Bill’s Thesis

Harry Wood Gallery | March 27, 2017

(Photo Credit: Buzzy Sullivan)

Show Statement

The past six years have been a transitional period in my life, in which I’ve struggled with my identity and worldview. After a divorce left me feeling lost and disillusioned, I quit my Civil Engineering career, left my lifelong home of Alaska, and drifted across the country in a 1989 Subaru with two dogs. Fast-forward to the present day: I’m now happily remarried and completing an MFA degree. I’ve found goals worth working towards, but the transition from engineer to artist and from cynic to optimist will never be complete. This thesis represents my work to reconcile these dichotomies of self through an exploration of contrasting processes and materials.

The most direct reference in this work is the relationship between Japanese Suiseki and Daiza. Similar to Bonzai trees, Suiseki stones are selected based on a set of aesthetic principals to create a miniature landscape. This invites a contemplative perspective shift in which cracks and bumps become carved canyons and mountains. Many Suiseki are presented on Daiza wooden bases, crafted to fit their stones perfectly. As I digitally trace my own found objects, I imagine a woodworker expertly carving a Daiza to match contours formed a million years ago.

This relationship between human control and natural force is both comforting and humbling. On the computer it is satisfying to zoom in and create an outline with thousands of mathematically absolute points, knowing the CNC equipment will follow these vectors exactly. But these cross-sections capture only one dimension of their objects’ actual depth and complexity. This reflects the limits of logic and the need to balance analysis
with intuition.

I can’t pretend that attaching powder-coated aluminum plates to rocks and sticks has brought me Zen Enlightenment. Too often I become overwhelmed and discouraged with the complexity of the world, but with this work I hope to create symbols for a New Sincerity, one that acknowledges our minimal understanding and control of the world while believing it can still be improved.


This show wouldn’t be possible without the help of more people than I have room to name. My talented wife Emily Longbrake is a constant source of inspiration and pushes me to be the best I can be. Thank you to my committee: Susan Beiner, Sam Chung, Dan Collins, and Kurt Weiser for taking the time to challenge and nurture my ideas. Thank you to all of my fellow grads and AZ friends who’ve shared their ideas, insight, and lent many helping hands. A special shout out to Adam Montoya, Molly Koehn, Buzzy Sullivan, Christina Kemp, and Jonah Amadeus.