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Art Watch : Will Kurtz

Will Kurtz is our Art Watch Artist for today. This section is brought to you by Art From Us and Divvya Nirula. The Artists we spotlight here can be from any field, across any discipline, and using a variety of media. We share here why we think they are important and worth watching. Be it genius creators of eras gone by. Or the upcoming contemporary artist who is yet to have their first show. All come under the purview of Art Watch.

Why Will Kurtz?

There is a incredibly colourful and massive bulldog which Will Kurtz leans against, or there are some terriers and pugs that look up at him lovingly. There is a newspaper boy holding the papers and a homeless bird feeding pigeons. Yes this is the fantastic world created by Will Kurtz. Trained as a landscape architect, his art bloomed only when he moved to New York.

His work exudes an aura of decay and misuse, primarily due to the mediums he uses – old newspapers, wood and wire. His subjects are the humans and animals he comes in contact with in and around New York. Many critics have labelled him an ‘urban-voyeur’, but to me his depictions have an eerie intuitiveness that is almost stalker-worthy.

Born in Flint, Michigan and Will Kurtz was received his Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Michigan State University in 1981. Following his training he went onto practicing landscape architecture for the next 25 years, throughout the United States and Canada.

It was when he his mid-thirties that he began creating art, and taught the art to himself. When he was living in Michigan he would make sculptures for the winter carnival and his children would often ride on them. It was since then that he enjoyed creating durable scapes that told a story.

His passion for art that he believed in superseded his work as a landscape architect, and he moved to New York at 50. He enrolled at graduate school at the New York Academy of Art and his life took a significant turn.

Career & Process

“Never copy anyone or try to make what you think will sell. If you really enjoy what you are making it will come though in the piece. It is almost like being a child making art.”

Says the artist who took the brave plunge to a world that was not known to him and made it his own.

He graduated with an MFA when he qualified to remain and do a one-year fellowship in NY. The artist has said: “Newspaper is my medium of choice because it gives a raw, imperfect, ephemeral quality that reminds us that we are only here on this Earth for a short while.” For him – he enjoys working with medium that he is reusing and it is something that he truly enjoys expressing himself with.

Will Kurtz had several solo and group exhibitions in New York, Miami, Paris and Belgium and his works appear in many prominent collections around the world.

He now works and lives in New York city.

The Artist Speaks

“I create realistic life-size figures and animals out of newspaper with an internal structure made of wood and wire. The newspaper forms have a collage of words and colorful advertising that is applied in a spontaneous painterly fashion to reflect the mood and life of the individual. My subjects are real, everyday people who are often undistinguished and living on the margins of society. I select and create uncommon characters that have a distinct emotive quality. I use photography to capture a moment of their daily lives.

They are often comic in character, dress or body type. The posture, gestures, facial expressions and clothing bring the figures to life. They have a familiarity of someone you might know or have passed on the street. I capture their resilience and vulnerability to embody a true empathy for the hardships we all share. The animals are selected to show their unique breed, size, shape or type of hair. Through them I am able express their innocence and humor that has a universal appeal.”

Will Kurtz

The Works We Loved the Most

For more Artists handpicked by Divvya Nirula – explore the ART WATCH archive.

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