Local Artist Honors God Through Unique Sculptures.

by | Jan 2023

ARTISTS ARE unique creatures. They see things in a way that most of us take for granted or don’t have the patience to see. Their minds wander; they imagine and solve invisible problems about making what is in their head come to life on paper or canvas, through a sculpture or installation, or in various other mediums that portray art.

Artists create with inspiration from numerous things, including nature, people, things, or sounds. Some, such as Alexander Calder, start with sculpture. First trained as an engineer before pursuing art, his work was broad and ground-breaking due to the variety of what he created, the scale, and his ingenuity. He made prints, paintings, drawings, tapestries, jewelry, and sculptures, including small figurines and enormous works. His art is displayed in museums and commercial properties worldwide.

Asian artist Ruth Asawa was fascinated with how a line continued and never stopped. She is best known for her unique looped-wire, multitiered sculptures. She spent decades working in the wire medium and developed myriad ways to treat and transform different metals to significant effect. She also experimented by casting other materials, such as paper and clay.

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

Then there are artists, like Manchester native Willard Hill, whose inspiration is somewhat of a mystery, even to himself. When asked, he states that he has no particular technique or isn’t trying to convey a specific meaning. He’s simply following what he feels is a divine calling to create.

Hill’s creation is that of ragtag sculptures from whatever materials he happens to spot in his surroundings. While you and I may see household items or things that are trash, Hill sees the chance to create a masterpiece. He then scoops the materials up and begins to twist and mold, making a sculpture whose identity is yet to be known. It evolves in real time as Hill works.

Upon finishing, a brightly-colored cartoon-like sculpture stands before you. Currently, Hill finds himself creating monkeys. Monkeys of all shapes and sizes riding bicycles or hanging off a branch. Hill said he’s not sure why he has gravitated to making them; he leaves it to divine creativity.

Since 1982, Hill has been working diligently every day, creating these unique sculptures. Due to a painful and ongoing battle with diverticulitis, the condition side-lined Hill forcing him to stay home. Bored of watching television, he said he needed to create.

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

“I was sitting there watching TV,” said Hill. “I noticed a roll of tape and some wire, and I just started rolling it around. When I got through it, it kind of favored something. From that time on, I just started making things. I give that credit to the Lord, and I don’t take any credit for myself.”

Hill said that as a child, he could draw and enjoyed it. He added that God gifted him with many different talents, including drawing, being handy, and cooking. Cooking is something that Hill enjoyed very much and had great skill in doing. So much so that he made it into a 60-year career.

That career would end due to his health, but that wouldn’t stop him. He stated that it was then that God came in and bestowed upon him the talent to sculpt.

“God wouldn’t have given me this talent if I couldn’t handle it,” he said.

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

Today, you can find a variety of creatures inside his Manchester home. Creations of all sorts are in a colorful display, line shelves, and set on tables.

Hill has also received local and national recognition for his work. He gives credit to local Manchester business owner Bill Nickels for helping to get his artwork out and into the public’s eye.

“Some of my artwork was on display in town, and Mr. Nickels saw it,” said Hill. “He came by my house and talked to me about my artwork. We then showed and sold some of my work at Dave Macon Days. Then a woman came from California and asked if I would be interested in having some of my pieces sold in California.”

His work has been showcased online and in galleries across the country. You can also view and purchase his artwork locally at the Manchester Arts Center.

While Hill has enjoyed the attention of his work, he said at the end of the day it’s about doing God’s will and continuing to create as he would allow. At 88 years of age, Hill plans to continue his work in art.

“Whatever he gives me the strength to do, I will continue to do it. You never get too old in God’s eye to do what he needs you to do.” GN

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