William H. Thielen was born March 18, 1954 in Pierre, South Dakota, where he grew up. He did his undergraduate studies in painting at Northern State University, Aberdeen, South Dakota where he received a B.S. in Art Education Comprehensive (Painting with minors in Fibers and Sculpture) in 1977. At that time he realized that in making his art he wanted a broader base from which to draw. Therefore, he enrolled in graduate school under M. Joan Lintault at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He received his M.F.A. in fibers in 1980.
Just after completion of his terminal degree, he was invited to be a multimedia panelist for Fibre-Form-Fusion, an international conference held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Shortly thereafter, in 1982, he received a visual artist fellowship grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
He has received purchase awards from the Evansville (Indiana) Museum of Art and Science in 1993 and the Mitchell Museum, Mt. Vernon, Illinois, in 2002; and merit awards from the 31st Annual Quincy Show, Elizabeth Sinnock Gallery, Quincy, Illinois in 1981; the Alexandria Fine Arts Annual, Visual Art Center, Alexandria, Louisiana in 1982; the Self- Images show at the Associated Artist Gallery, Carbondale, Illinois in 1989; and the Evansville (Indiana) Museum of Art and Science in 2000.
In 1984 he was one of ten artists chosen to participate in the Interchange Program at the Banff Center for the Arts, Banff, Alberta, Canada. This international collection of emerging artists spent the summer studying with artists from the U.S., Canada, and Europe, including Francoise Grossen, Gary Trentham, Ritzi and Peter Jacobi, Mildred Constantine, Mariette Rousseau, Patterson Sims, and Judy Pfaff.
In 1984-85, Sandra McMorris Johnson and Mr. Thielen took top honors in the National Endowment for the Arts-funded Fiberworks Exhibition and Projects Competition in Berkeley, California. They were commissioned to mount a collaborative installation in their main gallery.
In 1990, he was one of five artists chosen in the "Big Art" competition of the Arts Festival of Atlanta. His work was reproduced on a 12 by 48 foot billboard in the heart of downtown Atlanta for a period of over six months.
In 1992 and 1997, Thielen was awarded an Expansion Arts Grant by Southern Illinois Arts Council in conjunction with the Expansion Arts/Access program of the Illinois Arts Council.
He has conducted visiting artist lectures/critiques at:
Earlham College, Richmond, IN, 2016
Southeast MO State Univ, Cape Girardeau, 2009, 10, 12, 13 Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, 2009 Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield, 2001 Western Illinois University, Macomb, 1998
Lockport Gallery, Lockport, Illinois, 1996 Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, 1994 Vincennes University, Vincennes, Indiana, 1991 Truman University, Kriksville, Missouri, 1989 Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, 1988
From 1990 to 2000, he was on the Board of Advisors for the Gallery of Contemporary Art in New Harmony, IN.
In 1995-96, he had a traveling one-person show curated and sponsored by the State of Illinois Museum and Galleries System with exhibitions at Ina, Lockport, and Chicago.
He was a guest critic for the "Fall Arts Preview" in the Nuvo Newsweekly of Indianapolis in its September 14-21, 1994 issue.
Reviews of his work have been published in Sculpture Magazine (Sept./Oct., 2015), the New Art Examiner (Sep., 1990), Art Week (June 1, 1985), the Los Angeles Times (June 4, 1981), Fiberarts magazine (July/Aug., 1985 & Sep./Oct., 1981), and numerous regional newspapers. His work has appeared in Soft Sculpture by Carolyn Vosburg Hall (1981, Davis Publications, Worcester, MA). Most recently, he was a featured artist in Practical Mixed-media Printmaking Techniques, by Sarah Riley (2012, A&C Black Publishers, London).
In 2002, his work was part of “Five Hundred Abstract Works on Paper, 1922-2002” at Gary Snyder Fine Art in New York. He was the only contemporary artist in the show mentioned in a review by N.F. Karlins in artnet magazine: http://www.artnet.com/magazine/reviews/karlins/karlins8-7-02.asp.
He has continues his education by taking workshops at Anderson Ranch in Snowmass, CO with: Ross Bleckner (2011), Charles Cohan (2012) and Judy Pfaff (2016).
Mr. Thielen is currently a full-time studio artist, living and working in Carbondale, Illinois. His work may be viewed at williamhthielen.com.
THIS IS A VISUAL FIELD!
Emotions are the aesthetic glue of the work.
All good art is based on a truth;
it is about working towards an unknown.
The Intellects Are Wrong.
Stop Thinking and Start Feeling!
Trust the intuitive voice.
Sounds easy, but it’s not. Why do you think so few artists work in this manner?
When creating pictorial or sculptural objects, it is risky to trust the intuitive nature of emotions and the intellectual information that comes from observation.
For me, the only way to overcome this risk is in the language of abstraction.
The process of abstraction is one of spontaneity, flexibility, and trusting the intuitive nature of the act. Also inherent is an emotional reaction and metaphorical reckoning on the part of the viewer. All of this helps to create a new visual language in which to address the issues behind the visual statement.
The issues behind my work are personal and autobiographical. I work with these issues because they are my attempt to find my own true identity in a divisive social structure. Maybe in a way I am trying to find a momentary calm while existing in a society that is full of hostility and hatred.
These works are about extremes, how they need each other to define each other, and the tension that is created when opposites are thrust together. The compositions—sometimes simple, other times complex—aid in the process of building these works. As the work progresses it evolves. Sometimes black and white is dominant and other times, color, much as life is not always—if ever—on an even plain.
The black and white tends to be the backbone of each piece. It is about the constant struggle of good and bad, life and death, control, rigidity, and—sometimes—sick humor.
The color is entirely about emotions. They are something we all have, yet many people avoid them. If one does not trust them, they can have a profoundly negative effect. To embrace them leads to a positive integration into one’s self, and a healthy way of expressing them. No matter what one does, they will always be there.
I concentrate on the history of the process so that it silently complicates the depth of the object. By juxtaposing complicated geometric patterns with freehand shapes and line, works are created that stimulate, disturb, and distill feeling. The viewer, through a metaphorical language, must attempt to resolve this tension and find the truth in these works.
These pieces are about looking for emotional truth in a post-modern world. I constantly ask myself, “Where do I fit in? Am I legitimate?” I ask the same of these pieces. Where do they fit in? Are they painting, sculpture or mixed media? I leave it to each viewer to answer the question.
William H. Thielen