WENTWORTH TRADD’S mother was from an old South Carolina family. His father was an actor in B movies. “I was actually born in Los Angeles, but Mama and I moved home before I was old enough to talk. My first word was ‘grits’ We ate a lot of them in those days and I still do, but all of my life has been an effort to make up for the embarrassing fact that I am not a native South Carolinian.”
In the intervening forty odd years since his inauspicious beginnings, Wentworth Tradd has seemingly done little else beside soak up the culture of his adopted home. “Sure, we used to go skiing in Switzerland and stuff, and one of my stepfathers did pack me off to Monaco for a while for my own good, but I am basically another buckra, like everybody else.
I suppose I could have studied art at some point, but look at the things I did study. Nobody pays me to speak French, or to do the waltz. I don’t expect many people would even pay me to do the horizontal bop. So I had to learn to paint on my own.
He is less forthright about the details of his creative process. “Sometimes I can go for weeks without painting at all, but when it’s right, it’s right. The best ideas come to me in a dream or a trance. Once I was fishing and I swear to you, the fish on the end of my line said ‘Paint me, Wentworth, and I will make you rich.’ I guess three hundred dollars is pretty rich in fish terms, since they don’t pay taxes or anything.”
He salvages most of his materials and builds many of the panels for his larger paintings himself. “I don’t know if they’re really to code of not, but you know, most paintings aren’t designed to really be load bearing, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. I figure the paint will last a lot longer inside, but a lot of these are painted with stuff that’s warranted for as long as you own your home. Come to think of it, I don’t know if the warranty is governed by MY home, or the new owner’s, but if anybody has any serious problems with mildew or flaking, they can just let me know. It shouldn’t be a problem.”