Wendell Arneson was born on September 10, 1946, in Madison, Wisconsin. He earned his BA degree from Luther College in 1968, and his MFA from Bowling Green State University (Ohio) in 1978. Arneson completed post-graduate work at the Santa Fe Institute of Fine Arts (New Mexico), studying with Nathan Oliveira (1994) and Gregory Amenoff (1995). In 1978, he began teaching painting and drawing in the art department at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Arneson was named the Oscar and Gertrude Boe Overby Distinguished Professor for inspiring teaching, influential artist, and service to St. Olaf College in 2009.
Arneson is an active exhibitor with over 50 exhibitions to his credit, including over 30 solo shows. His work was selected for Watercolor USA three times (1983, 84 & 85) and for the National Watercolor Invitational, Clark Arts Center Gallery, Rockford College, Illinois (1984). He has exhibited in the Peace Prize Forum (2003, 2004) and has been the recipient of numerous international research grants. He has completed commissions for several corporate and public collections, including Ford Motor Corporation, General Motors, Prudential Life Insurance, the 3M Corporation, and IBM. He participated in the Art in Embassies Program through the U.S. Department of State, from 1990-96.
Arneson’s work has evolved from complex compositions based on observation to emotionally charged gestural responses tapping memory and shared experience. He says, "The art of drawing and painting has for me its own sense of history – both the cumulative act of creating the work as well as its focus on one’s personal vision. The physical presence of paint and charcoal, the integrity of the gesture, and the decision-making process record my reactions to time, place, and relationships. The process of constructing a work acknowledges memory as a significant ingredient in the painting. It allows me to seek clarity of ideas while honoring mystery and ambiguity. Each composition is an assemblage or narrative that is more than a sum of its parts. Each work purports to capture a fleeting moment of life while being an accumulation of sensations and emotions that extend to the universal." (2000)