Galleries : Archives of a visual mind
William Blakesley has been an artist ever since he entered Ohio State University as a freshman, and for 70 years he has sketched every available minute, everywhere he has gone, even when he was in the military during World War II. Now 88, still working as a professional artist, he sketches constantly and paints every day. His work is in the collections of the Toledo Museum of Fine Arts and the Columbus Gallery of Fine Art.
Mr. Blakesley first came to the Vineyard in the 1950s for a summer job as a houseparent at the youth hostel. He was on the Vineyard only about two weeks that first summer, when he began to think about buying a house and living here. Then in the 1960s and 1970s, he ran a summer art gallery on Circuit Avenue.
His Oak Bluffs studio in Montgomery Square, behind Sharky's at the entrance to the Campground, is attached to the home he shares his wife, Liz Cornell, a former Oak Bluffs first grade teacher. The large windows in front look not very different from the displays of galleries all over the Island. A passerby's attention might be caught by, for example, Mr. Blakesley's painting of a group dancing around the bandstand in Ocean Park, an illuminated moment of motion and color surrounded by a black summer night.
Step inside. What's behind the gallery display window is not a gallery but a studio, and the relative order of the window display gives way to the clutter of a busy workshop. He is so prolific that the supply of his images far surpasses demand. Every wall is covered with paintings, drawings, silk screens, giclée reproductions, and collages made from smaller paintings. There are hundreds of pieces, not so much displayed as tacked up for reference, the visual record of a lifetime of keen observation.
The artist is a tall man, slightly stooped but vigorous and quick. His hands are gnarled, but the handshake is strong and sure. He meets your eye engagingly.
Strike up a conversation. Ask, for example, about a particular time in his life, and Mr. Blakesley will flip through a browse bin or fetch a file folder or unpack a cardboard box or just reach into the piles heaped on his work tables. There are not just hundreds of images here, but thousands.