We had the good fortune of connecting with William Catling and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi William, as a parent, what do you feel is the most meaningful thing you’ve done for them?
As a father, raising two sons to become warrior poets was my goal. They have grown into men that combine strength and sensitivity, power and compassion, intensity and gentleness. I included them in art making and building and both have become skilled craftsmen.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Being an artist is one of the most wonderful and difficult of all career options. It is an amazing thing to work in the studio, making whatever comes to mind, finding the materials and processes to invest ideas into, trying to find ways to bridge matter and spirit, form and function, content and concept, object and viewer. My career has been built upon a commitment to hard work, pushing through the creative blocks that we as artists face, seeking gallery connections, selling and not selling, health challenges like the wear and tear from building large and heavy sculptures and gallery closures, to identify a few things. There were and continue to be some moments of intersection, where an unsolicited conversation with a gallerist led to representation, where someone who knew my work shared an image with a collector and that was followed by years of ongoing collecting, or showing in a venue where a gallerist or collector happened to see it and that led to exhibitions and sales. There have been many situations that are not just coincidence but feel like divine intervention opened doorways for my career.
Here is a recent artist statement that provides a window into what my work is about:
“The indescribable elusiveness of the soul is what Catling is after in his handmade works, whose physical features appear worn and weathered, their details and particulars ground down to the essentials: the most basic stuff of life.” – Los Angeles Art Critic-David Pagel
The sculptures and drawings of William Catling are informed by many decades in the studio dealing with the tension between strength and vulnerability, light and dark, inner and outer, spirit and flesh. The works reflect a way of seeing and made in a direct association with the artist’s awareness of the physical and the ephemeral nature of life. The figures are designed to be symbolic of an internal journey, revealing both a powerful way of existing and the inevitable reality of suffering. The figures have a rough, textured surface, inspired by the natural world of tree branches, rock and earthen formations. The usage and reference of natural materials reinforces a connection to the earth as a source of life and a place of human interaction, as well as the inference of flight which transcends the earth and the limitations of the body. These complex relationships create the setting for a beautiful and dynamic unfolding of life: the space between being earthbound and the freedom to soar. There is a sense of place in the work, where peace exists within the fragility of life. The work is designed to project an ancient connection to humanity’s need of an internal search for meaning. To raise conscious awareness above the surrounding distractions of life and engage deeply with the reality of the natural, the symbolic and the spiritual world. The artworks specifically engage in a long inner dialogue the artist has regarding the dilemma of “falling upwards” as life’s true reality. The works explore aspects of ascending and descending, open and closed, natural and shaped, as well as a contemplative silence that comes from “hovering” in place. The art works are connected to larger concerns of the world and its rhythms, seasons, time and discovering an inner soul scape that is both grounded and ascending, combining transcendence and deep thinking. The figures exist as pieces of this complex visual exploration of movement and the embrace of inner stillness.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would take them up to Griffith Observatory in the late afternoon to enjoy the facility, especially seeking out a docent in order to hold a small meteorite! To touch a piece of rock that had traveled through space, something that was not part of the original earth but came from somewhere else, it is magical. Then wait up on one of the balconies to view sunset and watch as LA is embraced by an amber glow and then a view to the sky as it darkens and stars appear. A glorious way to spend a day.
Another day would start at Laguna Beach, enjoying fresh coffee and a walk along the beach breathing in the fresh air off the Pacific Ocean, listening to the cry of gulls and watching as seals and hopefully dolphins dance in the waves. Then a fairly long drive north up to the top of Mount Baldy to view the entire LA Basin. In one day to experience the beauty of a sea level stroll and then a hike to a 4,000-foot mountain peak and experience the grandeur of the magnificent views.
A visit to LA would not be complete without a day at Exposition Park. The day would include meandering through the Natural History Museum and conclude with the amazing look at the Space Shuttle Endeavor! It is so moving to stand beneath the space ship and imagine riding in it to visit the International Space Station. And of course, stopping for lunch at any one of LA’s taco trucks!
The last stop would be a day at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Despite how difficult it is to see animals in captivity there are some large spaces where the habitat has no bars or cage like fencing where there are elephants and giraffes. Giraffes are the most phenomenal creatures when seen up close. It is especially worth it to sign up for the hand feeding. You get to hold some grasses and they eat from your hand!!!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I was encouraged by many teachers and professors who impacted me to continue my life as an artist and a teacher. To highlight a few: my high school art teacher-Mr. Morris Benezra, college professors-Whitney Chadwick, Wesley Chamberlain, David Kuroka, Artist mentor-Stephen DeStaeber. I have been deeply shaped by the work of a few writers: Madeleine L’Engle, Richard Rohr, Julia Cameron, and Robert Bly. I have been fully supported throughout this journey by my wife, Hilary Catling, who has put up with my love of starting something new rather than finishing the multitude of projects around the house and property. Also, a shout out to my sons, Jeremiah and Elias who have worked alongside me on projects at home, in the studio and in the foundry.
Other: https://williamcatling.com/reflections This is a subscription offer to receive one year’s worth of daily writings that explore life, the seasons and God. William Catling Reflections “Daily thoughts on life and faith through the seasons” The darkness fades as light from the rising sun sharply outlines the skyline. The beginning of a day, a part of the pattern of life measured out in weeks, months and years. These daily entries are written as encounters with this life and with its seasonal transformations. An understanding that what is seen merely with the eyes is not all there is. In the midst of our world, for those with “eyes to see” everything looks different, richer and more intense. It is with this in mind that each entry explores an aspect of life, the season, our shared humanity and the creativity that God has instilled within and around us. The writings foster “the way of the artist” as a journey of wholeness and interconnectedness. So, I invite you into these daily thoughts with my deepest hope that they may be of use as you navigate your way through this miraculous experience we call life.
All photos by the artist.