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Monday, September 30, 2013

17 Questions for William Duffy, Sculptor


William and Sherrolyn Duffy. Photo – LVAA.

By Brian Walker
Entire contents are copyright © 2013, Brian Walker. All rights reserved.
William Duffy is a sculptor, teacher and Kentuckian with eyes for the global stage. His resume is impressive, and I would encourage everyone to browse his online gallery at http://www.wmduffy.com. His work has been exhibited at JB Speed Museum, Kentucky Art & Craft Foundation Gallery, Actors Theatre of Louisville and the Muhammad Ali Center (just to name a few). He has received commissions from the Bingham Foundation for Women, Kentucky Arts Council and The Louisville Orchestra (again, just to name a few). Most recently he had work on exhibit in Louisville Visual Art Association's “By the Numbers:  An Exhibition of 16 Artabella Artists."
Brian Walker:  Number 1. You were just a part of the recent exhibit by the Louisville Visual Art Association at PUBLIC gallery. What work was featured?
William Duffy:  Two stone carvings that are sort of central to all of my work – human forms and in particular the female form: “Morning Stretch II” – white marble nude female figure; and “Calmly Standing” – fossil stone abstract/figurative female form
BW:  Number 2. What was the inspiration for the piece "Morning Stretch II" (which is gorgeous)?
WD:  Thanks! Do you ever think about your rising up in the morning and starting another day? Sometimes you feel as though none of your muscles will wake up until you stretch your arms up and twist that torso a little; then you feel ready to take on the day. As you stretch, you feel big and strong, like you can take on any and all challenges. That’s my inspiration for this piece.
BW:  Number 3. For folks not familiar with Artebella, what is it?
WD:  It’s a new Louisville Art Association website and daily email that features the artwork of a different local artist each weekday. The Artebella “By the Numbers” exhibit held at LVAA’s PUBLIC gallery was a “crowd-sourced” curated exhibit.
BW:  Number 4. What does it mean for you to have been selected to be part of the 16 artists invited to be included in this exhibition?
WD:  It’s really cool to know that I was chosen by “crowd-sourced web analytics.” It sort of reminds me of winning by popular vote, but not really. I’m in the exhibit because I was one of the artists that had the highest number of viewers’ clicks on my pages and the longest looking viewers. Now this doesn’t mean they liked my work the best; it just means more people were curious about it and for longer. [Smiles] Either way, I’m grateful for the interest and honored to be in the show.

Spread Your Wings, marble, William Duffy.

BW:  Number 5. Was there a moment you can point to when you knew you had to be a sculptor and had to do it for the rest of your life?
WD:  Yes. I was driving home from my workplace at the Natural History Museum (now the Louisville Science Center) when I spotted some workers picking up some large chunks of marble in front of a bank. Apparently a car had jumped the curb and struck a marble column in front of the bank. The workers were removing the pieces. I pulled up to the men removing the marble chunks and asked if I could have a piece of the rock for carving and they said, “Sure!” My first carving tool was a screwdriver that I had sharpened and a regular claw hammer. It took me MONTHS to get the hang of carving in that material because I had never done anything like it before and marble is a really hard stone. But I had known for quite some time that I wanted to create three dimensional art – not just create the illusion of it. Later when I had a show of my paintings and drawings at Spalding University, I included this marble sculpture in the show and a small alabaster carving I had been working on. The Sunday after the opening reception, The Courier-Journal did a review of the exhibit and there was this huge picture of my marble sculpture in it. The art critic, Sarah Lansdell, said, “The most arresting and impressive of this group of Duffy works are extraordinary abstract sculptures in marble and alabaster. These are small and have an unusual purity of surface and tensions that indicate a superior understanding of the sculptural needs. This universal side of Duffy could bear a great deal more exposure.” Right then I knew carving was what I wanted to do! That was 1980 and I’m still carving…
BW:  Number 6. Do you have another art form you go to consistently to be inspired to create your own work?
WD:  Yes, I still love drawing. It is something that I’ve done most of my life and I never get enough of it. I can work out my ideas quickly or slowly, depending on the material I’m going to approach. It’s always better for me to see the image on paper first.
BW:  Number 7. What’s the sculpture you’ve done over your career so far that you’re the most proud of and why?
WD:  That would be my very first stone carving (Spread Your Wings) – the one I just described. I was proud of it when I finally completed it without any formal training. Just raw DIY elbow grease. And then it got such a great review.
BW:  Number 8. Do you have a sculptor’s work you admire but haven’t gotten to see in person?
WD:  I would love to see Michelangelo’s David and the Pieta one day.
BW:  Number 9. What advice would you have for a sculptor looking to break into the business and make money with their art?
WD:  I would tell them to not concentrate so much on making money or “big bucks,” but to spend their time and efforts on creating great works. Then the money will follow.
BW:  Number 10. What’s your favorite Louisville hangout?
WD:  My studio.
BW:  Number 11. You’re also a teacher for over 20 years. What’s your guiding philosophy when instructing young artists?
WD:  I always stress to be the best you can be and don’t get caught up in comparing your work to other artists' works.
BW:  Yes! That's solid advice for artists working in any medium.  Number 12. If you could be commissioned to do a statue of any historical figure, who would it be and why?
WD:  I would love to have the opportunity to create a statue of Muhammad Ali because of his amazing achievements and his universal message of understanding and hope. He and his message are immortalized here in his hometown by the Ali Center and the mosaic depictions of his face on the Center, but not by a statue. I want to be the one to do that!
BW:  Number 13. I was stalking your website galleries and I was struck by the series of “lil boy” and “dreadlocks” sculptures in bronze (?). They are just beautiful! What was the inspiration for those?
WD:  Youth. I simply wanted to capture the beauty of youth. There aren’t many planes involved because the skin is smooth and tight, and I wanted to play around with the freshness of the look.
BW:  Number 14. What’s at the top of your bucket list of goals as a sculptor yet to accomplish?
WD:  To be recognized globally.
BW:  Number 15. Have you ever been tempted to leave Louisville, or have you been here your entire career?
WD:  I’ve lived in Louisville all my life and, yes, I’ve been tempted many times to leave.
BW:  Number 16. How important is it to you to be seen as a Kentucky artist?
WD:  Not as important as it is to be seen as a global artist who happens to live in Kentucky.
BW:  Number 17. Who is someone who inspires you and why?
WD:  My beautiful wife Sherrie, who has always given me the encouragement I need to continue in this often difficult field. She loves every piece I create...and tells me so! She also lovingly and consistently kicks my “behind” forward.


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