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Remembering William E. West

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

We are saddened to hear about the passing of artist William E. West yesterday morning. Born in 1922 in Pittsburgh, PA, West was the only child of Prince Albert and Mary June West. In 1948, he enrolled in the legendary Art Institute of Buffalo, then located at Elmwood Avenue and West Utica Street. Two of his key mentors were Robert Blair and Charles Burchfield. “Blair was an exceptional teacher, coach and personal friend,” he said. “He believed in me, consistently invited me to with him in outdoor classes.”

Burchfield inspired his technique and attitude. “He was encouraging and accessible,” remembered West. ”I saw things in his work that philosophically coincided with ideas my mom planted in my head about life. I remember visits to Burchfield’s home to critique my work  and him telling me to make my work what I thought it should be, not allowing other people to sway from your own inspiration.”

Catherine Koenig, Oliver Lomax, David Pratt, Joseph Fisher and Walter Prochownik were also his very talented mentors. He also credits Wilhemina Godfrey, James Pappas, Oliver Lomax, Joe Orffeo, Bill Copper, John Baker, Bruce Blair and Pamela Lomax Stokes for their ongoing support.

West loved the Burchfield Penney Art Center. He was interviewed by Heather Gring on July 25, 2012 as part of the Living Legacy Project. In this interview, West talks about his first interactions with art and copying comics out of the newspaper. Creating art was always a central part of  his life. In the interview, West notes that "art continued to be something I pursued without an ambition to be a commercial artist or wanting to make money off of it. I just wanted to paint."