After Bill Girard dropped out of art school to support his new family, he became a model maker for a local car manufacturer.
Later in life, Bill told his students that sculpting three-dimensional shapes would improve their drawing and painting skills. The ability to understand shapes could only aid their work.
Bill taught himself to cast his own work in plaster and hydrocal. Bronze casting was generally too expensive.
On his knees, rock in hand, grabbing his sling, David sees massive, murderous Goliath for the first time. His brows register shock. Oh God!
Artists measure their work against those of predecessors and contemporaries. Verrocchio’s David is a spindly – but victorious – youth. Michelangelo’s powerful David is confident, a master of fate. Bernini’s pivoting David is bold and determined.
Girard’s small, shapely, shepherd boy is none of these – though closest in spirit to Bernini. His David is a young man with a plan – not a warrior - facing a reality far grimmer than he had imagined.
This diminutive terra cotta represents an accomplishment much greater than its dimensions. It strides the path of major classic artists yet remains fresh and convincing. It is imaginative, but realistic.
Bill borrowed this piece back from Allen Abramson in the last months of his life. It stayed by Bill’s bedside until death.
Bronze. Orig. estate of Allen Abramson. Approximately 8 x 6 x 5 inches.
It appears that this piece conflates imagery from the Puss 'n Boots story with the Pied Piper story.
The visual emphasis on the boot in this image is further supported by the apparently undressed male figure riding the rat's tail. The latter is also a reference to a detail of the original Puss 'n Boots story.
Bill likely felt a little sorry for the poor rats of Hamlin, who got the short end of compassion from the people of Hamlin. Here, the human seems to be a sort of pest, hanging on to the well dressed, musical and undoubtedly highly intelligent rat.
That Bill was a sly and witty guy. By the way, he also had perfect pitch and could play anything he heard by ear.
How many Girard pieces were included in the Pontiac Art Center exhibit referenced in this poster is currently unknown. Girard, Jay Holland, and Dennis Knight were all professors at the private art college, Center for Creative Studies, in downtown Detroit at the time.
Michael Curtis had studied there, with Bill and presumably, Jay Holland, who was the long time chair of the Sculpture Department. The other two artists are personally unknown to me.
I would add that Jay Holland is another artist of whom I have heard too little. His work, the little that I have seen, is entirely unlike Bill's, but profound, powerful and deeply moving along vectors that Bill did not care to mine. I recommend it strongly.
The version seen in this image sat in Bill's dining room for many, many years, next to the terra cotta, Gabby. An image of those two pieces, together, appears in the slide show elsewhere on this page.
This earlier version of Pandora sits on a decidedly lower base than the one seen in the poster. According to Michael Curtis, who compiled this information, it was created in 1968. Pandora is bronze. The base is plaster.
Oil on canvas in artist-built frame. 37 x 57 inches.
As interesting and different as these two versions of Pandora are, I find myself surprised that Bill didn't address this motif more than twice.
Pandora . 1980. Oil on canvas, artist-built wood frame. 37 "x 57".
"Inspired by Correggio's Mystic Marriage of Saint Katherine in the Detroit Institute of Arts collection," per Michael Curtis.
Detail: Mother Goose.
Bronze. 12" x 12" x 24"
Purchased directly from Allen Abramson.
Girard donated his work for the inaugural President's Award of the Michigan Humane Society (1988). It was presented to W. "Brod" Doner and Co.
Some issue regarding payment arose thereafter - possibly for the cost of casting. Allen Abramson retrieved and sold it, according to the individual who purchased it from Abramson.
Bill loved his pets passionately and frequently included them in his work. There are visual references to his canine partners in multiple pieces. Bill sometimes closed his letters to me with his name and those of his pets.
Bronze. Edition of One. Orig. estate of Allen Abramson.
Height: @ 22 inches
Bill HATED the patina that his lifelong patron, Allen Abramson, had the foundry use on this bronze version. Even at the end of his life, his irritation over the matter was significant. The original is a pastel aqua color. See below.
Bill thought that this particular subject, and piece, famously associated with a collection of nursery rhymes, required a much lighter treatment than the dark, dismaying patina used on the bronze version in Allen's possession.
When, at the end of his life, Bill asked me if there was anything in particular I wanted from his personal collection, this is the piece I asked for. I had always lusted after it but simply could not afford it.
As seen in Bill's tiny dining room. (Most likely polychromed hydrocal.)
It was conceived as an entry for a children's garden sculpture competition. It was not selected.
Where is it written that fine art can't be winsome, adorable and original?
Far as I'm concerned, a museum should come begging for this piece.
Polychromed Hydrocal (?). Approx. height: 20 inches.
Bill created this set of three pieces ("Client" shown below ) as reimbursement for legal assistance. It may have pertained to a bankruptcy proceeding.
The ferocity of these raptors is in start contrast to the benignity of the "Client," depicted as a worm.
I seem to recall seeing several of these pieces during a tour of Bill's basement in November of 2010.
The set shown here belonged to the Allen Abramson estate.
Polychromed Hydrocal (?). Approximate height: 7 inches.
This piece is clearly far more abstract - geometric - than the two Advocates.
The simplicity of the treatment here enhances the contrast with the Advocates that tower over the Client when all three pieces are seen together.
Bronze. 6" x 4" x 2"
Originally estate of Allen Abramson.