Bill Kolok is a storyteller of sorts. Owensboro first heard his stories when he moved to teach art at Kentucky Wesleyan College. His stories would help him and his students illustrate a painting or a sculpture.
Now that he’s retired from KWC, he spends most of his days in his studio crafting wood and stone sculptures.
Kolok tells most of his stories through his wood and stone sculptures. The materials he sources for his art are often secondhand or “has a spirit already in it.” One of his newest pieces includes limestone from the original building of First Christian Church before it burned down in 2013.
When it comes to the crafting experience, Kolok enjoys the resistance that each medium gives. He enjoys the unpredictability of the carving process, as carving two different ways could literally make or crack the piece.
“I like the idea of having something old, bending the material to fit my way rather than in stone carving you’re always aware that you can hit it 100 times, and it’s going to go 101 times it’s gonna crack,” Kolok said.
He describes his artistic aesthetic as balance. He finds the balance in different ways depending on the piece itself — one piece could be the balance between the amount of stone versus wood; another could be the spacing of the different aspects of the pieces.
Another part of his aesthetic is texture, which is what draws him to stone and wood mediums. He finds himself touching different surfaces and replicating them in his work whether it’s a smooth, textured, or unique texture.
His newest sculpture named “Pluto” features an irregular wood sphere and a limestone lightning strike-like structure attached to it.
“You can see the difference [in texture] and that subtle difference is what I’m really interested in,” Kolok said. “And I know at a museum situation, you’re not allowed to touch, but here I always tell people to touch.”
At the Owensboro Museum of Fine Arts, Kolok will have six pieces as part of the museum’s new exhibition titled “The Consummate Craftsman.” Ironically, Kolok said he views his work as lesser on the side of craftsmanship and more on the side of creativity.
The exhibit will showcase Kolok and 23 other artists throughout the region in three-dimensional media. Kolok will have six pieces, four of which are limestone and two are mixed material.
The exhibition opens on Tuesday and will feature furniture, stained glass, large-scale wall hangings and many more pieces of art through Oct. 24. There will be a virtual tour of more than 75 objects along with the in-person exhibit on the museum’s website starting Aug. 16.
Owensboro artists include Kolok, ceramicist Thomas Porter and glass blowing artist Brook Forrest White. OMFA admission is free and open to the public.
Outside of the local exhibits, Kolok has two others in Louisville and Lexington. Attached to his studio, he also has a display room where he showcases his recent projects for purchase.
“I work seven days a week and if I can fit in more time, I do,” he said. “It’s the only place I really want to be.”