Walter Black: Shaping the world around him

Published 8:32 pm Saturday, April 18, 2009

When Walter Black got his hands on a lump of clay, it not only changed the way that he looks at art, it changed his life.

Black can’t explain exactly what happened when he began to work with clay because he doesn’t fully understand it himself. He just knows that the three-dimensional world that he lives in is also the world that is now his primary art medium.

Black is an artist who is as good at drawing, painting, printing and graphic design as he is as molding clay.

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He can make a statement as convincingly in a watercolor as he does in a ceramic piece.

And, he doesn’t shy away from those mediums.

But, when he gets his hands on clay, he’s in Walter’s World.”

“Larry Percy is my mentor,” Black said.

“I’m just amazed at what he can do – what he can create out of clay. Seeing his work inspires me. He and Greg Skaggs are such outstanding artists. They make art real and that’s what I want to do.”

Two-dimensional art is just that. Two-dimensional.

Black thrives on the opportunity to go beyond that second dimension.

“When you start to layer things, it’s just opens up so many challenge,” Black said. “You can keep adding to your work – like adding parts to something to change it. I can see the character of the piece develop.”

And 3D art is real. It’s part of the environment, part of life– but not in the traditional sense — and that’s what Black likes.

“Realism?” he stopped to gather his thoughts that perhaps his work is realistic in an abstract way.

“I like to take ordinary elements and show them in a way that they are not seen in real life,” he said. “I like to create pieces with deep meaning. Pieces that have texture and contrast and pieces that are visually appealing – pieces that lead your eyes all around them.”

Even though viewers might not understand the message Black is attempting to convey, his hope is that they will be intrigued by the piece and see the unusual and perhaps unnatural beauty in it.

Wiley White, development director of the Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center, has been a fan of Walter Black’s work since the first time she saw it.

“I first saw Walter’s work at TroyFest and there was something about it that was captivating,” White said.

“It was very professional and so very unique. I just fell in love with his work – all of it. His ceramics are some of the best clay work that I have seen but I also love his paintings. His watercolors are fabulous and he does incredible graphic design work for all of our exhibits at the Johnson Center for the Arts.”

White said Black has a quiet confidence that is very appealing,

“Walter is a quiet guy and he is extremely talented,” she said.

“I’m not sure that he knows how talented he is. He doesn’t blow his own horn. Others have to do that for him and I’m certainly one who will because he is amazing.”

White invited Black to display some of his artwork on the walls of her office at the Johnson Center for the Arts.

“He brought three companion watercolors of trees that you almost can’t stop looking at,” she said.

“But you can’t say that they are one kind of tree or the other. It’s art at its best. Walter will be successful at whatever he chooses to do in the area of art because his is not ordinary stuff.”

Black has already made a decision as to his career choice.

He will graduate from Troy University this spring, and he already has a studio in progress in the back of the Henderson Black warehouse in Troy.

“I wanted a place where I could work and also display my art,” he said. “I wanted to stay in Troy because it’s home. What I want to do is continue doing studio and commission work and also teach classes. I want to give young people the opportunity to get their hands on clay and feel what it’s like to create something of their very own. Having that experience changed my life and I’m excited about working from my own studio and teaching classes.”

Black will be one of the featured artists at TroyFest April 25 and 26 in downtown Troy.

Festivals are a good way for artists to get their work before the public and Black plans to take advantage of those opportunities.

“I plan to participate in a lot of arts shows, especially the juried shows,” he said. “And, I want to travel to galleries where I might show my work. I hope to work my way up to where people come to my studio to see my work.”

White said Black won’t have to wait long before there will be a great loud tooting of his horn and she will lead the band.