Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
This past Friday, November 17 in LPAC Cinema, Marjorie Heilman Visiting Artist Bill Freeland presented a retrospective lecture of his work and influences. Freeland, who is exhibiting some of his latest work in the List Gallery, works both two and three dimensionally to create forms that hover between the definitiveness of machinery parts and abstraction.
During his lecture, Freeland described himself as “an abstract realist, searching for a new form of realism,” and his pieces reflect this vision. His lecture described his journey as an artist and the influences upon how he views his work having adapted from his teachers “a seriousness… that this is more than just a job, this is a way of life.”
Freeland’s influences include Southwestern, Dutch, and Irish culture. His work has been inspired by dust-bowl era plow tools, windmills, boats, and Native American masks. Freeland began as a primarily two-dimensional artist, trained in painting and gradually became an active sculptor. He illustrated this gradual shift in focus with a story about a painting that he had been working on and which he had set aside, facing the wall, to take a break. He realized, when looking at the painting’s back, that the complexity of the wooden framework of the canvas was more intriguing to him than the image on the reverse side.
Freeland’s work in the List also reflects his interest in the potential architecture of tools and basic units of devices. He works in stone, steel, plastic, and wood, among other mediums, creating pieces with beautiful, smooth finishes and curiously familiar shapes. With the sensitivity of a craftsman, Freeland’s pieces remind one so strongly of some portion of a larger, complex machinery that they verge on seeming like functional units of a larger, intricate whole.
In an online interview, Cathy Ng ’10, who both attended the lecture and viewed the exhibit, said that Freeland’s lecture gave her a greater appreciation for his pieces. “I was really impressed with the different mediums the artist used and the historical context he provided in the lecture,” observes Ng.
Freeland’s work will remain in the List through December 17. The gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday from 12-5 pm.