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Bill calls himself a ceramic sculptor — one who works at taking clay from the earth and transforming it into sculptures, which recall ancient myths. The clay, heavy to begin with, becomes light and intensely fragile as he works with it. He makes art in order to stir new ways of thinking and experiencing the world both for himself and for those who view the finished pieces.
Bill was a professor of literature and a dean for 30 years. He worked closely with very bright students and watched them transform themselves into startlingly wonderful young men and women. It was like watching a butterfly emerge from its pupa. Fatherhood is similar, but comes with a much scarier sense of responsibility. Art is the same, except that the artist has a much more direct hand in the process. If a student or a child goes awry, one works hard to correct the problem. If a sculpture goes bad or blows up in the kiln, you mourn briefly, toss the shards, and move forward. It is much easier.
“I don’t think you ‘become’ an artist. I think that we are all potential artists. It is when one decides to delve into one’s creativity that art can happen. When I was 40, I explored the possibility of becoming a professional actor/director. I found that the more I did theater, the less I enjoyed it. The more I was paid, the more like hard work it became. Whatever “art” was in my acting became rote. In retirement, I was pressured into taking a ceramics course. It did not go well. I was terrible at the wheel, and I had no inspiration. On a visit to Paris, I had dinner at the home of friends who were world-class collectors of ceramics. The rooms were full of dozens of stunning, exquisitely wrought pieces. One wall sculpture by Pompeo Pianazzola hung opposite my chair at dinner. Although, dinner was delicious and the conversation sparkling, my eyes kept going to that sculpture. Between courses I would get up and go to it, examining it in great detail. It was slightly curved, matte black, with a bright red mark in the lower right corner and faint scratches across the body of the piece, as if there had once been a text. I was fascinated. When I came back to my ceramics class, I knew what I wanted to do. And that has remained the source of my inspiration ever since.”
For Bill, this Parisian encounter sparked a life in the visual arts. Every time he does a piece, it is a new discovery. The more he works, the more sure he is that a world without art is a world without insight into its soul. Not all artists can reach the highest levels, but all of us who work with sincerity and commitment will uncover at least a shred of the magic of the universe. And those of us who stop and absorb each piece are the richer for it.