Willem Volkersz: The View from Here
Willem Volkersz, Follow Your Bliss, 1994/2015, neon, wood, acrylic/latex paint, found objects. Collection of the artist.

Willem Volkersz: The View from Here

Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Salem, OR - To March 30

by Christine Clark

This traveling exhibition, organized by the South Dakota Art Museum and the Missoula Art Museum, brings 26 mixed-media installation pieces by Willem Volkersz to galleries across the Northwest. Produced since his retirement as director of Montana State University’s School of Art, these pieces tell the story of his life as a child in Europe during the 1940s and his rebirth as a teenage immigrant exploring the vast, wild freedom of postwar America.

“During the past 25 years, I have chosen to tell the stories of my childhood in Amsterdam during World War II, my family’s emigration to Seattle in the early 1950s, and my immigrant’s fascination with the West and the popular culture of this country,” writes Volkersz. “As a teenager, I began to photograph roadside art, neon signs and billboards and now try to find ways to draw on those adventures in my work. The stories I tell often start with a memory of those road trips and my love for collecting travel souvenirs and paint-by-number paintings. I hope that, while telling these stories through diverse media, they also reflect the world we live in.”

A pioneer of contemporary American art, Volkersz introduced neon lights to his painting and sculpture installations in the late 1960s. His work often incorporates found and collected objects, such as postcards and touristy knickknacks – items that could be described as the detritus of a commercialized culture. Inspired by outsider art, Volkersz works within the ethos of “use what you have.” The blissful naïveté of his pieces accentuates the seriousness of the theme, especially in his works about the atrocities of the Holocaust and the effects of urbanization on nature.

Docent guided tours each Tuesday in February and March 26


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