My name is Carl Billingsley. I am a sculptor. I was born in 1943 in Oklahoma. My father was in France with the US Army. He remained in the Army after the war and I became an “Army Brat” as we were frequently called whenever we moved to a new town. My early experiences as an ‘outsider’ probably made me more comfortable with new ideas and less conventional ways of doing and thinking. When we did return to Fort Sill, our home base in Okla., I spent as much time with my maternal grandparents as possible. I was very close to my granddad who was a carpenter. I went to the job-site with him whenever possible and it was through helping him and being taught how to build things that I acquired my love of making. When I was about 9 years old we were posted to Germany. We lived in two different cities during the three years we were there and I discovered the world of museums, cities, cathedrals and monuments. It was in Germany that I first really encountered sculpture and I was amazed and awed by what I saw.
Like many people, I thought that one had to be chosen, or had to have a ‘special’ talent in order to become an artist. By the time I graduated from high school and started going to night classes at the community college, I came to realize that Art was like every other human endeavor. You just had to learn how to do it. My original ambition was to be a writer. Having always been an avaricious reader, and still believing somewhat in the notion of ‘special talent’, I thought that I had a better chance of being a writer than an artist. Four years of English and Creative Writing classes convinced me to look into Art classes. I immediately gravitated to the sculpture studio and felt comfortable and capable. Fifty years later, I am still in the studio!
After several years of moving from one job to another, I was hired by the Univ. of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to run the wood shop at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning. I began my academic career as a technician and ‘ worked my way up’ to become Professor & Coordinator of the Sculpture program at East Carolina University, in North Carolina. All the while, I maintained an active studio practice and sought every opportunity to exhibit. I was especially interested in opportunities to exhibit and work abroad. I have always believed that strong work will be recognized regardless of place and culture.
I feel that an artist should be able to communicate with their work even though they don’t share language, culture, time and place with their audience. My belief in this idea was substantiated with awards for my sculptures in competitive exhibitions in Japan, China and Australia. In 1993 I won the semi-grand prize at “Toya Mura International Sculpture Biennale,” Toya Mura, Japan. In 2003 my sculpture took a top prize in the “1st Guilin Yuzi Paradise International Sculpture Awards” Guilin, China, and another sculpture was accepted into the “Toyamura International Sculpture Biennale 2003” Toya-Mura, Japan.
In 2013 I won the Andrea Stretton Memorial Invitational Award at Sculpture by the Sea-Bondi in Sydney, Australia for my installation “Red Centre.” That award was an invitation and funding to exhibit in Sculpture by the Sea-Cottesloe in Perth, Australia in March, 2014. I created another flag installation for that exhibition. By May of 2014 I was in Latvia, in charge of casting large-scale iron sculptures for a symposium at Pedvale Open Air Museum & Sculpture Park. At the end of the symposium I assisted with the International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art which took place for the first time in Europe at Pedvale.
In August of 2014 I retired from teaching and now devote all of my time to studio work , symposia and exhibitions.