Not Just Another Roadside Attraction: Bill Will’s Fun House
August 29, 2017
This fall, the Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery will host Portland artist Bill Will’s newest site-specific exhibition, Fun House. An opening reception will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on September 10, complete with carnival-themed refreshments, and will introduce the public to this free-wheeling interactive art piece with a talk from the artist. The exhibition is made possible by generous support from the Fred W. Fields Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, the Ford Family Foundation, and the Regional Arts and Culture Council.
Fun House sends the viewer on a circuitous path through its constantly changing landscape, which, like any other carnival, is full of color and sound. Participants walk along a marked course, accompanied by machines that whirr and buzz in the background while other objects suddenly become illuminated, then fade away. The intriguing inventions surrounding the viewer offer a diversion from the world outside, but they also connect to timely social and political questions.
Fun House makes the viewer an essential part of the work: as they make their way through the exhibition, they will enter a “circus” of light and sound, watching sculptures move, pushing buttons to activate machines, and even feeling a breeze in this multisensory experience. Much of it is inspired by Will’s interest in roadside attractions and theme parks, and their humor and mystery rules this collection. Fun House offers much to enjoy for children as well as adults.
“This is a really fun, funny, and extraordinary exhibition,” said Linda Tesner, director of the Hoffman Gallery, who curated the show and contributed an essay to its illustrated catalogue. As with a real circus, that spirit of fun and spontaneity is all-important: the exhibition even ends with a gift shop, where Will and his partner, LeBrie Rich, will display a collection of humorous souvenirs for sale.
Will, a “lifelong tinkerer,” grew up in Lakewood, Washington, and studied painting at Washington State University. After finishing college, he travelled extensively, living in Tokyo and New York for several years. He eventually settled in Portland and became involved in the local theatre scene and later became a professor at what is now the Oregon College of Art and Craft.
Seeing the exhibition come together has been a unique pleasure for Will, despite (or perhaps because of) its complexity: “The planning for, and installing of, Fun House has been the most enjoyable and rewarding exhibition experience of my career,” he said. Now all that remains is passing that enjoyment on to his audience.
Fun House will run at the Hoffman Gallery until December 10, 2017.
This story was written by Emily Price ’18.