Oct 16, 2017

Artist and Veteran William Clack on THE TIMES

by: Laura Kochman

Meet William Clack: a Vietnam veteran and a Philadelphia native, he’s been a key player in artist Tyree Guyton’s Monument Lab project. THE TIMES is a massive multi-part painting, created by veterans from Impact Services and other community members in Kensington over the last several months. The artwork deals with themes related to time, connecting to ideas about resilience and healing. William is a self-taught artist who developed a detailed, humorous painting style even though he had never worked with paint before.


How did you get involved with THE TIMES?

I had heard that there was a Mural Arts project going on, because there were flyers going up. I thought, That’s interesting, because I hadn’t drawn anything in a long time…I was trying to figure out exactly why are we doing this and what is this for. They explained that this was Tyree’s project, and he was trying to get these buildings together…I found out about his Heidelberg Project! We have a lot of people over here ODing, and it helped. It really helped.

As I was [working on the project], I realized I had never painted before. And I loved it. I really got into it. They told me, I seemed like I had been painting all my life. I said no, I’ve just been drawing. I really just got into it. They told me how good I can draw, but I just couldn’t see it because I always thought I could do better. It was really fun after I got started. The vets here, they were asking me to help them, and I said, Can you draw? Can you scribble? Can you write your name? Do your thing. This is your project. I’ve brought in a couple of vets from [the other Impact building at] 174 and they really loved it. The monitors—they got into it, too.

This project inspired me and made me want to do more. It helped me develop my skills. I’ve been self-taught, and it made me feel like I want to draw all the time now. [Tyree] inspired my inner oomph! I’ve really enjoyed it.

Detail of THE TIMES. Coke can painting by William Clack (left). Photo by Steve Weinik.

What has this project meant to you?

The project means to me—it reflects the place of now. Get it done now, whatever it is you’re doing, get it done now because tomorrow is not promised to you. Guys were asking me what the clocks were for, and I said, it’s your perception of time. How do you perceive it? You think about it. I can’t tell you how you think about time, how you perceive time. Are you doing something you have no business doing? Think about it. The time is now.

How did you learn how to draw?

I started off with comic books, with Gene London, and me and my brother started having competitions drawing with each other…The first chance I get when I find my brother, I’m going to ask him if he can still draw, would he like to draw, and if so, I’m with the arts center at Lehigh and Belgrade! They need people there to help out with the children, be a mentor. This project has inspired me a lot.

Detail of THE TIMES. Panel painted by William Clack. Photo by Steve Weinik.

What do you like about art?

I try to draw a little bit of everything that I can. It’s challenging. That’s the best part about it. I like to challenge myself to see if I can do it. I would like to go to school and learn as much as I can about art. I don’t care if it’s sculpting—I don’t care if it’s any form of art! I would like to do it because it has intrigued me a lot. We went to an art show downtown, and I saw everybody, and I don’t know what it was, but it just engulfed me. I wanted that—I wanted this—I want to learn how to do this! I don’t even think I can grasp it all, and that’s the best part about it.

When Tyree brought it here, the clocks, that just took my imagination further. It’s something different. It takes my mind and makes it go a little further. I’m trying to get a program started at 174…show them things. Let your mind wander, and find the beauty in it. That’s what it’s all about.

Detail of THE TIMES. Panel painted by William Clack. Photo by Steve Weinik.

If you could do any art project you wanted to do in this neighborhood, what would it be?

First, I would have to walk around. I would find out what’s going on in the community, and whatever comes to mind, I would invite the community and the children in to help me, because I would like the community to get involved…my main concern is to get the children into something different. We need art in schools even more. The arts center—I can’t wait to get there and teach the kids. Because they’re good! They’re very good. But I’d like to teach them more, and that would be the best part about it. I want to see the smile of accomplishment on their faces. I like to see when they pay attention and accomplish it, because once you accomplish it, nothing can stop you. We need more art.


Lead Monument Lab partners include the City of Philadelphia; Philadelphia Parks & Recreation; Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy; Historic Philadelphia; Independence National Historic Park; Penn Institute for Urban Research; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Price Lab for Digital Humanities; and the University of Pennsylvania.

Major support for Monument Lab projects staged in Philadelphia’s five squares has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

An expanded artist roster and projects at five neighborhood sites have been made possible by a significant grant from the William Penn Foundation.

Lead corporate sponsor is Bank of America.

Additional support has been provided by Susanna Lachs & Dean Adler, William & Debbie Becker, CLAWS Foundation, Comcast NBCUniversal, Davis Charitable Foundation, Hummingbird Foundation, J2 Design, National Endowment for the Arts, Nick & Dee Adams Charitable Fund, Parkway Corporation, PECO, Relief Communications LLC, Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square, Stacey Spector & Ira Brind, Tiffany Tavarez, Tuttleman Family Foundation, Joe & Renee Zuritsky, and 432 Kickstarter backers. Support for Monument Lab‘s final publication provided by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.

Media partner: WHYY

Last updated: Oct 16, 2017

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