Wayne White is an American artist, art director, cartoonist, and illustrator. He started his art career working as a cartoonist and illustrator for a number of publications including ‘The East Village Eye,’ ‘Raw,’ ‘The New York Times,’ and ‘The Village Voice.’ In 1986 he worked on ‘Pee Wee’s Playhouse’ where his work for his set and puppet designs won three Emmy awards; he also supplied a number of voices on the show.
Other television credits include production and set design for ‘Shining Time Station,’ ‘Riders in the Sky,’ ‘The Weird Al Show,’ and ‘Beakman’s World.’ He art directed two seminal music videos, Peter Gabriel’s ‘Big Time’ in 1986, and in 1996 he designed all the Georges Méliès inspired sets for the award-winning video for the Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Tonight, Tonight.’
More recently he has concentrated on his painting career. He takes cheap, mass-produced lithographs which he finds in secondhand thrift stores and painstakingly writes phrases or words on them in a glossy, 3-D style. His works have been compared to Ed Ruscha. Arguably, White’s most famous work is his painting Nixon, which was featured on the cover of an album, also titled ‘Nixon,’ by the band Lambchop. A school friend of Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner, White has contributed to four of the band’s album covers.
In 2009, White installed a huge puppet head of George Jones in the Rice Gallery at Rice University in Houston. The puppet’s eyes rotate in its head, and if the viewer pulls a rope, the mouth opens and a snoring noise emerges. A huge fan rotates at the base of the head, with the words ‘sleep’ written over the fan blades. The piece is called ‘Big Lectric Fan to Keep Me Cool While I Sleep,’ in reference to George Jones’s recording of ‘Ragged but Right.’