Iconic artist and longtime San Geronimo Valley resident William T. Wiley died April 25, 2021.
He was part of the Bay Area Funk Art movement that included other renown artists such as Richard Shaw, Robert Hudson and Roy DeForest.
A celebration of his life was held at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center on July 18th.
Ethan Wiley dressed in Bill’s classic ‘Mr. Unatural’ attire at San Geronimo Valley Community Center
|Wiley /Mr.Unatural lithograph|
Decades ago Wiley moved to Forest Knolls with his first wife Dorothy and sons Ethan and Zane. His brother Chuck with wife Fran and son Bram lived in Lagunitas, the next village over. (Chuck too was also a talented artist). Their mother, Cleta, lived in Woodacre.
Chuck, Fran, Cleta, Bill, Dorothy, Ethan and Zane
The last few years of his life were spent in Novato with his second wife artist Mary Hull Webster.
Wiley was born October 21, 1937 and raised in Indiana and Washington state. He attended the San Francisco Art Institute, earning his BFA and MFA there and taught at UC Davis alongside Wayne Thiebaud and Robert Arneson.
He worked in a wide variety of mediums ranging from watercolor and painting to sculpture and film.
His works have been exhibited worldwide including the Whitney Museum, de Young Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Art Institute of Chicago, National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Honolulu Museum of Art, the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and numerous others.
In 2009, Wiley had a major retrospective of his work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. and later at the University Art Museum, Berkeley.
Wiley was a devotee to I Ching, Buddhism, bad jokes and fishing.
Many remember Bill for his sense of humor and as a source of inspiration as to what it means to be a creative artist.
Molly remembers Wiley with affection.
A little background on how I met Wiley:
I have always loved homes, looking at houses and finding ways to create spaces that worked for people. For some reason my weird ability to do this led Larry to joke that this might make me the ideal realtor, a job I thought of with much disdain. But, being a single mom with two small kids and a BFA in painting, I decided to give it a try and actually loved helping people find homes that made them happy.
Wiley’s brother Chuck had been a dear friend to me for a long while and encouraged his brother to use me when looking for a new home. Thus, began a wonderful time tooling around Marin and Sonoma counties with Bill.
(We searched for probably a year or so with no luck. Not long after I retired from my relator career Wiley and his 2ndwife Mary found a place in Novato. It was a relief as the start of Parkinson was making it difficult for him to navigate the long winding stairs to his cottage and studio in Woodacre.)
During our search, being cooped up in a little car for hours as we drove long stretches of the backroads of these two counties- gave us many opportunities to meander through many different subjects.Wiley talked to me of his teaching and regret that he had not stayed with it longer. What it meant to be an artist who saw his work sell for crazy prices, way above what the piece was originally brought for, how odd it felt to him and yet how proud and important this recognition was to him. We talked of family, which was very, very important to Wiley, and the love for one’s partners, past and present, and friends- who was important to the everyday happiness in one’s life and the importance of one’s relationships. Wiley expressed to me his love of the San Geronimo Valley, the place where he raised his family and the special spot -- the big old ramshackle barn that was his studio--in Woodacre, and of fishing for salmon with his great friend Cato and how much joy he received from pleasures of being on the ocean in a boat.
He also loved to throw the I-Ching, tried to teach me the meaning and reading of the I-Ching (unfortunately I am still a little lost here). There were so many topics we touched on.
We talked of the process of art, what it meant to each artist, how Wiley loved to listen to KPFA and NPR and how much this influenced his art and sensibilities. He encouraged me as an artist, offered to introduce me to a gallery owner friend of his in Sacramento so I could have a show- which I assured him I did not want to do. He believed in me, gave me much praise and enthusiasm for the way I painted, which meant a lot to me. And interspersed with all these wonderful conversations Wiley loved to joke, I loved to hear his jokes and would try to remember them to pass on to my brother who also loved jokes.
So, you can see why I truly treasured my time with Wiley and felt very lucky to be hurtling through the countryside with this wonderful, sage, and funny man.
Here are Richard Lang’s memories of Bill Wiley: