When I was a Boy

Montana artist Willem Volkersz uses neon, paint, and found objects to create narrative mixed media sculptures.

In this new, first-of-its-kind exhibition at the Coconino Center for the Arts, Volkersz brought new works mixed with some of his classics. “Domestic Neon” transformed the main gallery like never before.

Willem Volkersz creates mixed media works that incorporate neon, painted surfaces, found objects and handcrafted wooden elements. These narrative sculptures reflect an immigrant’s fascination with American popular culture that developed after his family moved to Seattle from their native Holland in 1953. In recent years his work has focused, in part, on his boyhood memories of World War II.

“I have always loved the linear clarity and vibrant color of neon. In these mixed media sculptures, I try to embody a synergy which suggests the exciting yet disjointed vitality of American culture . . . As I grew older, my work began to reflect a life filled with travel and adventure and I became a narrative artist. While I often draw on my own life as a source, I search for metaphors which can speak to a broader audience: ceramic birds reflect the fragility of the natural world; suitcases, postcards and globes evoke travel and adventure; and a paint-by-number landscape functions as the immigrant’s idealized vision of the American dream.”