Tuesday, May 1, 2018

INSPIRE ME! Artist of the Month, William Fritsch - May 2018

By Ernest Disney-Britton
"The Next Supper" (2016) by Bill Fritsch; white pencil on black paper, 58" x 39". Courtesy of ArtPrize.
William Fritsch is a Registered Pharmacist by profession, but he did his first white pencil on black paper portrait drawing, as an art student in 2005. We met Fritsch last year during ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. He was sitting near his monumental entry, "The Next Supper" at Monroe Community Church. Aside from the obvious inspiration, we were also struck by the languages on the "Welcome Banner" on the left-side of painting. They include Arabic, Thai, English, Vietnamese, Spanish, Hebrew, Russian, German, and Greek. The guests at the dinner include Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Mother Theresa. William Fritsch struck us as someone we'd enjoy sharing a supper with, and we think you will too.
William Fritsch at his studio in Kalamazoo, Michigan
Q1. Where and when were you born, and what is your artistic training?
A1. I am originally from the Metropolitan Detroit area and despite my age, I was born in 1954, I consider myself to be a "young artist." I have had very little formal art training, compared to most. In 2005, just by chance, I took an art class at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. My intention was to get out of the house and away from my profession career as a pharmacist to pursue something more meaningful than a "night out with the boys." An assignment in my second course led me to discover the challenge and personal fulfillment of drawing with white pencil on black paper. My third and last course was Life Drawing.
"Sunday Crossword" by William Fritsch
Q2. Which religious tradition has informed your artwork, and how?
A2. I am a life-long Christian, raised in the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. Because the famous art displayed by the Church is strongly tied to antiquity, it can be challenging to gain a fresh connection with the artist's message. My goal is to create connections with what is holy, not only through a portrayal of who we are but also through what we do.
The Last Supper - by Leonardo Da Vinci
"The Next Supper" is the second drawing I've done with a religious theme. Obviously, it is based on the famous mural by Leonardo da Vinci. Unlike da Vinci, I am not competing for fame with other Renaissance artists or seeking approval from Vatican art critics. I am thankful I haven't been subject to these pressures.
Over the right shoulder of Ernest Disney-Britton is displayed a print of "The Next Supper"
Q3. Have you ever had to defend exploring religious ideas?
A3. A few years back there was some public discourse in our local newspaper on the identity of the true religion. One writer professed that "Islam accepts the truth of all religions," while another countered with "Jesus claimed to be the Son of God." I responded to both writers by pointing out a prevailing theme among the world religions - one or the other claims to be the only way to know God. My conclusion was this, "The words describing religious unbelievers - heathen, barbarian, primitive, savage, gentile, idolater, infidel and pagan - express the relationship between strangers. Fortunately, with God no one is a stranger. Do I have a clear understanding of God’s relationship with people whose religion is not mine? No I don’t and I don’t think anyone else does, either. But my faith allows me to leave it in God’s hands."
"Twinkle in my eye" by William Fritsch
Q4. What challenges have you faced in creating religious-themed works?
A4. The artistic challenge of "The Next Supper" was to capture the timeless and inclusive nature of Jesus' Passover Supper. The classical interpretations rely on a setting with Jesus and his apostles which reinforces the Christian Testament scripture and conventional religious doctrine. I wanted to offer an alternative to this patriarchal tradition by introducing children, minorities, special need individuals, and women to the table. The biggest departure I made was to not include the central figure in the drawing. This allows the viewer to complete the story on their own, under their own terms.
2016 Artprize entry "Art for All Ages" by William Fritsch
Q5. Who are your favorite artists, and whose work is in your collection?
A5. I am attracted to a wide range of art. Some of my favorite artists are; the Chauvet Cave artists, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Dominika Kubik, Georgia O'Keefe, and Jerry Vasconcellos. I met the Hawaiian sculptor Jerry Vasconcellos almost 20 years ago. He sculpts in both wood and basalt. I have six of his pieces and in 2005 I commissioned him to create the processional cross at my church.
Portrait of Pastor Peter M. by William Fritsch
Q6. Who collects your work, and why?
A6.  There are only two collections of my artwork. One is a set of four portraits of my sister-in-law's family - at her home. The other is my personal collection of six drawings. The the balance of my original drawings are portrait commissions, scattered across the country.
"The next big step" by William Fritsch
Q7. Where can AOA collectors experience your work this year?
A7. My email address will be fine. wjfritsch3@aol.com