Sid Walesh traded corporate life for an artist’s life. Boynton Beach City Hall is hosting an exhibition of his work, titled “Metamorphosis.” Works also will be included in an exhibition at the Boca Raton Museum of Art.
A divorced father of two adult sons, he lives on Hypoluxo Island.
Sid Walesh of Hypoluxo Island hasn’t worn a tie or a watch in 12 years. He has traded the business suits and 10- to 12-hour workdays for an artist’s life, with flexible hours and much more casual attire.
But it is readily apparent that Walesh hasn’t lost the intensity, focus and sense of organizational structure that made him a successful businessman in the first place. He has simply poured it into his art.
You see it in the four cocoon-like ceramic spheres marching along a carefully cantilevered cedar beam, each sphere opening a little more than the last to reveal a developing orange sphere-baby. Titled “Metamorphosis,” Walesh’s abstract sculpture could be a metaphor for his own life, symbolizing his post-retirement transformation from woodworking hobbyist to award-winning ceramicist.
After his retirement, Walesh enrolled in art school. “I took classes in painting, photography, jewelry, drawing — I did one of everything,” he says. But ceramics was the medium he liked best. “It gives you more freedom,” he explains.
With freedom came experimentation — and an emerging talent for turning ideas into artwork. The idea for “Spla,” Walesh’s multi-piece ceramic sculpture depicting falling raindrops frozen in time, came to him one day and “it was a challenge just to do it,” he says, “to show that it’s possible to take something that’s not fluid [clay] and make it appear that way.”
The piece is one of three Walesh sculptures on display at Boynton Beach City Hall until July 14.
Walesh’s work has been displayed in juried art exhibits in South Florida for the past 12 years and has won numerous awards. His “Sea Spirits” sculpture was recently selected from a field of 1,800 submissions to be exhibited at the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s 60th Annual All Florida Juried Competition and Exhibition, which runs from June 28 through Sept. 11.
Having developed his own artistic talent, Walesh — who gives his age as “50-seventeen” because it keeps him thinking young — is helping other adults develop theirs. When he’s not working on his next project, he can be found teaching classes in clay sculpture and ceramics at the Boca Raton Museum Art School.
— Paula Detwiller
Q. Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A. I grew up in Two Rivers, Wis., a small city on Lake Michigan, during an innocent and peaceful time. We didn’t lock our doors and milk was delivered to our home. My parents owned a meat market/grocery store and taught me their work ethic. My Dad was a butcher known for his bratwurst and sausage, Mom was a terrific baker who made coffee cake and crescent rolls. I’m proud to be a son of a butcher and a baker.
I started college at Case Western Reserve University wanting to be an engineer and ended up with an MBA from the University of Wisconsin. My early life experiences provided a foundation for me to carve my own path through life.
Q. How and when did you become an artist?
A. One of my hobbies was working with wood, making furniture and simple sculptures. After I retired, I earned a vo-tech diploma in woodworking and took art classes at Penland School of Art in North Carolina and Palm Beach State College. That training helped me develop more complex artistic sculptures.
While my early sculptures were well-liked by family and friends, my work as an artist was validated when my sculptures won awards in juried art exhibits and finally when I sold my first piece. My training and work as an artist has allowed me to teach clay sculpture and ceramics classes at the Boca Museum Art School since 2002.
Q. What other careers have you had, what were the highlights?
A. My work career included a variety of administrative positions at several colleges and universities in Wisconsin and Florida. My most difficult job was trying to save a financially troubled private college in Wisconsin. Ultimately, I had the unique experience of closing it “with dignity.”
My most rewarding work was as a founder of the New World School of the Arts in Miami. I served on the planning team and developed the financial, staffing, facility and enrollment plans to deliver the intensive arts and academic curriculum for the new school. That school is now 25 years old and thriving, with high school and college programs in the visual and performing arts.
Q. What advice do you have for a young person pursuing a career in the arts today?
A. Push yourself to work beyond your comfort zone. Be inspired by the work of other artists, but don’t copy it. Create your own unique original art. Study hard in all of your classes, so you can have a good day-job that provides the resources to pursue your art.
Q. Tell us about your art.
A. My art is inspired by the dramatic texture of Vincent van Gogh paintings, the abstract sculptures of Henry Moore, and the kinetic art of Marcel Duchamp. In creating my sculptures, I build on a thought or message. Each piece clearly says something to me and my challenge is to convey that message to the observers.
I try to create unique sculptures, some with complex engineering in design and construction that prompts the viewer to figure out not only what it means but also how it was made. My works incorporate color, texture, and reflectivity.
It pleases me to observe viewers as they study my sculptures and see their reactions.
Q. How did you choose to make your home on Hypoluxo Island?
A. My childhood home was on Lake Michigan and I always wanted to live on the water again. Finding a home on the Intracoastal Waterway fulfilled my dreams.
Q. What is your favorite part about living on Hypoluxo Island?
A. Location, location, location. It’s living on an island, with incredible sunsets in my backyard over the wide water of the Intracoastal and the ocean beach just minutes away. There are many popular restaurants nearby (Dune Deck Café, Old Key Lime House and Lantana Ale House) and easy access to the coastal communities from the Palm Beaches to Boca Raton.
Q. What book are you reading now?
A. The instruction manual for my new printer-copier-scanner. Can’t wait to see how it turns out. When I finish that, I’ll start The Bracken Rangers, by Robert Allan Stevens. It’s a factual portrayal of the realities of life as a soldier during the Civil War.
Q. What music do you listen to when you need inspiration? When you want to relax?
A. My playlist for both inspiration and relaxation includes the singers and songwriters of the ’70s. I enjoy the classic ballads of artists like Harry Chapin, John Denver, Roy Orbison, Bobby Goldsboro, Jim Croce, Elvis and The Beatles. I play some of that in my art class; my students note that most of it is by members of the “dead musician’s society.”
Q. Do you have a favorite quote that inspires your decisions?
A. I try to follow an inspirational quote from Vince Lombardi: “Only three things should matter: your religion, your family and the Green Bay Packers, in that order.” I paraphrase that as “Values first, then family and friends, then all the rest.”
If you go
Now through July 14
Sid Walesh sculpture exhibit “Metamorphosis,” “Spla,” and “Tripodious Wilma”
Boynton Beach City Hall lobby
100 Boynton Beach Blvd. (at Seacrest Boulevard)
Lobby hours: Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
June 29 through Sept. 11
Sid Walesh sculpture exhibit
60th Annual All Florida Juried Competition and Exhibition
Boca Raton Museum of Art
Opening reception on June 28, 6 to 9 p.m.
Exhibit opens to the public June 29.
Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.
First Wednesday of every month, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.