Troy Wandzel was born in Golden Valley, Minnesota. Other than a few years in the 1970s when he lived in Utah, he spent the majority of his early life in that state. Raised by folks who made their living as farmers and laborers, he grew up without any direct personal connection to any professional or even amateur artists. After the death of his grandmother, he learned when going through her personal effects that her late brother had studied art at the University of Minnesota. Unbeknown to the rest of the family, Troy’s great-uncle’s work had long brightened his grandmother’s home.

Wandzel moved to Savannah in 1991 to study at Savannah College of Art and Design, and that education played a role in his gravitating to oil painting as one of his preferred mediums. “I had an instinctual response to (oil painting),” explained Wandzel. “And to its ability to allow a physical representation of touch and observation.”

Now a highly visible and estimable artist on our local scene, Wandzel has achieved much in terms of notoriety, both near and far. However, he tends to view most, if not all, of those accomplishments as essentially irrelevant to his creative growth. “The things I thought were accomplishments, such as showing at Sotheby's Auction Houses around the world, appearing in art publications such as New American Paintings, and having famous people own your work, turned out to be inconsequential towards improving as an artist,” reflected Wandzel. “Accomplishments or accolades are the fluff that cloud the true destination of the artist.”

Lately, Wandzel has taken “a hiatus” from painting, opting instead to focus on “sculpture that stems from my last series of ‘nonsense paintings.’” He said he is most excited about the third phase of a collaborative project with locally based artist Alexis Javier. The project will be completed towards the end of this month and included in the upcoming First Friday showcase at Sulfur Studios in the Starland District. He said he has also been working on a “solo project to present my sculptural pieces in a proper and fully realized environment.”

He welcomes interested parties to search for his official presence on both Instagram or Google.

First concert ticket you bought? “As a suburban Minnesota kid, I snuck into a Weird Al Yankovic concert.”

Do you maintain a “straight” job? “My art is my main source of income, but recently I've been cleaning Airbnbs. (Don't laugh, it's not funny.)”

Cigars, cigarettes, both or neither? “Cigs.”

Reggae music or Western swing? “Neither. If music doesn't feel like an army marching towards me, I don't bother.”

Could anything lead your focus away from artistic expression? “Eventually, the weight will seem unbearable, but I hope when that time comes, I will persevere.”

Your dream motor vehicle? “I walk everywhere and have no driver’s license, so a good pair of shoes will suffice.”

Ever owned a pet? “I have had many wonderful pets, but currently I have one cat named Gesso.” 

Would you rather be pinched hard repeatedly or slapped hard once? “Slapped by my friend Ahmad Jackson.”

True or false: I always tell the truth. “True, as best I know, and it tends to bother people.”

Flashlights or candelabras? “Flashlights.”

Denim or leather? “I like the look of leather, but not on myself.”

Favorite board or card game as a child? “Gin Rummy with my grandmother.”

Favorite board or card game as an adult? “Dominoes.”

One key aspect of your personality you’d gladly exchange for another? “I get dangerously angry very quickly... So, the opposite of that would be nice.”

Do you listen to music while you paint or sculpt? If so, by what artists? “Currently, anything by Slayer. Especially when I'm painting flowers.”

Yoga or martial arts? “Martial arts.” 

One visual artist whose work you’ve inadvertently imitated? “As artists, we inadvertently do that every day.”  

Do you prefer swimming in creeks, lakes, ponds, pools or oceans? “When I do, I prefer the ocean.”

The best and worst aspects of having such prodigious facial hair? “Strangers will stop what they are doing to compliment the beard, and my wife won't kiss me.”

First thing you’d do as mayor of Savannah? “Stop ‘growth’ and ‘progress’ until the community can understand the consequences of their actions.”  

Each week, 20 Questions features a different noteworthy figure of the local arts community in a quick Q&A session curated by veteran writer Jim Reed. Read more at dosavannah.com.