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Bill Wolff grew up surrounded by trees and the collapse of the manufacturing economy in rural upstate New York. Prior to moving to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, he spent four formative years in Japan and three years in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, all the while observing, producing and exhibiting sculpture made primarily from discarded tree parts and cast metal.
Since an early experience working on a landfill in the early 1990s, and literally watching the sun rise over a mountain of garbage, Wolff’s work has been a direct response to consumer culture. He holds an MFA from Louisiana State University and an MA from the Tokyo University of the Arts.
He has worked as an educator since 2009 and has been casting and carving his own work since the mid 90s. He is currently Assistant Professor and head of the sculpture area at Salisbury University.
My current work reflects an evolution of idiomatic form and expression, along with a consistent conceptual origin and a focused concern for the material, movement and form.
Figurative references are distilled into gaping mouths and hands, or represented via proxy. All of the work begins with a specific and meaningful gesture and physical involvement with real and significant material. It is what it is made of.
When my children are my age, many animals and environments that I grew up thinking were among the most unique and beautiful on the planet will very likely no longer exist.
These gestural, fragmented and biomorphic abstractions poignantly reflect both beauty and this sense of potential loss.
My work in wood is carved, hollowed and assembled from sections of trees with metal leaf on the surface, a variation of the traditional yosegi zukuri process that I studied in Japan. I balance this method with active research and sculpture in foundry, both in bronze and cast iron. In contemporary art, iron casting is a celebration of the industrial history of making as abundant scrap iron is melted and converted into sculpture.
Each work in wood is initiated with a chainsaw, jointed with chisel and plane, charred with a torch, scraped and sanded, leafed with metal, brushed with chemicals and then scraped and drawn on. Tool marks from every stage are visible atop the grain of the wood and are a conversation. In both wood and iron, the surface of the work tells its history.
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