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Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Simonides

William Catling

William Catling

William Catling, MFA, was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Bay Area. He decided at an early age that art was what he wanted to do for life. Catling taught high school for ten years and then moved to Southern California to begin teaching here at APU in 1991.

As an artist, he attempts to address the loss of our natural sense of being human, that is our deeply intuitive sense of ourselves. He believes we have become disconnected from the natural rhythms of life. The figures Catling makes are rough, cracked, aged, reflecting both suffering and the internal capacity to connect to others outside oneself. Such suffering can evoke the viewer's empathy and self-transcendence.

Viewers can embrace the condition of the figures thus engaging themselves in the process of reconnecting by joining in the transcendent element of the work. The work does not eliminate the body's suffering but presents it as a condition for spiritual uplift.

MFA, Sculpture, California State University, Fullerton
M.A., California State University, San Francisco
B.A., California State University, San Francisco 

Reaching into the freshly cut trench, I pulled out a handful of purple-gray clay and began making a place setting for the scheduled afternoon tea. The sun was warm against my skin on this lazy summer day with a gentle breeze to move the grass and keep us cool. Seated on the ground nearby, my companions were busy shaping their own bowls, cups and teapots. Amid this collaborative adventure rose an aroma that kept our parents away and for which we dubbed the clay "sewer mud." And thus began a tradition that lasted many a summer day.

As you have probably guessed this was one of my early childhood experiences with the multifaceted material we call clay. This love for clay continued throughout my life, even when I studied to become a painter in my teenage years and while in college at San Francisco State University in the early 1970's.A couple of semesters into my Bachelor of Arts degree I enrolled in the required explorations in ceramics class with professor Joe Hawley. After a few weeks of work we all came proudly to our first critique. On the shelves was a smattering of mugs, bowls, vases and other bits of beginner's attempts at functional ceramics. We grew quiet as professor Hawley looked carefully at the display of ware; the silence seemed to last forever. He removes a hand from his chin and sweeping us with his gaze proceeded to ask, "What is all this 'stuff'?" Our mouths fell open in shock and he went on to tell us to go back out and create objects that meant something significant to us; something that challenged our understanding of the material and its limitations. I left the room, walked to the technician's office, bought 100 lbs of sculpture clay and went to work.That first piece of clay sculpture looked like a large, somewhat misshapen version of a "look into" Easter egg. It was the beginning of a life-long relationship with clay and shaping objects that carry significant personal meaning. The following semester I met the most significant person in my life as an artist. It was the term I was to take the explorations class in sculpture and the professor was Stephen DeStaebler. That class led me to later work as an apprentice for DeStaebler and in 1981 to enter the masters program in sculpture under DeStaebler's guidance.Many times l have asked myself what l learned from my time working with DeStaebler. The following phrases will be my first attempt to reduce a ten year experience into the confines of letters, words and punctuation. Clay is alive. The role of the artist is to work in tune with the life of the materials. The crack in the clay is a gift to be received. The kiln is like Christmas, always rich with gifts unexpected. Humanity is bound by a common spirit to be rejoiced with, mourned for and shared in. Advanced technology can be dangerous, to be handled with gloves, saving the skin for contact with things elemental in nature. The real work of the artist is always in the studio. Leave politics and activism to the politicians and the activists. Our art is the work of our lives. Don't spend too much time in galleries and museums, they can confuse your personal vision. Balance: stay healthy inside and out of the studio.

These are the thoughts I carry with me into the classroom as a professor at Azusa Pacific University in Southern California. They are also what comes to mind when I think of the years I spent mixing clay, moving 1,000 pound sculptures, transporting work and setting up shows for a man I deeply admire.My work has been impacted by very powerful figurative sculptors such DeSaebler, Giacometti, Buck, Neri and Olivera. I share with them the tradition of creating art of the human condition through the figure as a lifes work.


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