The Swicked Art of Virgil Walker

by Bryce Walker on December 7, 2008

My grandpa is Virgil Walker. He lives in Arizona with my aunts and uncles and is one of the many artists in my family. In my opinion, he is a master at what he does. His art, creating feathered masks and full-figured pieces, is both very unusual and swicked.

The first thing he does is make a clay mold of the face or figure, then covers it in a plaster cast to make the final mold. After the plaster hardens it is removed from the clay and it is time to add the feathers.

 Old Solitaire

Old Solitaire

Using a hot glue gun, he hand glues each feather on to the plaster one at a time. The material he uses includes turkey quills, emu, partridge, duck, and chicken feathers. The feathers are glued in overlapping rows, with each row providing different textures and shades of color to contribute to the whole. Some times he has an idea of what the finished piece will look like, other times the piece will show itself during the process.

After he is finished gluing, the masterpiece is done. He makes many different types of masks, each one with a different shape or form, using up to 5 different types of feathers. The combinations are infinite.

Senex - full figure

Senex

Pheasant, goose, duck and chicken feathers individually glued to a single polymer-plaster cast of an original clay sculpture. 35″ x 44″ x 17″

My grandpa’s work is more than art. Each piece is a part of his life and a connection to the past. The writing below describes how Senex was created.

“Filling out Social Security papers sent me off pondering the quirks and quandaries of time, it’s unfolding and meaning. I had just started this figure and had to pose before a mirror and realized that it had been 50 years since I had more than one ab. Thinking of phases of life I noticed this present one opened 23 years ago when I started what I grandly called Feathered Sculptures in a Mask Motif: from the Nature of Mind Series.

As my mind returned from its drift, I found I was staring at Andy Goldsworthy’s A Collaboration With Nature leaning against the bookcase. On the cover is an arrangement on a beach in Scotland of pebbles of ascending size in a golden spiral. Each stone had been scratched with another rock then broken in half before aligning the breaks to create a widening shadow line through the unfolding spiral.

Each pebble, as a moment, event, phase or chapter in growth, has been scoured and broken, leading to the next in an unfolding pattern like a Nautilus shell, galaxy or cabbage. The progression in size, based on the Fibonacci sequence, is the sum of the present and previous. What struck me in rethinking the unfolding of a life was the possibility of a harmonic where certain points in time are dramatically informed by an arc across the spiral of unfolding time.

Senex is Latin for old man. Yet the experience of ‘old’ man or woman holds within it more than tired, worn and sore. It has a clear harmonic with the entry to maturity, that moment of the first full embrace of life. We may interpret this as needing a facelift, Porsche, or younger mate, none of which I can afford, but the real invitation is to an orientation that embraces life, not as Atlas hunched with the burden of the world, but lightly and open and up.”

You can understand why I’m so proud of my grandpa and why I think that his work is so swicked!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Gannon Ward May 28, 2010 at 10:05 am

In 1991 my husband and I were vacationing in Arizona, and stayed at The Boulders. One of your grandfathers masks was on display at the resort. I was completely “captivated” by this beautiful piece of art named: Trustworthy. We visited your grandfather and were blessed to see works in progress…and many other finished masterpieces.
I purchased Trustworthy for $2500 and he was placed over the fireplace in our bedroom for many years. When we divorced 10 years later, I told my husband he could have absolutely everything in our home…all I wanted to keep…was a leather chair..and Trustworthy.
Trustworthy has since travelled to 3 other homes with me, and right now I gaze over at him…and thank him for always reminding me…to have Faith…and most of all to TRUST.
Diane Westchester, NY

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Terry Monaco July 27, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Many years ago I had the good fortune to visit your Grandfathers store in the Pedragal ( hope I spelled it right) mall and fell in love with his works, one in particular Scent of Rain and could kick myself in the pants for not buying it but it was two or three thousand dollars and I really could not afford it but till this day I think about this marvelous piece and his others that were on display there. I regret everyday not putting it on my Visa and I would have had it paid off and could enjoy the piece everyday. Just wanted you to know how his pieces show not only his talent but his patience and honestly in making his pieces lifelike……….Thanks for listening…………Terry Monaco, Philadelphia, PA.

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