For more than 40 years William Schaaf, a former Florida Fellowship recipient, has explored the mysterious symbolism of equine imagery in his prints, paintings and sculptures. For Schaaf the horse figure serves as an iconic metaphor for power, sensuality, transition and beauty. The work is captivating in its energy, as well as its physicality, and is oftentimes sensual and playful. It embodies contemporary expressions couched in the historical references of cave paintings from Dordogne, France, ancient Greek sculpture, T'ang Dynasty ceramics, and indeed each succeeding period of human history, a history interwoven with the equine image.

Through the image of the horse, Schaaf evokes the mystery and beauty of natural form that has long captured the imaginations of viewers. His sculptures are often votive in nature, or serve as fetish pieces and funeraille urns, all of which are inspired by the equine art of various ancient cultures.

INTRODUCTION by Jeff Whipple

When Bill Schaaf was a 2O-year old art student he began using the horse as a motif to express life's beauty, wonder and drama. He didn't depict the horses realistically because he wanted to explore the horse as a symbol not as a subject. Bill harnessed that symbol with paint, clay, stone and wood and during the next 40 years he rode every piece to a new destination.

The horse is a powerful beast, a worker, a friend, a warrior and a savior. It’s wild and it's tame, it's burdened and it's free. Bill creates a meaning and personality for each horse in his art. He gives us pensive standing horses with their muscular potential. He shows us ecstatic leaping and flying horses. There are horses for love: erotic and sensuous. There are horses for war: angry and chaotic. As he coaxes the horses and other images from the material he anoints them with markings, textures, writing or layers of colors until they resonate with emotions and ideas.

Bill has tremendous skill as a painter and sculptor but he allows room for the unpredictable chance happenings; a spill; a rip; a found object; a break, which can take his art to uninhibited and surprising places. He creatively accepts the unexpected and his curiosity and faith has him bravely following the quixotic paths of natural forms. He believes his art is a collaboration of his talents, nature and chance.

There is a brightness and wisdom in Bill that he generously shares in person and in his art. Life can't always be beautiful but Bill always discovers new ways to see the amazing and the amusing in the world. Think of Bill Schaaf's art as a horse that beckons you to climb on and take the reins. Enjoy the ride.

-Jeff Whipple

(Artist and a friend and admirer of Billy since 1982)


Click here to read the 2004 Catalog essay by Ken Rollins