6th Street in the Rain by William Bogdan
William Bogdan is an artist in every aspect of his life, always has been and likely always will be. Curiously, though, the 68-year-old will be having his first public showing of his work this month and with a few exceptions, the works on display will be among the first he has made in the past 40 years.
Bogdan was introduced to the art of woodcuts during a University of Akron course about graphic arts, including silk screening and linoleum cuts. Though he was studying illustration, Bogdan said that he was drawn to woodcutting nearly instantly.
“You could actually do a piece of art and if someone liked it, you could give it to them and still have it,” he explained. “There is no other piece of art like that.”
Bogdan says that he gravitated to the dark melancholy inherent in woodcutting. Though the medium drew him in, he only produced five or six works using it during the late ’60s.
It was during this period that he met his wife Karen, also a student in the art department at Akron—also when his life diverged from art. Bogdan joined the army. When he got out, he had a young wife and a baby on the way. Knowing that supporting a family while trying to start a career as a book illustrator would be difficult, he took a computer course and begin working in data processing. As it was, he didn’t produce any major work of art from 1969 till 2010.
“I have this Catholic-Jewish guilt about things and I knew I had the talent, but I was walking away from it,” Bogdan said. “There must be 50 sermons about not wasting your gifts. It wasn’t the urge to do it [make art] or the desire, but more to alleviate the guilt.”
As he kept procrastinating, he knew the only way he would be able to get back into art was to be forced into it, and he enrolled in a course on children’s illustration at the University of Akron. As part of the course, students were required to produce a book of illustrations. Bogdan opted to do his project using woodcuts.
When his course and project were finished, Bogdan figured he would be done with art once more. Then he met Lynda Tuttle at her gallery, Lynda Tuttle’s Art Center, at an exhibit of fabric artist Margene May. Tuttle later displayed some of Karen Bogdan’s fabric art and intricate quiltwork.
Bogdan began working at the center and eventually showed Tuttle one of his woodcut prints. She encouraged him to produce more work, and later approached him about a one-man show of his woodcut prints.
“What was so strange at that time was I only had one woodcut done,” he said. “She trusted that I’d be able to turn out something show-worthy, so I spent the past three months working feverishly.”
The additional ten made during this period will accompany the first piece that he showed Tuttle in the show, along with a few illustrations done on wood.
“I’ve been no place and I know no one,” Bogdan said about his art career, adding: “Sort of like Roy Hobbes in ‘The Natural’: he shows up at 35 years old to play baseball and people wonder where he’s been.”
Still, Bogdan has never considered himself anything but an artist.
“I’ve always gone through life identifying myself as an artist that did no art,” he said. “If people asked what I did, that is what would tell them.”
The opening reception for Bogdan’s work will be held at Lynda Tuttle’s Art Center in Canton on October 6 at 6:30 p.m.