Award-winning sculptor Mark Williamson ’84 has given a lot of thought over the last two
decades to the wrong road taken.
|Williamson appears with two of his recent works. At left is Transparent Ego, composed
of 12,000 coffee stir straws and resin. At right is Our Self, a commentary on American
self-esteem. Of the latter sculpture he says, “While we often present ourselves as
strong, confident and attractive (the lower head made of dark marble), our inner view of
ourselves is represented by the top (porcelain) head: weak, small, pale and dysfunctional
(upside-down and backward).”
“The single biggest regret of my life was leaving Dickinson,” he
now admits. “I
was right the first time in my assessment as to who I am, a passionate lover of the liberal
arts. Dickinson was exactly what I was looking for.”
But back then he thought the art
courses he so enjoyed were a frivolity and that a finance degree—an option not offered
at the college—was what he wanted. He transferred
in 1981 to pursue a business degree at the University of Oklahoma.
Williamson focused on the
corporate world for most of the next two decades, working as a business manager, earning a
mechanical-engineering degree at the University of Texas at Austin and an M.B.A. from Rice
University. He began making his return to art in 1991 when he took a marble-sculpting techniques
course in Pietrasanta, Italy.
A decade later, nearing midlife, Williamson reassessed—and
ultimately radically changed—his
priorities. For the last four years he has enjoyed a full-time career as a sculptor.
wife Susan and their son, Fenton, divide their time between his hometown of Dallas and Budapest,
a city he first visited in 1994 when he was there to “import sporting goods
and catchy toys into Hungary.”
Much of Williamson’s time in Hungary is spent taking
in the color and slower pace of European family life, finding inspiration for new works, gathering
materials, learning new technical skills and constructing new pieces.
Since his mid-career U-turn,
Williamson also has strived to create works that deliver greater international impact and “challenge
the viewer to consider alternative possibilities, creating at least the opportunity to change
the way the viewer thinks,” he explains.
“With my conceptual works there is the
desire to succeed in discovering how to bring life to ideas.”
Consider his piece Kyoto
No Kyoto, a commentary on the Bush administration’s rejection
of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an agreement by developed nations to limit greenhouse-gas emissions.
Says Williamson, “I created in plastic a classically posed female bust
with a forlorn expression, melted off the top half of her head and embedded in its place a
glass bulb with dirty motor oil, along with a piece of foam rubber carved with the word ‘Kyoto,’ added
a certain amount of filth to the work and sealed it in runny, clear epoxy. So ‘Kyoto’ floats
forever atop the dirty motor oil encapsulated in our subconscious.”
And the critical reaction
to his work? “I’ve been accepted into about 15 competitions
around the United States over the last year, no small feat in itself, and have won top awards
Clients, he says, “have been mostly business executives or their spouses,” who
are willing to pay the not-insignificant price for Williamson’s sculptures.
done a couple of bronze pieces in a series that I sold for $500. Most works, especially my
marble pieces, sell for around $20,000. But I am about to sell my most difficult piece, a marble
torso made from three different colors of marble, titled C-6 for $32,000.”
marketing his work, mainly in the southwestern United States and eastern Europe, “my
main professional goal is to gain representation by a flagship Manhattan gallery,” Williamson
“But I also want to keep raising the bar for myself to create great and
meaningful works of art. In this regard, I’m currently working on both an abstract series
called Reconstructing Budapest and a monumental stone work for a town hall in Dallas.”
latter, a 7-foot-tall, 1,000-pound contemporary marble sculpture of a stack of books was set
for installation in October outside the Highland Park public library.
But back to that road
once taken then abandoned. Though brief in time the impact of Dickinson on Williamson’s
life and work was profound.
“While at Dickinson, I took classes in design and drawing,
both taught by Susan Nichols [adjunct professor of art and retired associate dean], a terrific
person and quite inspirational. In retrospect, those art classes at Dickinson meant a lot because
they turned out to be the only formal college art classes I ever took.
art world so much of success centers on a work’s original and creative
design,” Williamson adds. “So I reflect on my ‘A’ in that design class. In fact,
I plan to resurrect some ideas from that class in upcoming works.”
For more information on Williamson and to see his art, visit: