Fineart

Taos artist William Stewart recognized for abstract work

Stewart was in 'shock and disbelief' when told he'd won a Pollock-Krasner Grant

By Dawn Franco
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 1/9/19

The Foundation provides financial assistance to visual artists from the estate of Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock's spouse. Stewart has been awarded a grant to continue his abstract work.

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Fineart

Taos artist William Stewart recognized for abstract work

Stewart was in 'shock and disbelief' when told he'd won a Pollock-Krasner Grant

Posted

What do Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner and a part-time Taos resident have in common? They're framed by contemporary art and abstract expressionism.

Local painter William Stewart was recently selected to receive a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation for 2019 to further pursue his art.

Upon Stewart's discovery that he was selected, he said he found himself in shock and disbelief. Like many artists, Stewart has had to find other means of income aside from his painting practice to make a living, including teaching at University of New Mexico-Taos for several years.

"It's [income] been a combination of teaching and painting, it's been a struggle the whole time, my life — financially has not been easy," Stewart said.

Established in 1985, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation's mission is to provide financial assistance to visual artists from the estate of Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock's spouse. Stewart has been awarded $24,000 by the foundation to continue his abstract work.

Originally from Waco, Texas, Stewart said he always wanted to be an artist. He painted as a child and continued on to receive a master's degree in fine art from the University of Texas at Austin. After his studies he followed the beatnik generation and spent time in New York during the 1960s and '70s before relocating to Taos in the '80s. Here, he found inspiration in the New Mexican landscape.

"Nature is very important to me in my painting," he said, "it's a source for the abstract paintings. I did work more directly from nature in the '80s when I first moved to Taos."

In a studio he maintains in Oaxaca, Mexico, Stewart's work is predominantly nonrepresentational. Many of his works are untitled and rather than producing cohesive collections, he creates series of works. His main focuses are light and color.

"Color is very important to me and clarity of color, and color is a very important part -- how the painting holds that light and color," Stewart said.

He said his work is influenced by abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, and he holds a deep affection for Spanish artists such as Francisco Goya and Diego Velásquez.

His most recent experimentation with color was inspired from the people of Oaxaca and their craft for creating color textiles. Stewart is combining mixed media such as oil paint and watercolors with cochinilla, a luxe scarlet dye derived from the dried cochineal insect. "I'm experimenting right now with some cochinilla, which is a dye that they [Oaxacans] use," Stewart said. "It originated in this area, the Spanish took it back to Spain and so forth. It's a red coloring agent that they use and they still use it for fabrics, dyeing cotton and other materials. It's a beautiful red."

Stewart has a very natural approach to his work. Rather than considering the other elements of art such as line, space, shape and form, he lets his work speak for itself.

"I work in a very intuitive way," he said. "The painting is talking to me and I'm talking to the painting and that's how it evolves. The painting is telling me what to do next and that's a very abstract expressionist attitude in essence."

Stewart said he finds painting meditative in exercise, "a form of channeling the energy out into another source." He said he refuses "to limit" himself to a concrete current or work flow. He works in several other mediums other than painting including sculpture, printing, drawing and pastels so the possibilities appear endless.

"I was trying not to say what exactly the grant will give me the possibility of doing because I don't know what I'm going to do yet," Stewart said. "I don't know. Who knows? I don't like to limit myself with saying I'm going to do 'X' when I might do 'Q'."

One thing Stewart does plan to do is to rent a larger studio space upon his return to Taos and perhaps create large-scale pieces. He is aspiring to book more gallery shows, possibly in New York and Santa Fe with whatever artworks emerge from the grant funds.

Stewart's work is in the permanent collections at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, The Watermill Collection in New York, Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey and others. Most recently at the Taos Center for the Arts, alongside Brian Shields, Stewart participated in a show titled "Dreaming the Land" last October and November. He has also had solo exhibits and been part of group shows in California, New York and Paris, France.

For more information, visit pkf.org/our-grants.

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