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 Bill Rane  (1927 - 2005)

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Lived/Active: New Mexico/California/Oregon / Guatemala/Mexico      Known for: modernist Indian figure

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
BILL RANE (1927 - 2005)

Bill Rane was born in Bend, Oregon on March 3rd, 1927, but grew up a few hundred miles east in the remote and idyllic hills of Garden Valley, Idaho. As a boy, he gleamed he might become an artist but it was not until after serving in the US Navy during WW II that he began his studies in earnest.

He first attended Boise Junior College, then San Francisco State College, and finally the University of California at Berkeley, studying art and literature at all three. Trips to Latin America became frequent and made a lasting impression upon him.  From the late 1940's through the early 1950's, he was living, off and on, in Guatemala where he married a native Guatemalan and had three children. However, by the late 1950's, now divorced, he became part of the beatnik community in San Francisco and Sausalito.

Painter, roustabout, and raconteur, he was a fixture in the early Sausalito Arts Festivals. In 1958 Bill remarried (the union lasted forty-seven years) and had, over time, five more children. The family traveled extensively throughout Mexico because Bill continued to be captivated by the mythology and culture of Latin America with its exotic ancient treasures as well as its vibrant village markets alive with flowers, textures, and colors.

Stylistically, he also drew inspiration from other ancient cultures as well as the early modernists. Visitors to his studio could often be caught cocking an ear as they heard him refer to "the literature of paint" when describing his work. The phrase was an apt one for it revealed Bill as an avid reader with a boundless curiosity for the literature, arts, and myths of all cultures. He could just as easily delve into the Greek Classics or ancient Egyptian and Mayan mythology as to create a visual metaphor. At the same time, he admired such masters as Modigliani and Picasso while remaining resolute in forging his own unique style.

As an important part of that process, he often demanded of himself the reworking of paintings over and over, typically painting with a heavy impasto* as he layered oil pigments - sometimes to the point of building mounds of paint upon his canvases. He was constantly moving in the studio, weaving about his easel, dripping, dropping, and dashing brushstrokes. The process might appear both random and obsessive to the observer yet these strokes were assuredly from the steady hand of a master. In short, his body and soul were immersed in every piece. Thus, elements, both ancient and modern, provided inspiration for a large body of paintings that form his cosmic codex.

The stylized female figure is likely a sylph. The pictograph may refer to an ancient myth. Other recurring subjects included goddesses, mythical animals, sea creatures, geese, pelicans, and pomegranates.

Bill was also a writer, tracing his spiritual development in a poetic "bildungsroman" novel entitled, Talfulano (New York: Horizon Press, 1976). He had also begun work on a second novel, The Diary of a Tomb Painter, the essence of which would reveal the artist¹s exigency to tangle with mankind¹s most inner complexities.

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx


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Born and raised in the Northwest, he lived in Guatemal and Mexico before settling in Taos, New Mexico. He has worked as an editorial cartoonist, screenwriter, teacher and poet and is a self-taught artist.

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