As Outsider Art continues to grow in popularity, it also continues
to diversify within itself, and Louisiana outsider artist Willie
Willie is a testament to that fact. Over the past eight years, Willie
has transformed his life of working in the chemical emissions of
Baton Rougeís industrial district into a life of doing what he wants.
"Iím finally leading an artistís life," he says. "I consider myself
a contemporary outsider." Willieís creations range from whimsical
to sobering, but, as with any true artist, he has a style that is
unmistakable. Most of his unique style comes from his approach to
the subject matter which is part imagination and part heritage.
Willie is one-quarter Sicilian and three-quarters Creole, but he
is also a self-admitted child of 1960ís culture. Willie often imagines
the faces and expressions of relatives and locals who heís heard
stories about but never met. His faces, birds, flowers and alligators
are usually painted on tin or copper that he textures with a hammer
and cuts with a plasma cutter (an idea he picked up while working
in the industrial plants). Another unique quality to Willieís work
is his ability to incorporate his framing into the art itself. To
achieve that, he fights the South Louisiana heat and humidity to
demolish old barns, and he uses the planks of cypress and other
native woods to compliment the color and feel of his paintings.
As one would imagine, Willieís influences are largely based around
his heritage, but he also cites jazz and the blues as being heavily
influential. In addition to music, Willie says that he gets part
of his style from the line drawings of his favorite childhood comic
books. He says that during the morning safety meetings at the chemical
plants, he would get bored and make line drawings on his Styrofoam
coffee cups. "Those coffee cups are where I started drawing my first
masks." The comic strip cups would eventually give him the idea
of taking home scrap metal to cut on. When asked what he wants to
express with his tin, copper, wood and paint, he says, "Spontaneousness
and being self-challenging." Willieís work has been exhibited in
the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore and has been featured
in Betty-Carol Sellenís book Self Taught, Outsider, and Folk Art.
He has been a featured artist at the Kentuck Festival for the last
few years, and his work continues to grow in popularity at the Outsider
Art Fair in New York.