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A Tale of Two Artists PDF Print E-mail
Art - Reviews
Wednesday, 13 December 2000 18:00
Artists Bill Hannan and Bill Wohlford have more than their first names in common. Both deal realistically with the human figure – Hannan in two dimensions and Wohlford in three. Both artists have worked other jobs to provide income, while doing their artwork when they could. But while Hannan’s artistic style is quite mature and consistent, Wohlford’s style – at least based on the works in this show – is still evolving.

The artists presently have a joint show (running through January) at the MidCoast Fine Arts Gallery at the Mississippi Valley Welcome Center in LeClaire, Iowa.

Hannan is a born Midwesterner who was raised in Illinois and Michigan, and for most of his adult life he has worked and created in the midsection of the United States. An educator by trade, he does his artwork in his spare time, but he doesn’t consider it a hobby or part-time job; he thinks of it as a seamless part of himself, an artist who teaches.

His works in this show are whimsical, fantasy illustrations. To an extent, I wonder if #15 Wizard Print is a self-portrait. I did an amateur photo combination to see what his photo would look superimposed on this art piece, and there seemed to be a strong resemblance.

His illustrations are quite expertly done. The fantasy elements are repeated, evoking Celtic and medieval themes, and the flowing lines and dramatic poses create very romantic images. Most of the illustrations appear to be done in a chiaroscuro style, which has always enhanced a fantastic, romantic feel for me. Hannan’s works show a sensitivity and respect for the human figure, and he brings maturity in his use of line and color to every subject he renders.

Bill Wohlford is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and works for Deere and Company, but woodcarving appears to be his passion. He got his initial inspiration at the German town of Oberamergau about 20 years ago and has been carving ever since. He occasionally wins at group and class level at the International Congress of Woodcarvers and is a yearly exhibitor there, as well as a volunteer and member of the Mississippi Valley Woodcarvers. He has done some works on commission for churches and private parties.

His carving subjects vary from realistic human figures to gargoyles and stylized females. His style shows at least two distinct branches: He carves wildlife with accurate realism and the female figure in a very stylized manner. The works in this show are representative of both types and demonstrate that Wohlford has yet to establish a signature style.

In some of his works, it appears that Wohlford is still gaining some facility in working with the medium. In other works, the carving is well-done and becomes secondary to the expression and composition. My favorite piece in this show is Eve, a piece with a metal apple being coveted by a well-carved female. The whimsical and romantic nature of the carving, flowing curves, and subject matter make it a good match with the illustrations of Bill Hannan.

It will be interesting to see how Wohlford’s style matures over the next few years, whether he goes toward the realistic carvings or to the other end of the spectrum. Hannan, on the other hand, leaves no doubt that he plans to continue down his stylistic path.
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