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Friday, July 19, 2019

Raymond’s best kept secret: Father and son artists to display work at Raymond Village Library

Holden and Don Willard
By Mary-Therese Duffy

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Raymond Village Library recently, you may want to check out the latest art display that is running currently and will continue to do so until the end of August. One reason why this exhibition is special is that the father and son artists duo, Don and Holden Willard, are showing their work together for the first time. Another distinct factor is that, although Holden has made a name for himself as an artist, many in the community may be surprised to discover that his talent may have been handed down from his father.

Don is best known as the Raymond Town Manager, having dedicated much of his time to that position in service of the residents. Most, however, have no idea that this is also a man of great talent and creativity.  Having been around farming and mechanical equipment his entire life, he idolized his dairy farmer grandfather who survived the Great Depression, and like most of his contemporaries, had a natural “make do” ethic and attitude that included the repair and reuse of anything that they could.
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He explained that the farm had stockpiles of metal parts and other potentially useful materials and objects at the ready, to facilitate such repairs and often for fabrications of useful tools and objects. 

Don’s grandfather encouraged him to explore his interest in mechanical objects. “I had the opportunity to delve into the range of sharp and dangerous objects that children are mostly advised to avoid,” recalled Don. “My first experience was straightening old barn nails with a hammer on an anvil, followed later by chasing new threads on antique square headed bolts and nuts with an ancient tap and die set. I processed buckets full of both for reuse, which I found oddly satisfying.”

Don became interested in ‘found objects, assemblage sculpture’ which intensified after obtaining his first welding machine and associated tools. Now known as “Steam Punk”, this is a genre of art and fashion that draws upon elements and objects from the dawn of the industrial revolution, assembled in a sort of science fiction imagined future. “Such things appear quite anachronistic when compared to our modern plastic derived throwaway society consumer objects,” noted Don. “It was for me just a natural extension of the materials and things that I like to work with.”

"Steam Punk" art by Don Willard
Never actually thinking of himself as an artist until invited to show in the Maine Coast Artists Exhibit in Rockport at the director’s suggestion, Don recalled; “I did that, and I remember the gallery opening for the show. There were many wealthy folks there all dressed up and milling about, admiring a turtle that I had made from an inverted mechanical cow watering bowl and some old trolley line hardware. I imagined that my grandfather would have gotten a real kick out of that scene.”

When asked what the most challenging and most inspiring aspects of his craft were, Don stated that one of the greatest challenges is finding the era/period correct objects necessary at a reasonable cost to make interesting, authentic feeling sculptures. “At one time, every farmer had piles of the junk that I like,” Don said. “Today such junk, like the farmers and tinkerers that coveted these materials are pretty scarce. As for fulfillment, I mostly do it for my own enjoyment as it reminds me of my childhood and provides me with a deep appreciation for what it took to survive before our postmodern consumer culture. Our ancestors made many things for everyday use as a regular part of life. Having such skills today is still not a bad idea in my view.”

Holden's art work
As for his son, Holden, he has been making quite a name for himself with his “Best in Show” award from “The Works”, a worldwide competition sponsored by the Cultural Center of Cape Cod. Having submitted two pieces, it was his painting, “Red Portrait” that garnered the First place winning this past February. A 2017 graduate of Windham High School, Holden is a committed fine artist whose natural talent is fully resonant and alive with in his work.

Holden stated that he began his interest in art as a young child playing with small coloring books and empty pads of paper. “I didn't become serious until my senior year, however,” Holden said. “With the support of high school mentors, Jeffery Bell and Joe McLaughlin: both inspired a motivation within myself which I had never received from anyone before.” Holden continued by stating that he is inspired by the people he meets, and the people he holds close within his creative community. “Everyone I paint, I paint for specific reasons, but mainly I am interested in displaying people who inspire me in one way, shape or form.”

He has always seen himself as a creative person. “I don't think I could live my life happily and to its fullest if art was not a major part of it,” Holden reflected. “I had been told for so long that being an artist was impossible, but after growing and maturing I've realized that a life lived unhappy and full of regret is no life at all.  I will do what I love, no matter what.  But I will leave conceptual artist John Baldessari to explain this drive: ‘My advice? Don't go into art for fame or fortune. Do it because you cannot not do it."’

The hardest part of creating, Holden said, is creating itself. “The act of creating is a strenuous and laborious process. On my larger works, I can spend anywhere from up to three weeks to multiple months... fussing and pushing until all the parts begin to feel whole.  It's easier to do this when you're interested in your subject matter, and thus your work ethic will improve... it's just a matter of sticking to it. I love to see the reactions of my models, I will have them come in for multiple sessions on occasion, and I am always touched by the beautiful responses and positive reinforcement I receive. I am always filled with creative resolve when a fellow artist within my community reaches out to critique some of my work and give constructive feedback.  Creating connections between the artist and the model and within the community of artists that surround me... are why I create.”

To meet and talk with the both Don and Holden, there will be an open house on Monday, August 5 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Raymond Village Library, 3 Meadow Road and his co-hosted by The Raymond Arts Alliance. For more information about this exhibit, call 207-712-6200

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