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Down Home Airbox

  • Bill Hawes
  • Down Home Airbox
  • 1969
  • Wood and glass
  • 113 x 20 x 15.75 inches
  • Windgate Museum of Art Collection

William “Bill” Hawes was born in 1930 in Depression-era Kansas. In 1953, after earning an Art degree from Wichita State University, Hawes was drafted into the Army for the Korean War. During basic training, he saw a Life magazine in an army day room, which praised the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville’s faculty and new art building. He decided to one day attend the university for graduate school and, after serving in the Aleutian Islands and along the coast of Alaska, he enrolled in the university.

Hawes graduated from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville in 1960 with an MFA in Art. He then accepted a teaching position at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, where he worked for three years before moving back to Arkansas. In 1967, Hawes accepted a faculty position at Hendrix College, where he joined Professor Don Marr in leading the college’s small Art Department.

Known by students as “Uncle Bill,” Hawes was an approachable mentor for students, whose acute eye and knowledge of Art History aided the development of their style and technique. He always encouraged the innovative and whimsical elements of student art, supporting the exploration of their broadest artistic interests. Hawes taught his last course in 1987 and earned emeritus designation upon retirement.

Outside of the classroom, Hawes worked as a painter, ceramist, and prolific sculptor. He particularly admired the work of artists Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning, and Alberto Giacometti. Depression-era sights like abandoned farm implements and machinery also served as primary sources of inspiration.

Down Home Airbox, now displayed in the college’s Bailey Library, is a playful wooden sculpture shaped like a ziggurat. Hawes typically sourced his wood from torn-down houses, giving the sculpture a textured, weathered quality. He stenciled the wood with evocative phrases and used varnish to attach wire and small found objects to the work. When multiple of Hawes’s wooden sculptures are displayed together, they form what looks like a cityscape or a group of ancient ruins. While Hawes always claimed that he made “unpopular art,” the dynamic and enigmatic beauty of his sculptures contradict this claim.

© Windgate Museum of Art at Hendrix College