It is often said that art enables us to both find ourselves and lose ourselves, all at the same time. Will Kurtz’s pieces are standing proofs of just this belief!
The verbal and the visual operate in different dimensions. Art picks clues from both and eventually elevates itself from being a thing to becoming a way of life. It most curiously combines the means of expression and the expression itself, requiring no prattling exegesis to explain it. It is an inspirational tool that washes from the soul, the dust of everyday life.
As Will Kurtz puts it, “People and animals fascinate me,” thus his subjects rely on people and animals who are almost undistinguished and who live on the margins of society. His art form has a distinct emotive quality that virtually captures the spirit of routine life.
Born in Flint, Michigan, Will practiced as a landscape architect for 25 years throughout the United States and Canada. It wasn’t until he was in his mid-thirties that he began creating art as a self-taught artist. Eventually his passion of art superceded landscape architecture and he moved to New York to attend graduate school at the New York Academy of Art. He says, “At fifty, I changed careers. To me personally, art is finding my purpose and doing what comes naturally – doing something that affects other people.”
It’s true that an artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere – far from where he lives or just a few feet away. It’s always around. Will uses photography to capture his art world by clicking moments from daily lives. He then goes on to create realistic life size figures of people and animals using pieces of newspapers and magazines with an internal structure made of wood and wire.
The newspaper and magazine pages that he uses to create his art have a collage of words and colourful advertising. Will capitalises upon them and uses them in a spontaneous, painterly fashion to reflect the mood and life of the individual he is trying to model.
Will explains, “It’s the anatomy underneath which makes the newspaper feel so alive. There’s this underlying reality and believability to it.” His subjects are often comic in character, dress or body type. The posture, gestures and clothing bring the figures to life.
Will most adeptly captures both resilience and vulnerability to embody a true empathy for the hardships we all share. He shares how he created a life size sculpture of Linda, the dog walker who walks 16 dogs at a time every day – “She is this amazing inspiration behind this piece; she is really brave. She lets all the dogs loose and then manages to keep track of all of them.”
The animals that Will crafts are selected to show off their unique breed, size, shape or type of hair. Through them, Will expresses their innocence and humour both of which have a universal appeal.
When art evolves to defy the boundaries of language, it translates into not something that the artist sees but what he makes the world see. It uplifts itself into a visual conversation that keeps one engaged. As an artist, Will chooses sculpture over paintings to communicate his arty vision. He explains, “I just have this affinity for sculptures. I can see things three dimensionally. I like seeing things all the way around. I like to create objects that are based on realism and sculpture has a sense of realism.”
All of Will’s pieces are created using newspaper and magazine cutouts. He uses newspaper as a medium of choice as it gives a raw, imperfect ephemeral quality that reminds us that we are only here on Earth for a short while. His pieces are a perfect composition of colour and newsprint.
He shares, “Firstly, instead of painting, I create a collage and then use it as paint. I have an idea about the colour scheme and it’s just so funny, that I merely have to see a picture in a magazine or newspaper and I know what I am going to do with it; it is almost accidental but it fits in amazingly in the sculpture.” With the world steering towards recyclable materials, Will’s passionate use of old newspapers and magazines to form art is a great initiative.
Looking at ten years from now, Will shares, “I don’t know if I’ll be doing this but whatever I do will be based on reality and observation. I would want to be able to do small shows around the world as I really want to make enough work to be able to go to different places.”
His advice to upcoming artists is that, “Never try to make anything that you think will sell. Don’t discount ideas as these are coming from somewhere. Just look inside and find out what matters the most to you and turn that into art – I like people and animals and I make just these. To do what you love and get paid for it? My God, how wonderful is that!”
Text By Kanupriya Pachisia
Photographs Courtesy Will Kurtz