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ABOUT THE ARTIST
Bill Woolway painted well into his 97th year, in his primitive style, subject matter that could make you cry. Inspired by the landscapes, people and animals around him, Bill Woolway captured the feelings they evoke - in acrylic on wood with found materials subtly used to highlight a detail and draw our real world into the world he created.
The primitive nature of paintings by Bill Woolway speaks at once to an archetype of Americana and his subjects justly represent an American reality. But the world he painted was often the one no one takes the time to see. The disenfranchised get their due in the primitive paintings by Bill Woolway: from migrant workers, whose toil and plight is as much a part of our dinner as the sunshine and rain, to lost dogs finding a friend after a long time wandering. The oeuvre of Bill Woolway asks us to look closer.
Bill Woolway spent his life as a painter. He also served in World War II in North Africa and Italy and had a long career in advertising. Keeping a studio across from his Chicago office the artist would cross the street at lunchtime to teach a painting class. “If I don’t paint, I hurt,” Bill Woolway has said, “I paint what I feel and go where my brush takes me.” A move west brought him into the world of lettuce and strawberry pickers, long the subjects of his continuing series “Another Day, Another Dollar.” In these primitive style paintings, bent backs appear next to flowers sprouting crushed metal bottle caps, soft mountains undulate behind often windowless houses, slender white figures frequent doorways lending a ghostly presence whose significance we may debate: The lingering of lives from other harvests in other indistinguishable years? Does the slender couple, who appear under the word “coming” with the man in a dark business suit, represent the simplicity of hope or the perennially elusive American dream?
Another continuing effort of Bill Woolway was his “Lost Doggie” series. After raising a dog he found abandoned in the desert, Bill Woolway could not help but capture and convey the fright, hunger and confusion so compellingly represented by their plight. How can one not feel moved by a title like “Lost Doggie Finds a Friend?” The simplicity of the sentiment perfectly balances with the archetype of the displaced; a small thing becomes an enormous thing.
The paintings of Bill Woolway have been celebrated from the San Diego Museum of Art to the Art Institute of Chicago to the Smithsonian.