About the Artist

Bill and Charlie

Bill Brockmon with his “Charlie Chaplin” sculpture

Bill Brockmon a Jewish, Ukranian Born artist who lived from 1913 to 2008. Bill created sculptures using diverse materials including steel, wood, bone, antique tools, and found objects. Bill’s sculptures can be found in museums, synagogues, and private collections across the United States and Israel.

While living in Haifa, Isreal, Bill wrote the following description about his life and art:

Sculpture is now, undoubtedly, an extremely important part of my life. My days are filled with it, and my mind is always involved with ideas that must be translated into sculptures. Yet, it was not until past mid-life that I seriously concentrated on it. I was so busy with the means of making a living, and with organizational work of all kinds, that sculpting was constantly being pushed back.

Yet, my head was full of stored-up visual ideas, of memories of all kinds of art through the ages–from primitive man on. The literature I had read left its impressions, as well as the history of my people, and of humanity at large. In the course of my antique business I had handled thousands of objects created by the brains and hands of man–with skill and with ideas that stemmed from many cultures. I could feel how man had struggled to translate specific art forms that flowed from specific cultures. I could feel the genius of people creating the tools that made it possible to translate the ideas into crafts. Then followed the development into more creative forms, often stylized, and at other times more free-flowing, from a more daring individual. This sense of identity with the development of peoples, and their needs through the ages to express themselves in various art forms, throbbed in my head. And I could no longer deny my need to find time to give expression to my own ideas pounding in my head. I could no wait any longer.

Bill Brockmon

I could draw on a lifetime of personal experiences–from my turbulent experiences in post revolution Russia, and then for the rest of my life in the United States (with its own periods of turbulence) from my arrival in 1924 until now.  I was fortunate in having been exposed to many forms of art in my antique business, where I had to develop skills in handling and restoring objects in wood, metal, glass, porcelain, in paintings, in jewelry, and carvings in many mediums.  I had to rely on myself, on my instincts and my own senses to estimate, and use my own judgement–rather than specific learned procedures.   If the complete self-reliance served me well in my business, and my life as a whole, then self-reliance would serve in sculpting.  I felt no desire, nor need for       formal training.  For a very short period, as a youth, I attended a graphic arts school.  I sketched in charcoal and pencil, and copied nature, objects and the human form.  But when I began to sculpt, I discarded this “copying” training.

Except for the tools of art–the knowledge of the use of tools and materials that one must have to start working–any other instruction, in my opinion, seems to defeat reliance on one’s own instincts, intuition, and inventiveness.  I decided to continue making a living in my antique business, and sculpt for my own  satisfaction.  Other artists had come to similar conclusions.

Since art has to do with form and content, (and not how valuable the materials are), I felt that I could use th e more humble materials.  I would use found objects in metal and wood that had been shaped by time, weather and living organisms.  I could use factory discards of metal shapes.  All of these have a history and character of their own, and can-and do-suggest ideas for sculptures.  Such materials are cheap and readily available.  I looked at the “found objects”, and could visualize compositions which were serious, or humorous, or whimsical–some making a statement about our society.  I felt that all I needed, really, was to learn how to weld.  So I enrolled in an art cente to le arn welding.  But when the art teacher insisted on telling me how to arrange my sculptures, I fled.  My son, Michael, taught me how to weld.
So I plunged in, and began to make sculptures.  There was (and still is), a sense of exhiliration, of renewal, of creation.  Our great Jewish writer, I.L. Peretz, said that the act of creating is a religious Experience.  Indeed I felt that way.  I had a new sense of being; I felt more alive than ever!
My first few sculptures were of found objects, and brought chuckles from family and friends.  But they pleased me as compositions, too.  I combined metal and wood in some serious efforts, and I felt that I was growing some.  Just as I had relied on my instincts all of my life before, I feld no need for making sketches or plans in creating sculptures.
Direct metal-welded sculpture is the process of making sculpture without exact sketches or blue prints.  By starting with an idea or a strong feeling, I build with metal as one would draw with a pencil or charcoal on paper.   It takes a great deal of energy to create while working; but if I don’t  work spontaneously, my sculptures lose the fluidity of form.  Sometimes, materials such as roots, branches, stones, metal factory discards suggest an idea to me.  Mainly, however, my ideasstem from my own reservoir of accumulated experiences, of visual absorption of a lifetime.

When I have a strong feeling, or a deep inspiration about a sculpture, I work directly with the metal, and build as I go along.  In this way I am not hampered by a rigid design that I must follow and copy faithfully.  I am free to invent as I go along, to make changes, and to dream while I am working on the sculpture.  Whatever creativity I possess comes forward while working in this manner.  At times, when ideas lag, I start a sculpture with a single metal shape, and dream up a sculpture as I  go along.  Building the large panels, outside, (surrounding our house–facing the sea and the sky) was, for me, like writing in the sky!–the closed spaces like charcoal drawings, and the open spaces against the sky, changing color as the day changes!  All these factors influenced improvisation.

I could not produce art on order.  In my view, when a sculptor undertakes to produce a sculpture for someone who wants a certain, size, shape, or composition to suit his purpose, then the sculpture is no longer the artist’s.  It becomes a joint venture, because  the client must be satisfied. Neither can I claim as my own work any construction that has been made in a factory, or a mold that can be cast in many duplicates.  I like to look at my work, and recall all of the encounters with every phase of its development, and feel that every trace was by my hands.
I refuse to be pinned down to one style of work.  I prefer to rely on instinct, as I have said, and on the influences of impressions absorbed in the course of time–or dreamed up by me.  I rely on history, legends, stories, the Bible–anything that man was, and is, involved in–that I am aware of; or of deep personal experiences.  All of these have influenced my thoughts, and thus my sculptures.   In creating, the artist cannot really imagine anything that does not exist, so he must rely on his interpretation of what he sees and what he knows.  My sculpting does not reflect the form of observed reality, but rather the expressive tensions of such forms.  My material, iron, is the medium in which I work, and is the basic determinant of my forms.
It is my opinion that an artist must have a sense of history, a feeling of continuity, and a need for being in touch with the past.  For me, art is a constant renewal, the fulfillment of the continuity of life.  The artist cannot divorce himself from people and the life that surrounds them, and is molded by them. I believe that all art is influenced by the history of man.  In turn, the artist has made his contribution to that development by acting as the vehicle for expression.  It is ever a reciprocity of inspiration.”
Bill Brockmon Fence

Bill Brockmon in front of the “Tribes of Isreal” in Philadelphia, PA