Will Clift  Sculpture
n e w s   /   b l o g

— If you'd like the occassional update emailed to you, just let me know

September 4th, 2019

I'm posting on this page much less frequently these days — perhaps a symptom of having a 1-year old and a 4- year old... but I wanted to share a project that I'm really proud of. My client also commissioned a great mini-documentary about me and the sculpture was produced (more on that below).

Client:          Baptist MD Anderson Cancer, Jacksonville, FL 
Title:            "Nested"
Material:       Corten ("weathering") steel
Dimensions:   120 x 90 x 30 inches 

Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center was building a new campus in Jacksonville, Florida, and put out a RFP for a public sculpture. After being picked, I worked closely with its staff as well as the project's architects to develop the right form and material for the project.

My aim was to create a sculpture that could be read in a number of ways, that would simultaneously uplift and bring a sense of tranquility to the patients, doctors, families, and support staff who would spend time in the building. For material, we settled on Corten steel, which is both very strong and extremely low-maintenance.

After the facility opened, one family member of a patient told me that in sculpture they saw “a mother protecting her child,” while a staff member said it made her think of “a door to better health.” I feel like these disparate reactions show the power of abstracted form.

BMDACC also commissioned a great film crew to shoot a short documentary on me and the process of creating the piece. The crew traveled both to the steel foundry I worked with in Colorado and to my studio in Santa Fe to shoot. It's just over four minutes long, so take a look if you have a moment.

Credit where credit is due: Filmmaker/Cinematographer Joe Karably out of Jacksonville, FL: www.joekarably.com

October 2018


July 14th, 2018


January 2nd, 2018

July 4th, 2017

I'm slowly catching up on posting about projects from the past year... this is an outdoor sculpture that I created for a client in Portola Valley, CA, almost a year ago now. It's got an ultra-matte automotive-grade finish on it, which I picked to be in harmony both with the cast-concrete walls of the house, and with the Japanese Zen-style dry rock garden within which it stands.

April, 2017

I recently completed two large commissioned works for the headquarters of a large company in in Baltimore. One, the suspended form, is about 8' long and made of black walnut wood. The other, floor-mounted work, was one of my most structurally-ambitious works to date. The form reaches 12 feet tall, and depended on a high degree of fine-tuning of the structure and materials.


March, 2017

I can now present videos of the dance choreography / musical composition / sculpture collaboration that I completed earlier this year at Stanford.

Here is a short, 7-minute 'trailer':

And here is the full-length (~32 minute) video:


January 4th, 2017

For the first half of 2016 I was fortunate to be the Visiting Artist at Stanford University. My position there continues through February of this year, on a non-resident basis. I've worked on a number of multi-disciplinary projects during this time, taking advantage of the school's incredible depth and breadth of resources and talent.

On February 4th I'll be back at Stanfordfor three performances of a collaborative work that I developed with two very talented faculty members. This will be the 'capstone' of my time there; if you're in or near the Bay area, I hope you'll come! Information and a few rough snapshots of a rehearsal from back in November are below.

"In a Winter Garden"

image by Frank Chen

February 4th, 2017   at 1:30, 5:30, and 6:30 pm 
Bing Concert Hall Atrium, Stanford campus

Free; no tickets necessary
Run-time is approximately 30 minutes

'In a Winter Garden' is a dance performance and sculptural installation that investigates the shared signature elements of Will Clift’s large-scale sculptures, Diane Frank’s site-specific choreography, and Jarek Kapuscinski’s music: intervals of balance, imbalance, and breathed connection within an ever-shifting environment. The performance will feature both student and alumni dancers, and Japanese master musician Ko Ishikawa will play the score in live performance on the “sho,” or 'mouth organ.   

The Japanese aesthetic concept of “ma runs through all three art forms in this work. Ma is the interval of time and space that extends within and between objects and events. Breath as a measure of time is unique to some traditional Japanese music and essential in the Gagaku music for the sho. It is relevant to this contemporary work, in the music, dance and sculpture alike.

'In a Winter Garden' is part of this year's Pan Asian Music Festival at Stanford.

images by Frank Chen

Biographies of my collaborators:

Diane Frank

Diane Frank has enjoyed a long career as a professional choreographer, dancer, and teaching artist. She has received numerous NEA fellowship grants and awards for her choreography which has been produced by noted venues in New York, London, Paris, Washington, DC, and San Francisco. She trained extensively with Merce Cunningham, drawn to both the aesthetic sensibilities and radical beauty of his work. She was member of the Cunningham Studio teaching staff for many years. She also danced with Douglas Dunn & Dancers for eleven years, touring domestically and abroad. At Stanford since 1987, she continues to train and mentor a long line of Stanford dance professionals. In 2012, her choreography (performed by Stanford dancers) was selected by the American College Dance Association for the National Gala performances at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
“In A Winter Garden” deepens Frank’s ongoing facination with nature, impermanence of dance as a form, and human responsiveness to the particulars of environment.


Ko Ishikawa


Ko Ishikawa is a Sho (Japanese bamboo mouth organ) player who studied Japanese traditional Gagaku music under his masters Mayumi Miyata, Hideaki Bunno, and Sukeyasu Shiba. A performer of Gagaku music as well as contemporary and experimental music, he is widely acclaimed on the national and international scenes. Ko Ishikawa has performed with Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, Otomo Yoshihide's FEN Orchestra, and Multiple Tap. Selected performances include Jazz em Agosto (Lisbon), Soundfield (Philadelphia / New York), Miji + Multiple Tap (Beijing), Cha'ak'ab Paaxil (Mexico), and Festival Hue (Vietnam).


Jaroslaw Kapuscinski
Jaroslaw Kapuscinski is an intermedia composer and pianist whose work has been presented at New York MOMA; ZKM in Karlsruhe; Centre Pompidou in Paris; and Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, among others. He has received awards at the UNESCO Film sur l'Art festival in Paris, VideoArt Festival Locarno, and FNCNM in Montreal. He was first trained as a pianist and composer at the Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw and expanded into multimedia during studies at the University of California, San Diego (1992-1997). Currently, he is Associate Professor of composition and intermedia and Chair of the Music Department at Stanford University.


January 1, 2017

Happy New Year! No sculpture holiday card from me this year, but I promise I'll pick that tradition back up again next year. I've been tremendously busy these last weeks and months (including a move into our new house in Santa Fe!), so I've been neglecting new posts here. I've much to catch up on... more soon.


August 8, 2016

About a year ago, I was chosen through a competitive process to create a commissioned, outdoor work for the Denver Botanic Gardens' Permanent Collection. I was given no guidelines on my proposal, so during my finalist's interview I proposed an abstract work in three parts, 'growing' from one to the next, in order to reference the site.

After countless sketches and back-and-forths about material and scale, I installed the works in the hot summer sun of late June. Directions are below the pictures, if you find yourself in Denver.



Directions: as you enter the Gardens from the ticket office, proceed straight down the main path. You'll pass a sunken grass open space on your left, and a greenhouse / arboretum on your right. Continue until you reach the large pond; the Café will be ahead to your left, and a gazebo will be straight ahead. The sculpture is right in front of the gazebo.

August 7, 2016

Gerald Peters Gallery brought my work to Art Aspen (Aug. 4-7th), and telvision station Aspen 82 interviewed me.

Here's a link to the short video

April 12, 2016

We're into the second week of the solo exhibit "Will Clift / Reaching" at Gerald Peters Gallery in NYC (click here for more info from the gallery). I was there to help with installation and to attend the opening, and I'm really happy with the result  —  it's a portion part of my new work from the last two years. If you're in NYC before April 23rd, I hope you'll drop by. Here are a few installation images:




March 15th, 2016

An award from the big outdoor sculpture event 'Sculpture by the Sea' brought me to Perth, Australia in early March. This and the sister event in Sydney are the most-visited public sculpture exhibits in the world, something I'd long been interested in doing, so it was quite an honor. There were sculptors from all over the world there, and the works were spread out along a half mile of beach, plus the sloped, grassy hill at the edge of the beach.

The work of mine that they selected was "Enclosing Form, Reaching Together," a work about 6 1/2 feet tall and 7 feet wide, made of weathering steel  —  my first sculpture in this material.





January 10th, 2016

An exciting announcement: I've been awarded the Invited International Artist Award by Australia's Sculpture by the Sea (SxS), the world's largest public sculpture exhibition. Each year one international artist is selected for this award, which includes the purchase of an outdoor sculpture, as well as travel and lodging for the event. I'll be going to Perth for the first week of March.

Images will follow from the actual event. It will be made of weathering steel, and will be approximately 7 feet wide.


January 4th, 2016

I'm excited to share that I was invited to be Stanford University's Visiting Artist for five months, now through May. It's an amazing opportunity to enlarge my creative toolbox, experiment with some collaborations, solve some technical challenges, and mentor some students. I'll add more here about my various projects over the coming months, so stay tuned.


December, 2015

Happy holidays everyone! Wishing you a wonderful 2016.


May, 2015

I flew to Taipei earlier this year to install a commission of four sculptures for the new clinic of Dr. Chia-Jueng ("Jimmy") Chuang, one of Taipei's preeminent plastic surgeons. He was interested in sculptures that followed the 'theme' of his practice, something reminiscent of the human body. I tried to create forms that were distinct and suggestive of this, but not explicitly so (see photos below).

The clinic is unlike anything I've seen in the States: walls made of 'smart glass' that transitions from transparent to opaque with the turn of a dial, recessed and indirect LED lighting throughout, and computers and monitors integrated throughout to help with patient consultations and with the surgeries themselves. Quiet a place.



April, 2015

And now a belated note about a big commission that I finished at the end of 2014.

Six large-scale sculptures — each eleven feet long — are now suspended in two lobbies of the 'Waterfront Center' on the banks of the Hudson River, just across from Manhattan. There are three each of two different forms, each made of composite materials with a special, highly-polished white bronze coating.

A short (1 minute+) video of the installation is below, which shows the works better than still pictures can:

If you'd like to visit, they're one stop from Manhattan on the PATH train, then a two block walk. Here's a map.


I was asked to develop site-specific sculptures for these two lobbies that would connect them to their surroundings on the Hudson River. The process began back in 2012 using computer renderings to communicate ideas for the forms to the project team. I wanted to convey a sense of flight, movement, and graceful energy in response to the birds, waves, and current outside.

Digital renderings
Early digital renderings for this project

Hurricane Sandy made the construction site a large pond for many months, putting everything on hold until early 2014. But once the go-ahead came through, the process began: many more iterations of renderings, creating scale maquettes (below, left), researching and testing finish options, then at last the fabrication of the actual pieces over the summer (below, right).

Process photos: maquettes and works in progress

One of the project constraints that was both most difficult, but also most interesting and formative, was the need to minimize weight. This concern was driven not by structural concerns, but by the desire to have the sculptures turn, gently, in the air currents of the building's ventilation system.

If fabricated out of steel (the default material for a project like this), each sculpture would have weighed nearly 150 pounds. But the combination of lightweight materials that I've spent much of the last three years refining resulted in sculptures weighing under 30 lbs each. They rotate very nicely in the atria.

The finish is a 'liquid metal,' a special alloy that is sprayed on and then painstakingly polished until each piece gleams (below).


Installation occurred in the midst of the final stages of building construction, and as you'll know if you've ever been on a large commercial construction job site, it's a chaotic scene. I was onsite to assemble and help with installation, and was assigned a 'minder' from one of the local unions to help me (that is, keep me out of the way). One of my fondest memories is how he'd explain in a thick Jersey accent why this fella from out west was here (knowing only that it involved some sort of art) — "Yeah! This guy's gotta put up his fucking murals or somethin'!".

And now a few images of the finished works (I have yet to get back there for more formal photos, w/ the building finished and cleaned up).

A couple of shots from the installation, which took most of two days

Here you can see the two forms — different, but related: "Three Pieces Out and Up, a Trio" (left) and "Four Pieces Out and Down, a Trio" (right)

The view from the street outside


Early March, 2015

If you're headed to the Armory Show in NYC, make sure you swing by Booth 192 (Pier 92, Gerald Peters Gallery) to see three of my sculptures! I'm in good company — those are Noguchi and O'Keeffe sculptures that I'm sharing the booth with...


December, 2014

2014 Holiday Card

November, 2014

It's been a while since my last update! Busy, busy, busy... and at last I can share a photos of two projects that I worked on this past summer. A big update on a project that was about two years in the planning, and was just installed last month, will come in a couple of weeks.

First, here are two photos of a work sold and installed back in August, which I was finally was able to photograph in October. This is a lobby of a high-end residential building, The Modern, in Fort Lee, NJ:

Will Clift, sculpture at The Modern   Will Clift, sculpture at The Modern
"Enclosing Form, Three Verticals"
Carbon fiber composite, hardwood, steel
73 x 26 x 4 inches

Second, here are some images from the installation of a large, commissioned suspended sculpture in New York City. It measures around 10 feet wide, and is in the main lobby at 202 Canal St. Weight was a concern, so I used carbon fiber composite; the whole structure came in under 35 lbs.

Will Clift installing "Three Pieces Crossing, Suspended"   Will Clift installing "Three Pieces Crossing, Suspended"
photos by Casey Lupetin, Gerald Peters Gallery New York

Will Clift, "Three Pieces Crossing, Suspended"   Will Clift, "Three Pieces Crossing, Suspended"
"Three Pieces Crossing, Suspended"
Carbon fiber composite, high-density polyurethane, steel, automotive paint, braided steel cable
9 feet x 10 feet x 6 inches

July, 2014

Hello, and happy end of July, everyone.

First, my exhibit at Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe is still up, but just through August 16th. I hope you’ll see it if you can!
I’ve had two solo shows this year, and as I begin to catch up on sleep, I thought I’d share a few images to show what goes into putting on an exhibit.

Getting the work to the galleries:
35 sculptures went with me by car to NYC this spring (no exaggeration... we're talking a 3d jigsaw puzzle here)

…while most of the ones for Santa Fe went in some very large boxes taken by my friends at FedEx.

Unpacking and assembling:
All the sculptures get assembled, pinned and placed on temporary bases for safety and easy moving. This can take days to do if it’s the first time I’ve shown the works.

Space Preparation and Painting:
Pedestals, shelves, and walls get a clean coat (or two) of paint.

Curating / placement:
I'm fortunate to be able to say that the Directors of both galleries have great senses of my sculpture; working with them on curating was at times eye-opening, at times combative, but ultimately very synergistic. Selecting which works to show, and placing them, is critical... when done right an exhibit can become much more than the sum of its parts.

In Santa Fe, I did a small installation — a ‘cluster,’ or ‘flock’ of small, suspended sculptures in different materials, each one weighing less than a pound, each able to move slightly with the air currents from the ventilation system.

I also installed three outdoor sculptures in Santa Fe, one of them is shown below.

Shadows on the walls are an easy-to-overlook detail, but very important. For some works, I prefer to minimize the shadows, while with others I like to emphasize them, sometimes creating multiple playful silhouettes, each offset from the form casting them.

...and lastly, opening nights!
Watching someone walk into the show, seeing them stop, look closely, and smile broadly, makes me a happy man.

When an opening comes around, it's a culmination of sorts for me, but also a chance for reflection. I finally get enough distance from the works to see them not as the forms I drew and then cut out of wood or forged in metal, but as sculptures fully separate from me for the first time.

The gallery also published a beautiful, hardcover catalogue of many of the sculptures in the shows. They're available for cost, let me know if you'd like one.


June, 2014

This is the first year in which I've ever had two full, one-man exhibits of my work, and the second one opens this Friday in Santa Fe. If you're in the area, or are planning to visit Santa Fe between now and mid-August, I hope you'll come by.

If you made it to my exhibit in New York City this spring, this one is quite different!


May, 2014

I'm back in my studio at last, after being on the road much of the last three months.

There's one week left for my exhibit Forms in Balance at the Gerald Peters Gallery in New York City; it closes Friday, May 23rd. I couldn't be happier with it — when an exhibit really comes together, it becomes so much more than the sum of its parts. BIG thank-you to the gallery staff that helped make it happen!

(click here for more images from this exhibition)

A different version of the exhibit opens in Santa Fe on June 27th, invites will be out next month.

Second, if you made it to the exhibit in NY, you saw a short video on the second floor. I realize I'm no filmmaker, but it does answer questions about my work and captures something about my sculptures that still photographs just don't. I hope you'll take a look:

Direct link: http://youtu.be/jLs_Yg0In_U


March, 2014

Two big exhibition announcements!!

First, I'm very excited to announce the first solo exhibition of my sculptures in New York City! It opens April 25th, information below.
I can now also announce a follow-up solo exhibit in Santa Fe, opening June 27th.

More details, images and, soon, videos here

New York City:

April 25th to May 23rd, 2014:
Gerald Peters Gallery
24 East 78th St., New York
Reception April 25th, 5:00PM to 9:00PM

Santa Fe:

June 27th to August 16th, 2014:
Gerald Peters Gallery
1011 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe
Reception June 27th, 5:00PM to 7:00PM


January, 2014

Happy New Year!


October, 2013

I'm just back from an unforgettable trip to Greece and Morocco, (sketches from both places will be making their way into a future posting) but In the meantime I wanted to share two other recent projects — both outdoor sculptures that stretched my understanding of these new materials I've been working with.

1) "Circling In"
    Installed at Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe, August 2013
    Steel, high-density polyurethane, carbon fiber composite, nano-particle coating
    92 x 79 1/2 x 10 inches

This was my most ambitious sculpture yet, and the piece took months to complete. First, the amount of torque on the joints (especially the top right one in the photo here) is enormous and required a lot of consideration. It's doubtful that almost any other combination of materials would be able to hold up and maintain the visual delicacy of the form — all the weight of the other pieces are hinging on that one, small spot.

Installation also took a lot of figuring. I wanted it to stand delicately on the ground, emphasizing its lightness and balance, rather than connecting it to some clunky pedestal. This required me to come up with a new structure that slipped into the sculpture's foot and in turn connected to a small metal plate, which in turn connected to the ground. Then I actually transported the full sculpture (separated into its parts) in one trip between Colorado and Santa Fe in my old Honda Accord sedan. The whole thing was enough of a challenge that I put together a short (under 2 minutes) video to show the installation and the result. Take a look!


2) "Over"
    Temporary installation in Worcester, Massachusetts, August 2013
    Steel, high-density polyurethane, carbon fiber composite, marine paint
    92 x 79 1/2 x 10 inches

Part of an Art in the Park program, this was my first-ever water installation. The form is an enlargement of a sculpture I made a few years ago; I chose it in part to evoke a wave or a bird, and in part because it echoed the park's iconic bridge (visible in the background of the photo above). It spans about 16 feet from end to end.

The nature of the project prohibited anything from being physically attached to the lake bottom, necessitating some creative installation techniques. And while the sculpture itself held up well, the temporary foundation I mounted it on did not... the floor of the lake turned out to be two+ feet of soft, squishy muck. And as the four temporary concrete anchors that I made settled, they slowly sank in at different rates, causing the sculpture to tip out of alignment. So I took it down... I'm learning the pains of experimentation — several weeks of work really with just this photo to show for it. But the sculpture is still in good shape; it'll find a new home eventually.

3) Press: Washington Post
Lastly, my work was part of a group exhibit at Neptune Fine Arts in Washington DC, and was mentioned in a nice Washington Post review on October 25th. The exhibit was extended through Nov. 2nd, if you're in the area.


September, 2013

1) New outdoor sculpture and materials
Somehow summer is nearly over! I spent much of it working on three outdoor sculpture projects, which represented a steep learning curve for me — both in terms of understanding scale and mastering the new materials and processes that allow them to withstand outdoor conditions over time. Here's an image of one.

"Two Rounded Forms, Stacked, 2013"
Steel, high-density polyurethane, carbon fiber composite, nano-particle coating
8 feet x 3.5 feet x 6 inches

This is a larger version of a small indoor piece I've made out of wood in the past. The combination of materials is the result of many months of research, experimentation and practice (including a number of failures... like learning that placing a sheet of steel in the middle of a composite 'sandwich' yields a small fraction of the strength of using two sheets of steel in the 'bread' positions in the sandwich... or, more comically, mis-measured a beaker-full of epoxy, causing it to spike in temperature and burn right through its plastic container...).

Combining these new processes and materials gives a combination of strength, gracefulness, longevity, and environmental resilience that I've been searching for for years. Plus, I'm able to do the entire process myself, rather than outsourcing to a foundry or professional fabricator, so I have full control of the outcome.

2) Group show at Neptune Fine Art / Robert Brown Gallery in Washington, DC
The outdoor sculpture above, plus two of my indoor works, are part of an exhibit in Washington DC that opens this Friday at Neptune Fine Art, in collaboration with Robert Brown Gallery. I hope you'll drop by if you're in the area.

"Objects of Desire"
Neptune Fine Art
1662 33rd St., NW, (at Wisconsin Ave), Washington, DC
September 18th to October 26th, 2013 Opening reception this Friday, September 20th, 6-8pm

3) Weathering the Colorado flood of 2013
Several of you have written to ask how I fared in the Great Flood that hit parts of Colorado last week. My home is just a block and a half from one of the epicenters, the creek whose flow went from 200 cubic feet per minute to a peak of over 5000 cf/m. But happily my house was spared. My studio wasn't quite so lucky, and I lost three works that were in-progress (and therefore resting on the floor when the flooding hit). But I'll restart those this fall, and compared to what many others lost, I'm tremendously fortunate.

July, 2013

I've been working on a couple of large, outdoor sculptures for the last couple of months. I'll post images of these once they're fully done and installed, but for now I wanted to quickly describe the projects, share a rendering of one, and an in-process photo of the other:

1) 15-Foot Long Sculpture for Elm Park, Worcester, MA (image below is a digital rendering)
I'm about 75% done with this sculpture, "Over," which I'll be installing at the end of July as part of the City of Worcester's Art in the Park Program. It'll be installed in a lake, and will be my widest sculpture in these materials to date (about 15 feet long) — definitely a technical challenge. The image above is a rendering I created as part of my proposal.

2) Outdoor sculpture for entranceway to the Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe

This second sculpture will be smaller than the one for Worcester (see above), but because of its composition, it's by far my most structurally-ambitious project yet. I'm happy to say I'm in the home stretch now, and it should also be installed by the end of this month. It's made of carbon fiber composite, steel, and high-density polyurethane, and will be finished with a high-end architectural finish plus a nano-particle protective coating (we live in a great age of material science!).

3) Update: Marin Museum of Contemporary Art Exhibition:
My sculpture "Three Pieces Reaching, 2013" was selected for inclusion in the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art's Summer National Juried Exhibition, in Novato, CA, and was awarded Honorable Mention. It's on display through July 14th, so if you're in the area in the next week, I hope you'll swing by!

May, 2013

"Three Pieces Reaching, 2013" was selected for inclusion in the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art's Summer National Juried Exhibition, in Novato, California! The juror was George Rivera of the Triton Museum of Art. Please drop by if you're in the area.

April, 2013

I've updated my website with several new images, and reformatted it a bit to have fewer, larger pictures per page. Hope to add some new sections in the coming weeks, but too much to do in my studio right now... More soon!

March 2013

I've been slow on sending out these letters recently, but for a good reason, I hope — I've been in my studio producing a set of new work. Several of these started as sketches during an artist residency in Wyoming last September (see below for more on that).

1) New work:
I'd like to share two of these new pieces, for now, both of which go in slightly different directions than most of my past work.

"Curving Over"
Mahogany wood
25 x 49 x 2 inches

"Circling In, Suspended"
Hardwood, carbon fiber, epoxy, black lacquer
31 x 41 x 3 inches

2) Big travel!
I'm about to head off to Myanmar (aka Burma) for ten days — Rangoon, then Bagan, then... elsewhere, TBD. And on the way home I'll stop in Japan for a week. Sketchbook and camera will be in hand in both places, and hopefully something from this time will make its way into one of these emails in the coming months. Happy March!


December 2012

Happy holidays, everyone!


October 1, 2012: Artist Residency, Brush Creek Ranch

I spent the first part of September at the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts residency, near Saratoga, Wyoming.


A residency like this is an incredible chance to focus on work while leaving the minutiae of day-to-day life behind. I was joined by seven other artists (two composers, two writers, a performance artist, and two other visual artists; part of the benefit of a residency like this is the cross-pollination of ideas it allows. A quick example — after many long discussions, one of the composers and I realized that our creative processes actually unfold in quite similar ways, which suggested a possible collaboration down the road... an exploration of music and sculpture in four dimensions.


I focused on developing sketches for new sculptures during this time. Less concretely (but perhaps more importantly), I roamed across the Ranch's 15,000+ acres of sage, aspen, and piñon trees, making notes and taking photos of forms that interested me. These were the times that made me most open to ideas that completely diverge from what I've done recently, and which are hardest to capture and find the space to develop. I suspect that something will come of them, though. I have my work cut out for me.


August 14, 2012: New Materials: Carbon Fiber and Metal Coating

Why new materials?
The reasons a sculptor might decide to adopt a new material are as many as the materials one might choose. My motivation has always been hitting the structural limits of what's possible in the materials familiar to me.

Carbon Fiber:
I've worked with wood ever since I was about three years old, when I began putting together scraps from the ongoing construction of my family's home. And wood is still an essential material to me. But as my work has progressed over time, its limitations for certain types of forms have become clear. As the scale I work in has grown, as the structural demands on joints has increased, as the ways in which I want to incorporate balance and gravity have become more complex and nuanced, I've begun looking well beyond wood.

"Enclosing Form, Two Horizontals"
Acetylated wood wrapped in carbon fiber

It's taken me weeks of research, false starts, huge messes, and tossed out pieces to get to a place where I have any feeling of proficiency with this system. And I know I still have a long way to go, so stay tuned for more on this.

In terms of finish, the carbon fiber can be left as the final surface (as in the images above and below). The woven pattern of the fibers themselves is somewhat visible and, like wood grain, becomes part of the sculpture. I can also obscure this pattern by adding a pigment to the epoxy, which results in a deep, opaque black finish that's structural, rather than simply painted-on.

Metal Coating:
I'm also experimenting with a high-tech system that coats the carbon fiber with a thin layer of liquid metal. The main benefit here is longevity and resilience — the metal coating will withstand weather much like a solid metal sculpture. Combining metal in this form with carbon fiber may offer the best of both worlds — the flexibility of form and structural strength that I can only get with by fabricating a sculpture out of solid material, with the resilience and light weight of thin metal that's only otherwise possible with a cast sculpture. I'm thrilled about the possibilities that this opens up! My first application of this material was over the carbon fiber piece shown in the two images above. This is a metal alloy very similar to stainless steel — though bronze, copper, iron, and other metals are possible as well.

"Enclosing Form, Two Horizontals"
Acetylated wood wrapped in carbon fiber, metal coating

July 19, 2012

There was a nice mention of my work on the front of the Washington Post's Style section a few days ago. Safe to say I never thought I'd be sharing that sort of exposure with David Beckham!


June 23, 2012

I wanted to share a piece that goes in a slightly new direction for me — "Three Pieces Reaching," my first work in solid steel.

The basic form is one I've revisited at different times over the last decade. I completed the drawing for this version while at an artist residency last fall, and fabricated it with the help of two metal workers in Denver earlier this year. 

The unique beauty of steel really comes through here, I think — there's a reflective quality to the surface, and the finish (gun-blacking) seems almost translucent — these detail images give a sense of this:

Working in solid metal, rather than using a hollow casting process, also ensures that the piece will balance in the same way as if it were made in wood (due to its uniform density). The processes used for this steel piece are actually not that different from those I use with wood, which is important to me because I want the signs of hand-working to be visible in the finished, so that it couldn't be mistaken for a overly-refined, factory-produced object. 

I'll be making more work from steel (and other materials) in the coming months — both new forms and reinterpretations of older works. Several are already underway. These will also eventually grow into large-scale forms for the outdoors. Stay tuned.


April 19, 2012

Four sculpures of mine are in a new exhibit at Robert Brown Gallery in Washington DC (Georgetown), including one larger outdoor piece on the gallery's patio. Drop by if you're in the area!


April 19, 2012

Time to follow up on the work I began while at the artist-in-residency last October (see posting below). I spent the five weeks there making sketches and rough mock-ups of sculptures, and I've been busy since then refining the sketches and making finished sculptures (plus developing some other projects that I'll be writing about in the coming weeks). So here are a few images of the sketches and mock-ups again, and the finished sculptures as well, to give a sense of the progression. Hope it's of interest!

Above: hard at work (on the Côte d'Azur in France last fall... no complaints)

Below: a very simple form that came together quickly

On paper (left), in rebar at the residency (center), and... out of wenge wood in my studio last month.

Below: this next one evolved a long ways in sketch form (I'm skipping many, many versions) before I felt ready to go:

Above: "Reaching Up and Over"

Above: I must have drawn and redrawn this form fifty times, but really the biggest change happened later. Making it in rough steel (above right) helped me to see that I wasn't happy with it... too complicated, and something essential was getting lost.

I just finished this the week before last. It's much simplified, which I hope helps the form and the gesture to speak beyond the lines and the shape they suggest.

Below: this next one was interesting — in sketch form I couldn't settle on whether it would be better as a horizontal (as shown in the sketch here) or a vertical sculpture...

...so I made both: "Diminishing Form, Horizontal" and "Diminishing Form, Vertical". Guess which is which.

Coming soon: some new materials. Stay tuned.


February 22, 2012

I've added a handful of new photos to my website, including a couple that have been finished with a deep black lacquer paint. This is something somewhat new, the first was done back in 2010. It's an amazing surface, done by Sam Sargent, a professional painter who's done work on my bases for the last several years. Each piece gets upwards of ten coats of lacquer, alternating clear and opaque coats, with several days' drying in between. I'll post more on this in the coming weeks.

I'm focusing mostly on turning the sketches that I developed while in France late last year (see the October entry, below) into finished sculptures. Photos will be along soon.

Lastly, I'm traveling to both the SF Bay Area and NYC for several days each in the middle of March. If you'll be around, drop me a note!


January 10, 2012

Happy New Year to all! I recently shot a very short (22 seconds), rough video of myself assembling a sculpture and thought I'd post it here, despite it not being edited. I want to do more of this in the future, the process of putting my sculptures together is an important part of my work — it really shows the fundamental qualities of form, gravity and balance that I'm so interested in.


December 23, 2011

Happy holidays!!



October 28, 2011

Since the beginning of October I've been in residence at Château de la Napoule, an arts foundation about five miles west of Cannes, France. This is the third residency I've done (my first here) and it's been a tremendously productive, useful time. I thought I'd share a few details and pictures from the first weeks here, including some of what I've been working on. There are eight artists here — writers, visual artists, a composer, filmmaker and dancer. We each have our own living and working spaces, but we meet for long dinners (and plenty of wine) each night.

Below: my studio; my 'morning drawing table;' the residents at dinner.


And two more, me at work:


I'm dedicating most of my time to making preliminary sketches for new sculptures. The focus and time that this residency offers is hard to come by, which is why I use it for this most creatively-demanding phase of my work. A few of the early sketches:


I'm also doing something new this month, experimenting with fabricating metal maquettes — quick translations of my drawings using the crudest of materials (bent rebar held together with wire). This has been surprisingly useful as a way for me to play with relationships and expand my understanding of the interactions of form and gravity, without requiring all the time and expense of making a sculpture with my usual materials. A couple of images of these are below...


August 31, 2011:

I've taken several fantastic road trips this summer, and photographed the landscapes extensively (see July's post about my interest in landscape forms in my sculptures). Here are a few (heavily-cropped) images that I think are promising, but haven't begun working on either sketches nor the sculptures from them yet.

August 25, 2011:

I was recently asked to make a sculpture for a wedding on the coast of Florida. I wanted the piece to have a relationship and relevance to the ceremony, but without explicit symbolism that would get in the way of the form itself.

I settled on the general form for the sculpture quickly after considering the idea of the wedding. I wanted it to be an enclosing form, with two parts reaching both upward and out, and also in and towards each other. I wanted the components to be independent but connected, and I wanted to use the property of balance to emphasize the inter-reliance of its parts.

Shortly after the wedding, I made a smaller, indoor version of the same form (this was the first time I've ever started with a large sculpture and reduced it; I've done the opposite many times). It's 25" x 28" x 2".


Iterations of Sketches:

While I settled on the general form for this sculpture somewhat quickly, my process is always long on drawing before I ever touch wood or metal. In this case I drew and redrew iterations on the basic idea perhaps 40 times over several weeks, until it felt completely clear and "right" to me.

With any sculpture I make there's a moment when a sketch just works, when nothing should be added nor taken away, when both aesthetic and structural relationships are clear. This is when a sculpture is born for me — more even than when I complete the final sculpture. It's also at this same point that I know the sculpture will balance as I've drawn it.

If I don't reach this moment with a particular sketched form, it can also be terribly frustrating. I have a deep stack of sketches from the last 15 years that I've never reached this point with. Some I've given up on, though many I still pull out once in a while and make a renewed effort on. Sometimes I'll also return to a form that I had completed long ago, and whatever has changed in me since then will lead me to make new iterations and sometimes a new sculpture. Going through these old iterations gives me insight into how I've changed as a sculptor over time.

Here are a few of the early sketches for this sculpture, and then the sketch where I knew it "worked."

July, 2011:

I'm working towards formalizing this 'updates' page, and am sending it out as a newsletter to clients, galleries, collaborators, etc. This entry, for July 2011, is the first of these. If you'd like to get these by email, get in touch with me.

One Sculpture: "Four Pieces Out and Up"

14" x 69" x 2" 

From sketch to sculpture:



This form originated from a photograph that I took from the car, while driving north from Santa Fe. I worked on the sketch extensively while in residency at Fundaçion Valparaiso in Spain this February and March and finished the sculpture in May. It's a long form at almost six feet, and works well mounted to a small shelf, on a mantle piece, or on a long table. 
Deeper Look: Landscape Forms in My Sculptures 

The forms I see within landscapes have always appealed to me as a subject matter, but for a long time they seemed outside of my sculptural lexicon: too macro in scale, too reliant on their contexts. Perhaps more than anything, though, I had difficulty translating the inherent massiveness of the land into my work. 

Recently I've realized that a path forward lies in capturing and distilling the gesture within a landscape; by emphasizing this nuance, the context is no longer necessary. That's been my first challenge. The second came when I realized that gesture is something I've understand mostly in terms of human forms, which means I've had to work at adapting and improving my ability to capture gesture in non-anthropomorphic forms, and then use that to explore what's most essential in that form. 

The sculpture above is my third in this series of landscape-inspired sculptures; images of the two earlier works are below:

"Four Pieces Out and Down,"  Wenge wood, 7 x 50 x 2 inches,   2010


"Three Reaching Outwards,"  Padauk wood, 12" 54 x 2 inches,  2010


April 6, 2011:

I'm settling back into life here in the States, voraciously working in my studio after two months away. I'm preparing a large (~8 x 8 feet) sculpture for the wedding ceremony of two friends at the end of the month (see rough sketch below). I'm also beginning to dive into the sketches I made while in Spain. It's an interesting experience — at times a struggle — to convert sketches that I've worked with on paper for weeks and weeks into their final, physical form.

And a bit of good news — I've been awarded a residency at the Chateau de la Napoule, a well-regarded arts Foundation in southern France. I'll be there for five+ weeks starting this October. (www.lnaf.org)

Lastly, I'm beginning work on a small number of editioned sculptures. These will be distinct from the rest of my work in several ways... more on this later, once I have some examples!


March 22, 2011:

More photos from Granada. The graffiti in this town is striking; my sense is that it mostly comes from the same artist — or small group of artists with a common style and sense of whimsy.

...and the carved caligraphy — these are all in the Alhambra.


March 2011:

I am spending three weeks in Granada, Spain to continue the work I began during the residency at Fundación Valparaíso. Back in the States at the end of March to start turning these new sketches into sculptures. More photos will follow soon...



February 2011:

I'm currently attending an artist-in-residence program at Fundación Valparaiso in Mojácar, Spain, a thirty-minute walk from the Mediterranean coast. I'm working on the sketches for a new body of work, including a commission for a large wedding ceremony sculpture for two good friends.

Fundacion Valparaiso; my studio is the small side building at the bottom-right.


Inside my studio; I'm mostly focusing on drawing forms for new sculptures.



December 10th, 2010 to January 21st, 2011:

"Gestures," solo exhibition at Galerie Ora-Ora in Hong Kong
Reception Friday December 10th from 5 PM to 9 PM


October 1st to November 13th, 2010:

"Points of Balance," at Gerald Peters Gallery in Santa Fe Public reception October 15th from 5:00 PM to 7 PM

all images, content ©Will Clift