WENTWORTH TRADD has built a 12 story tower in the woods, its stainless steel and glass skin glaring down at unsuspecting visitors like an alien spaceship. “Once I licensed my process to the Department of Defense, I had all of the money I wanted. First thing I did was build this place. The bottom two floors are mostly storage, then comes the lab, then there’s the gym, which takes up three floors, then my studio, and the rest is living quarters. We have everythig we need- solar generation of elecrtricity, satellite linkup, vaporizer rays, everything. OK we don’t really have a vaporizer ray, but I do have a laser that zaps mosquitoes from a hundred yards.
The process is “way secret” according Tradd, but it directly influences his artwork. “The rhomboidal configuration of the backgroundsis the paradigm of my molecular structure. And all I can tell you is that it has to do with buoyancy in various atmospheres, so birds and fish are the perfect metaphors.”
The reclusive artist-scientist is shy to the point of awkwardness and his playful nature sometimes shows itself in less than grown-up ways. “I thought about a series of paintings using spaghetti sauce mixed into the latex paint , so they would attract flies wherever they were hung.
Asked about his most profound influence, he replies quickly “A lawyer in Columbia named Earl Ellis. For a layman, he has a perfectly scientific mind. When I am stumped in the lab, I ask myself ‘What would Earl do?’ ”
When the questioner inquires as to artistic influences, Tradd is less inspired: “Oh, the usual, Audubon, Gould, Linnaeus, Stubbs, Leonardo. The great thing about being a naturalist is that if you get it right the first time, everybody else can only copy you. Of course, some of the great ones didn’t always get it right, but their mistakes are so charming as to be far better than something more precisely accurate. There’s a reason my gym is between the lab and the studio. Sometimes Art is more about the soul than the mind.”