Bill Mack is considered by some to be the world’s premiere relief sculptor

Q&A with Bill Mack: Bill Mack is considered by some to be the world’s premiere relief sculptor

Susanne Casgar

Q. Do you have a favorite sculpture … a favorite painting?

My favorite sculpture normally is the one that I am currently completing. It’s the one that is fresh in my mind, and the one that I am most enthusiastic about at this time. However, they are all my “children” each one has its own story; each one has its own reason for having been created. So, with a few exceptions, they are all favorite works.

Q. How has your business changed during the last five years?

The demand for my artwork grew continuously, almost from the onset of when I brought the works to galleries in the 1980s. However, as we all know, when terrorists struck the buildings in New York, the art gallery business essentially went flat. No one was thinking about purchasing something as frivolous (relatively speaking) as artwork at that time, and rightfully so. We all mourned the losses of the victims in New York, and were concerned about what would happen next. The only thing I could do professionally was spend more time in my studio, creating new artwork. I have worked harder in the past three years than any other time in my career. And, judging from the reaction of the galleries recently, as our economy’s gotten better … and the gallery business has once again begun to flourish … putting the extra time in my studio was well worth it.

Q. Which of your pieces has elicited the most attention and controversy?

Probably “Enigma.” “Enigma” is a sculpture of a female that appears to be in a box with her hands and feet and back pressing on the walls of the box. People have often told me they felt claustrophobic when they looked at it. Others have told me that they thought I was making some sort of sexist statement by showing an entrapped female. And, others told me they felt the stress of the female pressing against the box. In reality, I had none of this in mind. I was merely contrasting the soft curves of the female form with the rigid geometric shape of the rectangular frame that surrounds her. In any case, many of the people that expressed these emotions, often ended up buying the artwork.

Q. What kind of music do you enjoy listening to the most?

My music preferences are very broad and eclectic; much the same as my interest in other forms of art. Essentially I like it all.

Q. What was the last book you read or what are you reading now?

I often listen to books on CDs while I am working, which allows me to continue to work with my hands. The last book that I listened to was “The Da Vinci Code,” which, by the way, many people think inspired my recent bas-relief sculpture, entitled “Da Vinci” (which, however, was not the case).

Q. What can’t you live without?

When I am in my studio working night and day by myself, I really look forward to the time when I can travel and be with people. On the other hand, when I am traveling and away from my studio, I am thinking about my work constantly and looking forward to getting back into the studio. In other words, I need some balance between travel and work, but I really can’t live without the precious time by myself in my studio.

Q. The rose is your signature, how did that come about?

Nice try! You probably know that I have always kept the reason for the rose private when asked about it in virtually every interview, and when I am making public appearances. I can tell you in the beginning it had a much more significant meaning. It has evolved over the years to where it has become a “signature,” something people expect to see when they meet me. And, as you probably also know, we pass out roses during showings of my artwork. I understand that I am the largest private purchaser of roses in the world, since we purchase and distribute over 30,000 roses each year.

Q. What person, living or dead, do you admire the most?

Well, obviously there are several if you are asking about people throughout history. However, since we are talking about the art business, Picasso would be the person/artist I admire the most. I say this not only because he did so many extraordinary works, including drawings, paintings, sculptures, ceramics, etc., but also because he worked for so long. I hope I am still creating artwork, and able to do “pushups” when I’m in my 90s as well.

Q. What and where is your favorite restaurant?

I have a favorite table at a restaurant called Gerard’s in Maui, HI. Also, the restaurants Prime, and of course, Picasso, at the Bellagio in Las Vegas are spectacular.

Q. Where would you like to live?

The nice thing about living in Minneapolis is we are in the middle of the country, and we can make a day trip to virtually any place in America. If we lived on the west coast it would be a two-day commitment to travel to the east coast, and vice versa. Further, most people think we are freezing in the north in the winter, but it’s about 70 degrees every place I am (my studio, my car, restaurants, my office, etc., etc.). So, to my clients and friends that are worried about me freezing to death in the winter, don’t! However, if I were to move, either full-time or part-time, I would probably be leaving for better weather. Consequently, I would go where there is the most sun, probably somewhere between La Jolla and San Clemente, CA.

Q. When and where were you the happiest?

Probably in the beginning when I first offered my artwork in galleries and saw people’s reactions. It was exciting for my family as well to see the reception that my artwork received. It was a time of extraordinary growth. We were selling a tremendous amount of artwork in Hawaii at the Center Art Galleries. I spent about 15 percent of my time in Hawaii, and my children essentially grew up vacationing in Hawaii.

Q. What is your biggest frustration?

The answer would be the lack of time. I love to travel, and when I am traveling it rejuvenates my creativity and my desire to be in my studio. However, when I get back to my studio, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to create all the work I have stored in my brain. I hope God is kind enough to allow me to spend ample time on this earth to create most of the artwork that I envision.

Q. What sculptor do you admire the most … and why?

Once again, Picasso. He was a sculptor as well, and you know now how I feel about him. However, I do admire anyone that dedicates their time to creating sculptures of any kind. An artist is probably one of the most difficult occupations to pursue successfully. We all fight the battle in the beginning to justify the amount of time we put into our creative endeavors relative to the modest rewards we receive in return.

Q. What is your favorite comfort food? Your favorite drink?

My favorite drink is malt scotch, either on the rocks or with a splash of soda and a twist. Regarding food, essentially I like it all. I don’t have a particularly favorite food of any kind.

Q. Professionally speaking, what keeps you up at night?

The thing that bothers me the most is the fact that I am unable, for the most part, to be spontaneous with my artwork, since I am working with 200 to 300 pounds of day. My mind can see where I want to go next with the art but it takes time, conceivably several hours to move 100 to 200 pounds of the clay to get to the point that my mind is envisioning. Oftentimes, I am extremely stimulated with the work that I am doing and I simply can’t leave it regardless of the time.


ABN Editorial Director

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