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Artist Studio: William P. Vafeas "Bill"

William P. Vafeas "Bill"

Born: 1922 (Aliquippa, PA)
Died: 2011 (La Crosse, WI)

Lived/Active: Wisconsin/Pennsylvania

Profession(s): Painter, Sculptor

Known for: Abstract, Landscape

Style(s): Modernist, Abstract, Expressionist

Medium(s): Oil, Watercolor, Ink, Collage, Mixed Media

Price Information as of 07/04/2011:
Available upon request.

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Artist Biography:
William P. Vafeas was born to Greek (Lemnos) immigrant parents in 1922 in Aliquippa, PA.  From an early age he expressed an interest in becoming an artist, as well as exhibited great skill at drawing.  Following his graduation from high school, he worked in a local steel mill plant until being drafted into military service (US Army) in 1943.  He served with the 76th and 30th Infantry Divisions in the European Theater, including participation in the Battle of Bulge for which he received multiple Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart Medal for injuries received in battle.  He returned home in 1945 and began his formal education as an artist and art educator.  The experiences of growing up as the son of immigrant parents, coming of age during the Great Depression, and combat experiences during WWII forever shaped his thoughts about art and would find their way into his art and poetry for the remainder of his life.

William P. Vafeas, known as "Bill" to his family, friends and colleagues, began his formal education at the State Teachers College, Edinboro, PA, earning his BS.  He then went on to earn his MA at the State University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, and his Doctorate of Education (Art Education with a minor in Studio Art) at the State University of Pennsylvania.  His many teaching positions included: elementary art teacher in Aliquippa, PA; high school art teacher in Bethel, PA; elementary and secondary art teacher in Booneville, NY; assistant professor of art at State Teachers College in Lockhaven, PA; State Director of Art Education in Delaware; professor of art at Mass. College of Art; and professor of art at the University of Wisconsin in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  Bill retired from teaching to pursue his own painting full time in 1979, remaining in La Crosse, WI, where he owned and operated Studio Gallery 1311.

Throughout his career as an artist, he experimented with various media and styles. Heavily influenced by abstract expressionism and abstract impressionism, his subjects often focused on what he referred to as the "landscapes of the universe."  The subjects of his works were typically interpretations of the landscapes and natural phenomena existing around him, which he then expressed on canvas, board, and paper in a distinctive abstracted style that was uniquely his own.  In particular, he spent countless hours exploring the rural landscapes located near his home in the Upper Mississippi Valley (Southwestern Wisconsin), carefully documenting his journeys with pen and ink sketches.  He also traveled extensively throughout the Western regions of the United States, meticulously sketching landscapes that served as studies for his "Southwest Series" of watercolor landscapes.  

Focused on the process and act of making art, the last several years of his life he spent completely devoted to his art at Studio Gallery 1311 in La Crosse, WI.  A working artist to the very end, he completed his last painting in February 2011, just a few days before his death on February 11, 2011.  He was interred with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.  

State Teachers College, Edinboro, PA (1949-1952)
State University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA (1952-1954)
University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (1954)
Pennsylvania State University (D. Ed, Minor Fine Art; 1960)
Mass. College of Art, Boston, MA (1962-1962)

1967, J. Judson Northeast, Keller Press, 101 pages
1966, Vafeas Cronopsis, Sumac Press

PCCC (Permanent Collection), Tucson, Arizona
Tucson University (Univ. Collection), Tucson, Arizona

Exhibition Record (Museums, Institutions and Awards):
1949, One Man Exhibit - Edinboro State College
1950, One Man Exhibit - Aliquippa Public Library (PA)
1951, University of Iowa
1952, 7th Annual Watercolor Show, Sioux City, IA
1955, One Man Exhibit - Lock Haven State College
1959 Pennsylvania State University
1961 Delaware Artists Exhibit - Dover, DE
1965 Exhibit of Paintings and Prints - American Artists of Greek Descent, Detroit, MI
1966 Group Show of Paintings - Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln, Neb.
1964-1968 Faculty Exhibits - Wisconsin State University, La Crosse, WI
2000 Retrospective Exhibit - Pump House Regional Arts Center, La Crosse, WI

Exhibition Record (Galleries and Art Shows):
1997-1998 Gallery Rapis, Tokyo, Japan
1997 Exhibition of Watercolors "Impressions of the Southwest", Studio Gallery 1311, La Crosse, WI
2002 Exhibition of Landscape Paintings by William P. Vafeas and Carolyn Maybee "Teacher and Student", Studio Gallery 1311, La Crosse, WI

1961 National Committee - State Directors of Art, Washington, DC
1960-1962 National Art Education Research Committee
1962-1964 Eastern Arts Association, Legislative Committee

Dealers or Representatives:
State Street Gallery, La Crosse, WI.

Atypical Fine Art (D. Bass -Estate Representative)

Artist Statement:

"By temperament and inherited characteristics, art became my way of life.  I have always felt that expression through visual and literary forms enriches one's life.  Without the creative arts to challenge us the history of the world would be without substance.  

My education and art training at various colleges and universities brought me into contact with and exposed me to many art forms.  Experimentation became a significant part of my personal philosophy as an artist.  Close observation and careful analysis of the environmental landscape is fundamental to my art.

To involve myself in the creative process and to see a work evolve provides a sense of accomplishment and an incentive to continue.  I feel that there is no limit to one's ability to find new ways of seeing, feeling, and expressing himself in his art.  As an artist, I must continue to involve myself in the creative process, to examine and to enrich my field of vision.  My primary objective is to accomplish this through my paintings and drawings."

- William P. Vafeas (1922-2011)
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