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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

Subconscious Images Come Alive

Painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet Max Ernst stated, "Every human being has an inexhaustible store of buried images in his subconscious; it is merely a matter of courage or liberating procedures...of voyages into the unconscious, to bring pure and unadulterated found objects to light." There are the gifts of artist Frank Williams as he takes scraps of found items and crafts them into beautifully unique sculptures for homes and gardens around the country.

Frank grew up in Chicago, Illinois, and considered himself fortunate for the support of his parents and high school art teachers from providing space for his creative expression. "My high school was one of two schools in Chicago that offered a major in art classes with credits toward college. I took full advantage of it for four years to learn as much as I could in the field of art.” Frank also attended a few classes at the Art Institute Chicago. The experience provided a broad foundation in various mediums and a solid grounding in technique and art history. Frank thought he would like to become an illustrator at some point. However, the country's current environment at that time required young men in Frank’s age group to serve his country as part of the draft. He states, "I did my required stint and then attended vocational school on the G.I. Bill. I was trained to cut hair and became a hairstylist." Eventually, Frank opened a salon in the Chicago suburbs, leading to more significant business opportunities.

A major hair products company approached Frank to represent their products at trade shows. He was so successful in this task that the company hired him full-time first as a sales representative, eventually moving him into National Sales as a marketing manager for their line of professional products. Twenty-two years later, the product company spun off to a Phoenix-based company, which hired Frank as a consultant, thus moving to Phoenix, Arizona from Chicago. Frank's move to the Southwest also allowed him and his wife to start a small manufacturing company that made the only American-made professional hair dryer. "Through all those years, I had retained my love for art; I sketched, did pen and ink, and colored pencil drawings." However, when Frank and his wife sold their company, Frank could return to his art, this time as a full-time professional. He remembered his thoughts years before becoming an illustrator, which changed on his first visit to the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.

The experience of discovering Western and Native American art profoundly impacted Frank's direction. "I was impressed by the colorful kachinas and pottery. However, I was drawn to a bland and fascinating display of masks and the utility objects made from Cucurbita gourds." To Frank's astonishment, he found gourd art was prevalent in the West, and there were gourd farms in Arizona and California that catered to artists and hobbyists all over the region. Frank's first visit to one of the farms took him back to the thousands of shapes, sizes, and varieties available. Through the years, instead of looking for specific sizes and shapes, he now allows the gourds to present themselves and speak to what they want to become. One never knows if it will want to be a mask, a vase, or even a bowl that looks like a piece of pottery.

Once the gourds arrive in Frank’s studio in Goodyear, Arizona, it’s like the story of Cinderella, walla, a pumpkin becoming a coach for the ball. With years of experience and the development of original finishing techniques, Frank can make them appear metallic, textured, or even fired. Frank has learned to weld with the more prominent pieces so he can create a display stand for the piece. However, it doesn't stop there. Acquiring the skill of welding now has moved Frank into metal sculptures and wall hangings, many of which are inspired by petroglyphs in the area. Nature's natural pieces, such as turquoise, semi-precious stones, slate, flagstone, saguaro ribs, and much more, find their way into expertly rendered show-stopping works of art with their gourds and metal foundations.

Artist Frank Williams says it best, "Every piece of art I create is an experience difficult to describe. Few experiences can surpass the feeling you get, realizing someone wants a piece you created to be part of their home and family for generations. I can't think of anything more rewarding." Frank Williams is a juried member of the Sonoran Arts League and the West Valley Arts Council. He regularly exhibits around Arizona and has a piece in the permanent art collection of the City of Surprise. He also welcomes home studio tours on appointment and can be contact at his email address for arrangements.


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