Artist Announcement: Will Sears

Will Sears, one of the co-founders of Portland Mural Initiative will be one of our confirmed 2015 artists. 

Will was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he began making art at an early age. He received a BFA after studying painting at Syracuse University. He now lives and works in Portland, where he runs a successful sign-painting business. You can see his hand-painted signs and advertisements adorning the facades of several local businesses and restaurants. He worked as a gallery assistant at Aucocisco, where he met many great Maine artists, and gained insight into the contemporary art world. Sears maintains a regular studio practice, and is an active part of numerous creative projects around town.

Sears works primarily in assemblage, drawing upon the rich tradition of assemblage artists such as Louise Nevelson, Bernard Langlais, and Robert Rauschenberg. His work utilizes imagery of hand painted typography and abstract geometry. By cropping and rearranging the painted words, the viewer’s focus shifts from the associated message of words to the physical composition of the letters as form. Sears carefully selects materials for their meaning, using found wood and ephemera of daily life. Often the artwork samples a variety of unique cultural aesthetics, most commonly focusing on Americana.

Sears uses the visual chaos of deconstructed and rearranged signage, found materials, and painted elements to comment of the overwhelming nature of contemporary visual culture. His thoughtful compositions and restrained color palate are evidence of his desire to break up the daily barrage of sensory input and find beauty in the outcome.

Here is an Interview we conducted with Will: 

What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Will Sears. I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I’ve been living in Portland, Maine now, coming up on 5 years.

What did you want to be growing up?

At first I wanted to be a grocery store, ( like the store itself, not a clerk ). Then pretty quickly after that I knew I wanted to be an artist.

Describe your work/practice in the format of an elevator speech?

My work is typically in the form of an assemblage. It utilizes imagery of hand painted typography and abstract geometry. By cropping and rearranging the painted words, your focus shifts from the associated message of words to the physical composition of the letters as form. Often the artwork samples a variety of unique cultural aesthetics, most commonly focusing on Americana.

Can you identify 3 or 4 artists or art movements from art history that you feel have paved the way for your work today?

Stuart Davis, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Bernard Langlais, Margaret Kilgallen. I know that’s 5 but it was hard to take any of these artists off the list. There are so many more as well but that conversation can go on for quite some time

What is inspiring you right now?

I’ve been really drawn towards simpler compositions – often times it requires a lot of restraint to stop at a point where a piece has a dynamic feel but minimal content.

What kind of envoirnment do you like to create in? If you listen to music when you work, what’s been in rotation recently? 

Typically I like to create while I’m in my own little world… peace and quite are good for contemplation and planning, but when production is underway I like to have music playing and as long as there is no precision lines being executed, I find myself dancing a lot when things are going well. My latest playlist has included music from; William Onyeabor, Sinkane, Dr. John, Rebirth Brass Band, Big Boi, Mndsgn, Jay electronica, Jay Dilla, Action Bronson, Beanie Sigel and Sean Price. Again, I could go on forever with this list but these have been the heavy hitters as of late.

Have there been any murals that have had a profound impact on you?

Two more recent projects that have blown my mind have been Maya Hayuk’s mural in Wynwood Walls compound. The looseness of the hand made strokes put into the tightness of a well thought out composition really excited me. Also, although it’s a series of 50 murals, not 1, Steve Power’s Love letters to Philadelphia. I was really drawn to the fact that it was such a big project and was executed well with the blessing of a major institution.

How long have you lived in Maine?

Coming up on 5 years in June of 2015.

What do you like about the art scene here?

I like the pace of life here. I like the fact that it’s not yet impossible to live here on an artist’s budget. I think there are a lot of really strong artists here. Space Gallery is a really nice contribution to the art scene here. They do a terrific job.

What would you like to see happening in Portland’s art scene in the future?

Besides seeing more public contemporary art (obviously), I’d love to see more Galleries open up that exhibit work that extends beyond the conversation of traditional landscape paintings. (that’s not to criticize that side of things, but Portland does a good job with that so there’s no real need for improvement there). Also, I'd like to see an establishment that is willing to work with more emerging artists rather then exclusively mid-career/ established artists. Obviously Portland would need people to support these galleries as well, so seeing a market more interested and willing to spend money on these types of contemporary works as well.

What’s next for you? Any upcoming shows or projects that you would like to mention?

  •  I'll be in a group show this July called Shapeshifters & Sharpshooters at 886 Geary in San Francisco curated by Sven Davis. 
  • I'm Co-Curating and participating in a show at Engine in Biddeford, Maine called "Ode to Letters" which will highlight work from letterpress artists, sign painters, and graffiti artists. The show will run from July 31st - Sept 19th, 2015. 
  • I'll be doing a sight-specific installation at Montserrat College of Art in October/November, 2015
  • Lastly, more work to further the Portland Mural Initiative

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Check out more of Will's work on his website here