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Tim West
27 Jun 2012
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Description

Born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1938, artist Tim West was very soon brought to live in the Ozark Mountains near the town of Winslow, Arkansas, where his parents had long dreamed of homesteading and writing. Years later, Mr. West’s father relocated to the artist’s colony of Eureka Springs and his mother took a job at Southern Illinois University–Carbondale in 1958, the same year young Tim went there to study visual arts. The regionally celebrated yet reclusive West, who returned to Arkansas in the 1970s and lived there for the rest of his days, died on April 2, 2012, just weeks before he was to be featured in his second major exhibition at Little Rock’s M2 Gallery.

At age eighteen Mr. West mailed a print and had it accepted into the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and he would soon send a pair of works to the Louvre, where they would also be accepted. Former instructors and classmates remembered both his ingenious talent and his brushes with the law – for everything from attempted robbery to skinny-dipping. 

 

One summer day in 2006, Fayetteville photographer Diana Michelle Hausam was driving the back roads and came upon a fence made of deconstructed bicycles. Ms. Hausam left a note asking if she could photograph it, and a few days later received a telephone call from Mr. West. He invited her down, instructing her to honk her horn three times and, as in a fairy tale, he would appear. The two became good friends and she spent several months photographing the gray and leathery West, his work, and his environment.

With her partner Greg Nelson, Ms. Hausuam began work on a documentary about the artist entitled Westland and approached the M2 Gallery in Little Rock about an exhibition featuring Mr. West’s work and Ms. Hausuam’s haunting photographs of him. The exhibition was a resounding success: Mr. West was voted one of three top artists in the state by the readers of Arkansas Times; a Facebook page featured images, old clippings, and friends’ reminiscences; a Kickstarter campaign was launched to reshoot and expand Westland. One of his works was selected in January of 2012 for the prestigious Delta Exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center, and an expanded version of his solo exhibit was set to open the following month at the M2 Gallery

Perhaps such townish celebrity proved too much for the old backwoods trickster, or perhaps his body simply gave out. Either way, he slipped away from this life the day after April Fool’s leaving us a passel of paintings, some enigmatic sculptures, and a spectral, transporting legacy.

Tags
Art Culture Innovation Rural/Regional Arkansas Ozarks Painting Photography Sculpture South
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