Conversation Piece

Without uttering a word, Guy Dill’s abstract sculptures speak to me. As is the case with all meaningful art, this communication is a result of the work having a significant message to share. But it is also a direct consequence of the work’s ability to inspire intellectual and emotional responses from the onlooker. Guy’s art covers both of these bases. So when I get into dialogue with one of this master sculptor’s compelling configurations, I find myself never wanting the conversation to end.

Without uttering a word, Guy Dill’s abstract sculptures speak to me. As is the case with all meaningful art, this communication is a result of the work having a significant message to share.

But it is also a direct consequence of the work’s ability to inspire intellectual and emotional responses from the onlooker. Guy’s art covers both of these bases. So when I get into dialogue with one of this master sculptor’s compelling configurations, I find myself never wanting the conversation to end.

As a young student at the Chouinard Institute of Art in Los Angeles from 1967 to 1970, Guy felt at home, learning a language of art that was not limited by a standard vocabulary. He found himself focusing more and more on sculpture, as his desire to deepen his comprehension of the language strengthened. To this day, Guy is usually at work seven days a week in the Venice Beach studio he built. His strong will, healthy pride and outright determination to live with integrity keep him committed to what he describes plainly as “his responsibility to use his art to inform, to teach and to evoke emotion.” Driven by this unadulterated devotion to art, Guy has no choice but to create. And after decades of living his life’s purpose so truthfully, Guy now has some 50 selected one-man exhibitions under his belt; he has works on display at world-renowned museums; and he has numerous monumental sculptures sited on properties throughout the country and the world.

The explanation for this success is clear. Guy creates charismatic masses of curling, graphic forms many times monumental in scale, which possess an intrinsic sense of bold innovation rooted in a declaration of belonging. Through seemingly objective designs, the artist transforms bronze, marble or aluminum structures into powerful statements that claim their position in the chronicles of the mind while encouraging the spirit to open up and experience them in an uninhibited manner. Is it any surprise then that each time I talk with Guy’s sculptures, I feel as though I am connecting with my own art spirit, fusing my soul with the soul of the work itself? Guy understands the importance of this emotional and, yes, even spiritual exchange. And that is why he dedicates himself to expression through art.

Watermark, a bronze sculpture measuring an impressive 20 x 10.5 x 6 feet, is one of Guy’s triumphant expressions. It is a sculpture that is willing to be in a discussion, although, to my delight, it is almost confrontational at times. It knows its own value and it stands undaunted in the wake of analysis. When I begin to read a certain allegory into it, it does not simply nod in agreement with my interpretation. Instead, it asks me to look at its form from a different angle. After I literally change my point of view of the sculpture, the piece of art takes on an even broader nature. The curves of the sculpture that seemed so obviously a man and woman dancing in the grandeur of an intense adoration suddenly morph into a sole, legendary warrior, negotiating the weight of his heavy armor while advancing into battle.

As I share my personal understanding of the work with Guy, he is quick to interject that “any figurative aspect is a byproduct, not an intention.” Regardless, the story is already being written in my head. Watermark stands its ground with a regal bearing, demanding that I soak up the tale it has to tell. The scale of the sculpture plays a part in this self-assuredness, but it is not the reason for it. By all means, the magnitude of the sculpture is impressive. However, when I view other, much smaller works by the artist, I am equally enthralled with the feelings and ideas awakened by them. These sculptures command consideration just as their larger counterparts do. And the provoked intellectual and emotional discussion between the artwork and the onlooker is just as stirring.

When I ask Guy if what people say about his work influences his artistic endeavors, he tells me that “an artist creates art, but not to please a viewer” — a vital lesson drilled into him by professors and mentors alike in his early days as an art student. He insists that producing art is a non-collaborative process, one that calls upon the artist to move beyond acceptable norms and established boundaries. Guy puts it this way: “I am interested in making things that are beyond my control – things that I don’t understand.” In carrying out this challenge, he gains the power to produce original works that bring a sense of drama to the environments in which they live.

Consider Close Hauled for example. A bronze sculpture measuring 33 x 16.5 x 7.5 feet, this dynamic creation takes center stage on the grounds of the Regency Bal Harbour Hotel in Miami, Florida. The work is an engineering feat that blatantly defies the rules of physics. Its curving design is all at once graceful and unsettling, for as it reigns over the property on which it is sited, it seems to channel the natural force of the ocean. And while Close Hauled is not representational of any one thing associated with the sea, the sculpture projects a maritime spirit that has seemingly pervaded Guy’s collection of work since day one. Raised in Malibu, Guy grew up by the beach. He surfed from an early age and eventually served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1963 to 1967. So when I announce that I see waves and anchors in some of his arcs, he admits that, given his life-long relationship with the water, a general influence is inevitable.

As my eyes return to admire Close Hauled, I now know something else that is inevitable. My conversation with Guy Dill’s sculptures is not in danger of ending. As long as Guy speaks through his art, his art will speak to onlookers like me. And I will be listening and responding as I fully embrace the art of this conversation.

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