Master of Arts degree and two years later a Master of Fine Arts degree from UC Berkley.
He went on to teach pottery and ceramic sculpture at various arts institutions in the bay area. Upon returning to Denver in 1988, Wenzel began working exclusively in scale paintings using mixed media materials on paper and wood.
His work is exhibited and collected nationally.
I work intuitively, instinctively.
My work is visceral.
It's not conceptual; it's physical and experimental.
I work best when I'm open and loose and a little reckless, setting aside the restrictive tendency of my rational mind. By being direct and avoiding self censorship and doubt, more interesting things happen and I am less prone to contrivance.
I start a painting merely putting down what notions or impulses are at hand. I generate information and get it out in front of me where I can respond to it, where I have something to work with. The gestures, colors, shapes, images that appear initiate a dialog I will continue through the course of the painting.
Generally, I'll have several paintings going, each at its own stage of the process. I reach periods with a painting where I have to step back and let the piece 'work' on me. Eventually I get agitated, irritated with it, as the painting gives me the sense of what more it needs.
When a painting becomes lifelessly closed or predictable, it means I need to let it go - especially of those aspects of the painting to which I have become the most attached.
Destruction, impulsivity, and accidents are a big part of my process.
I take liberty to paint over, to cut and rip, to obliterate.
I avoid wearing blinders so as not to miss the opportunity for discovery. Something emerges from the cacophony of relationships within the painting - a thread that is meaningful to me. Sometimes I might lose it or it may go nowhere.
Sometimes it leads me to a place I haven't been before.
A central conviction of mine is that any really good piece transcends itself; where the materials and techniques employed become insignificant. That something comprised of ordinary mundane material - cardboard, crayons, string - can embody the intrinsic expressive power to spellbind and delight is compelling to me.
Picasso said it: "It's what one finds, not how he gets there, that is the thing."
That I can occasionally and to some degree happen upon this experience in my own work is what keeps me going as an artist.
-Jeff Wenzel, 2015
“... essential viewing, being one of the finest shows anywhere this spring”
“Form Follows Feeling”
By Michael Paglia - Westword, published April 3, 2003
“... an artist who finds honesty in material, as well as expression in color and line”
“Wenzel draws on strengths”
By Mary Voelz Chandler - Rocky Mountain News, published March 4, 2005
“If there is such a thing as tough love, this is tough beauty”
“Wenzel’s bold works appealing”
By Kyle MacMillan - The Denver Post, published February 2, 2001
“... Wenzel’s first solo at this top-drawer contemporary art spot, and it makes for a tremendous debut.”
By Michael Paglia - Westword, published March 17, 2005
“...Wenzel somehow manages to achieve compositional stability amid a rough, seemingly chaotic interplay of paint and collaged elements...”
“Galleries put focus on abstract artists”
By Kyle MacMillan - The Denver Post, posted February 19, 2009
“...so my expectations were high. But this show exceeds those expectations: The paintings here are spectacular.”
“Three - Way”
By Michael Paglia - Westword, published February 8, 2001
“...Wenzel’s painting/constructions form the latest chapter in the evolution of work in the spirit and emotion of abstract expressionism, ...”
“Wenzel work evolves in spirit”
By Mary Voelz Chandler - Rocky Mountain News, March 7, 2003
“...Wenzel works the paper in a manner analogous to how the late Voulkos worked clay.”
“Colorado artists star in shows at Gallery T and Havu”
By Michael Paglia - Westword, published February 5, 2009
“... one of the best abstractionists working in our region.”
By Michael Paglia - Westword, published October, 18, 1995