Willem Volkersz | Biography

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Media Description: Neon, Acrylic, Found Objects

Artist Statement

"High art and low culture need each other to renew their vitality--
without each to enhance the other, both would full flat."
Donald Kuspit, American Ceramics, Jan/Feb 1999

I have an immigrant's fascination with America. After my family emigrated to
Seattle from Holland when I was 14, I began driving throughout the West, camera in
hand, documenting an unfamiliar yet vibrant culture made up of billboards, vernacular
architecture, and decorated yards. Over time, I became increasingly fascinated with
popular culture: larger-than-life advertising figures, neon signs, postcards, and travel
souvenirs. Ultimately (after art and architecture studies at the University of Washington
and graduate school at Mills College), these experiences became sources for my

Although my training was primarily in the area of painting, I began adding found
objects to my work while in graduate school. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, I also
added neon and handcrafted objects and the work became narrative and often
autobiographical. Many of the sculptures were made in response to personal experiences
(like a major flood that inundated our house and studios in the late 1970') and eventually
I began to look back on my boyhood and our emigration to the US. The sculptures about
growing up during World War II are a prime example of the personal sources for much of
my work.

In recent years, I have worked on several different series. Domestic Neon
includes sculptures about my travels, experiences as a husband and father and life in the
West (some are about the rapid urbanization of our region). When I Was A Boy is a series
about growing up during World War II and the many young victims from my elementary
school who died during the Holocaust. The most recent work, Sort Stories, emerged
largely as an antidote to the sad and serious nature of the theme of war.


Education BA (with honors), University of Washington, 1965

MFA, Mills College, 1967

Teaching Montana State University, 1986-2001 (Prof. Emeritus)

Pilchuck Glass School, Summer 1999

Kansas City Art Institute, 1968-86

Jacob Kramer College, Leeds, England, 1972-73

Ohio State University, 1967-68

Research Appointments

Visiting Fellow, Univ. of Kansas, 1986

Visiting Scholar, University of Kent, England, 1991

Administrative Appointments

Director, School of Art, Montana State University, 1986-91 and 1994-95

Director of Admissions, Kansas City Art Institute, 1981-83

Selected Fellowships & Grants

Individual Support Grant, Gottlieb Foundation, 2010

George Sugarman Foundation, 2007

Montana Arts Council Fellowship, 1997

Fulbright Senior Scholar Award, 1991

Mellon Senior Fellowship in the Humanities, 1986

Selected Solo Exhibitions

Polly Friendlander Gallery, 1970

Kansas City Art Institute, 1972

Leeds Polytechnic, Leeds, England, 1973

Montana State University, 1976, 1994, 1999

Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, 1974, 1976, 1987

Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art, 1988, 1994, 2008

Holter Museum of Art, 1990

Yellowstone Art Center, 1990

Reed Whipple Cultural Center, Las Vegas, 1992

Museum of the Rockies, 1993

Western Washington University, 1994

Plains Art Museum, 1994

Salt Lake Art Center, 1995

Nicolaysen Art Museum, 1998

Museum of Northwest Art, 1999

University of Puget Sound, 2000

Indiana State University, 2001

Museum of Neon Art, 2002

Missoula Art Museum, 2002

Beall Park Art Center, 2003

Custer County Art Center, 2005

Holter Museum of Art, 2006

Northwest Missouri State University, 2010

Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, Kansas City, 2010

Coconino Center for the Arts, Flagstaff, Arizona, 2011

Missoula Art Museum (installation), 2011

Emerson Cultural Center, Bozeman, Montana, 2013

Turman Larison Contemporary, 2013

Selected Awards

James & Mary Ross Provost's Award for Excellence, Montana State University, 1999

Charles and Nora Wiley Research Award, MSU, 1998

Fridley Award for Distinguished Teaching, MSU, 1996

Work/Biography Included

Alaska Airlines magazine, May 2013

Illustration: A Visual History, Heller & Chwast, Harry N. Abrams, 2008

25 Years of New Glass Review, Corning Museum, 2006

New Glass Review, Corning Museum of Glass (2008, 2004, 1999, 1997, 1993, 1992)

The Sculpture Reference by Arthur Williams, 2004

Domestic Neon video, Media Works, Bozeman, MT, 2002

Glowing in the Dark film, Blue Plate Productions, Vancouver, BC, 1997

The Light Artist Anthology by Christian Schiess, ST Publications, 1993

Who's Who in American Art (since 1992)

Visiting Artist/Lecturer (selected)

Holter Museum of Art, 2011

President's Fine Arts Series, Montana State University, 2009

Kansas Artist Craftsman Association, 2008

Holter Museum of Art, 2006

Kansas City Art Institute, 2003

University of Northern Iowa, 2003

Swope Art Museum, 2001

Indiana State University, 2001

Walt Disney Feature Animation Studios, Orlando, 2000

Selected Reviews and Articles

Independent Record, Helena, MT, June 14, 2013 (front page article with photo)

Get Out!, Bozeman Chronicle, Feb. 8, 2013 (cover story)

Big Sky Journal, arts issue, 2012

Bozeman Chronicle, October 19, 2009

Artisan Northwest, Summer 2006

at home, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, April 18, 2006

LA Weekly, August 9-15, 2002

This Week, Bozeman Daily Chronicle, October 12, 2001

New Art Examiner, July/August 2001