Arts: Frank Williams

Transitions of style and form

By SHEA STANFIELD
ARTS COLUMNIST

The narrative of local artist, Frank Williams’ life is much like the sculptures he creates everyday chipping away revealing the fun, whimsical and spectacular beauty within found objects of the earth.

Growing up in the Lathrup Housing Projects of Chicago, Illi., life was not always smooth sailing for Frank’s parents. But they recognized their son’s artistic talents and made sure he had the necessary tools for his creative projects. 

Frank also remembers one of his good fortunes was attending Lakeview High School, one of only two high schools in the Chicago area that offered art courses as a major. 

Saguaro Man by local artist Frank Williams

One of his favorite teachers was Mr. Johnson who was not only his art teacher but also the assistant football coach for the team he played backup quarterback for; a rare combination of talents that place Frank in a very unique category.  

He went on to community college with the goal of turning is love of pen and ink illustration into a career as an illustrator, but the military draft would intercept his plans as the years between Korea and Vietnam wars loomed. 

“I was army trained as an artillery observation radar specialist but was fortunate to be transferred to special duty to play baseball,” Frank said.

It is a sport he still enjoys today as a member of a senior softball league and as a member of the Arizona Sidewinders traveling tournament team.

During his years of service one of Frank’s teammates talked him into thinking about a career as a barber after he was released from his service obligation.  True to his adventurous and creative nature, Frank went to school on the G.I. Bill for his license and worked for 10 years in a salon. 

In an interesting twist of fate Breck Hair Products Company approached Frank to join their professional salon division in New Jersey and off he went on the next leg of his career. 

He remained with Breck for over 20 years retiring as a national sales and marketing manager.  This coincided with Breck downsizing and selling off their consumer products businesses to Phoenix based Dial Corporation.

Frank found himself in Phoenix much of the time as a consultant for Dial, which led to Frank and his wife’s decision to retire in Goodyear, Ariz., for the next phase of their lives. 

Frank describes his neighborhood as “relatively quiet” until his saws and grinders begin their work. 

Today, Frank is chipping into the next phrase of his “sculptured life” as a gourd artist and what a success he is! 

Inspired by the Native American arts and gourds the Heard Museum has become his favorite go to place to research designs, forms and techniques grounded in the native traditions. 

“While I do sometimes use traditional materials such as feathers, horse hair and ink dyes, my renditions are usually of bright acrylic colors, inlays of turquoise and semi precious stones,” he says about his work. 

Frank Williams is always evolving.

Inspired by rock Cairns he observed when hiking, the thought crossed his mind that maybe he could build these ancient markers out of gourds instead of stone. They would lead to a new form of patio and yard art and were much easier than rocks to transport.

This idea evolved, and soon it was necessary for the use of metal supports, which sent Frank off to welding class. He purchased a welder and started incorporating metal into his work. 

Now in addition to masks, vases and cairns created from gourds, Frank also creates freestanding metal sculptures and shamans that include gourds, flagstone, faux stone and even saguaro skeletons.

His creations are in high demand across the country.

He has exhibited at: The Arts HQ Gallery in Surprise; Gold Rush Days in Wickenburg; Wigwam Resort’s Art and Wine Festival in Litchfield Park; and in the Hidden in the Hills Studio Tour at “The Ranch,” hosted by artists Judith Durr and Roger Kull.

To view an expanded body of artist Frank Williams’ work, read more about his incredible journey or to contact him visit Gourd-Geous.com.

Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield on flowingquill@yahoo.com.