“Growing up in Los Angeles, his mother was very focused on [Wiley and his twin brother] having a sort of expansive view of the world, so she would take them to a lot of museums,” Cassel Oliver said. “He saw so much beauty in these classical portraits, so grand and monumental, but the thing that really stuck with him is that no brown or Black people were presented within the portraits. He knew people who were powerful, he knew women who were graceful. He knew women who were dignified.”
Enrolling in art classes at the age of 11 at the behest of his mother, Wiley eventually went on to study at the San Francisco Art Institute before being admitted to Yale, which has a reputation for churning out promising young art stars. Almost immediately upon graduating, Wiley was offered a residency at the Studio Museum.
“The Studio Museum residency was certainly a huge milestone, and it’s always been a capstone for a young artist,” Cassel Oliver said. “There’s nothing more incredible than artists having resources of time and money and place to really experiment.”