Billy Hassell | A World of Wonder

By Gretchen Reynolds

BILLY HASSELL FOUND A WORLD of wonder and the early inklings of his art career in a small creek near his childhood home in Dallas, TX. This was some 40 years ago. His old neighborhood, not far from the city’s White Rock Lake, is heavily developed now. But back then, Hassell recalls,
“there were still open spaces, with lots of fields and cedars.” It was a quiet area, safe enough that a small boy could wander down to the creek and wade all the way to the lake, collecting rocks and lizards along the way.

There he’d watch sunlight strike sparks off the scales of darting perches or observe snatches of vivid color on birds in the trees. He was entranced by the play of shadows from the tree limbs, and he’d stand immobile for long minutes staring into the creek’s shallow waters until, slowly, the outline of a turtle shell or a pebble would disentangle itself from the gray-brown mud of the bottom.  “I was astounded by the different patterns,” he says. “It was endlessly fascinating to see how these different things were juxtaposed, how something could emerge from the background or blend with it how foreground and background were always intertwined. I could wander that creek for hours.”

In the process, he was teaching himself to be an artist. Today Hassell, 50, has a master of fine arts degree from the University of Massachusetts and has established a name for himself as a contemporary interpreter of the natural world. His works are included in the Menil Collection in Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the Dallas Museum of Art, as well as other museums and many corporate and private collections.

Featured in February 2007

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