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Retired Professor of Art Bill Hawes, 1930-2023

CONWAY, Arkansas (June 29, 2023)—Hendrix College is saddened by the June 18 death of Bill Hawes, who spent two decades teaching students in the College’s Department of Art. He was 10 days shy of his 93rd birthday at the time of his passing.

At the time of his death, several Hawes sculptures known as “air boxes” were on display in the Windgate Museum of Art at Hendrix College as part of an exhibition showcasing art created by retired faculty. The exhibition, “Hendrix Art Department: Those Who Taught,” is currently viewable by appointment, or when the museum reopens to the public for its summer hours, Wednesday through Saturday afternoons from July 28 through August 20. Following this exhibition, two of the air boxes will be returned to the College’s Department of Art for long-term display.

According to Hawes’s obituary, he liked to say that he made “unpopular art” because his work cannot be instantaneously grasped and categorized. The following artist statement was found recently in one of the air boxes that is part of the College’s permanent art collection:

For most of my life, I have been interested in our human awareness of mortality and the constructs that arise from this awareness. Humans create more humans, religions, art and a variety of economic networks and cultural monuments. Some of these constructs are a direct response to the fact of mortality and other may be partially or wholly a denial.

Another continuing interest for me has been the material wealth generated in this country since the Second World War. I grew up during the depression and the war when the material world was much simpler. One current expression of this wealth is the supermarket where 10,000 edible items are available. My interest in this wealth is not because I missed any meals during the depression, but because of the contrast between the 1930s and the sixty years following the Second World War.

My mother was born in the horse-and-buggy era and died after the creation of giant supersonic airliners, this revolution in transportation happening in one century. Now we are in another revolution that is proceeding at a faster pace. We often do not recognize that something is lost with each creation--something that is invisible to us.

I was born in 1930, so the depression seemed to be normal life, but the death of my older brother when he was six and I was five, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor when I was ten, gave me an sense that some major tragedy or disaster cold happen at any tranquil moment.

In 1963, I found a piece of run over wire in the street that I thought was quite handsome. I built a long narrow wooden box as a frame for the wire. When I put the wire in the box, both seemed diminished. About two years later, I built a pedestal for the box and called it Void Mounted. I brought this to Hendrix College in 1967 along with a second mounted void. A wonderful student, named Dale Biery, thought I was a Zen Buddhist, so I changed the name of future boxes to Air Box as I thought I was commenting on American materialism and did not feel qualified to claim Buddhism as inspiration.

Most artist statements seem to be self-serving and probably wrong as to described motivation. This certainly may apply to the above.

Bill Hawes
June 2, 2007

A memorial service is being planned for the fall; information on the service will be shared by the Hendrix Office of Alumni and Constituent Engagement when it becomes available.