Christine DeVitt Exhibition Hall
October 6 – November 25, 2017
Billy Hassell is a Texas based artist with a focus on nature, conservation and the environment.
His journey to becoming an artist began during his childhood in Dallas where he explored the wild areas and creeks of his neighborhood.
Billy, recently referred to as “Mother Nature’s Stylist” by The New York Times, has continued in the natural field he , and his colorful paintings bring the experience of the outdoors into indoor spaces for his collectors.
Today Billy lives in Fort Worth, Texas with his wife Emily and his two dogs in an urban neighborhood. His studio is a few blocks down the street in an old storefront where he paints daily. Together with Emily he has created a backyard oasis. They have backyard with many birds, flowers, and a pond filled with turtles, fish, and toads. He has brought his love of the outdoors to his urban home and he continues to express his love of nature in his work.
Informed and inspired by observations of nature, my work explores patterns and some of the ways in which they occur. From the scale patterns of fish to the flight patterns of birds, there are patterns everywhere in nature, overlapping and intersecting in what appears at first to be total chaos. I look for repetition and order.
Although exaggerated and highly stylized, the patterns in my work, as well as the flora and fauna, are all based upon direct observation. They are not merely decorative embellishments, but have a basis in reality and, to some extent, establish location and a sense of place. This sense of place is important to me; it anchors the work.
The patterns work on various levels. I am fascinated by derivations of patterns from nature into common, everyday applications such as wallpaper and fabric design. We tend to take these more decorative applications of pattern for granted since they are ever-present elements of our environment. Their overwhelming presence, however, suggests a human need to bring nature into our living spaces. I would further suggest that it is a deeply rooted need that can be traced back to the painted and mosaic interiors of ancient Pompeii and even further back to cave paintings.
“My work draws from the art of ancient Egypt and Japanese wood block prints to the portraits of Hans Holbein and the flags and targets of Jasper Johns.”
The more stylized patterns, used as backgrounds in some of the paintings, are directly appropriated. A William Morris wallpaper design, for example, may represent the Victorian era, a time in which these designs enjoyed their highest level of popularity in America. Other patterns of Asian origin which conceivably arrived in Europe by way of the silk trade, could be considered a metaphor for commerce and more broadly, for the cross-cultural spread of aesthetics.
With regard to the depictions of birds and fish and various other creatures, I use them not only because of their patterns and colors, but because their presence (or absence) in the landscape can be a strong indicator of the relative well-being of the environment. For me, they symbolize life (and in some cases, as with the crow, death).
Because of the bright colors, bold patterns and simplified forms, my work is often compared to and linked with American and Mexican folk art. It draws, however, from a broad base of influences, from the art of ancient Egypt to Japanese wood block prints (Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo) to the portraits of Hans Holbein and to the flags and targets of Jasper Johns. I am also very interested in folk history and in regional oral traditions.
Painting, for me, is a way of integrating all of these concerns, finding fascination in the commonplace, inspiration in the mundane. My hope is that it might expand, in some small measure, the ways in which the world is viewed.
Billy Hassell: Artist Talk
Saturday, October 7, 2017
11:30 – 1 pm