Thornton Willis at Freddy


Artist: Thornton Willis

Exhibition title: Story Time

Venue: Freddy, New York, US

Date: September 17 – October 15, 2016

Photography: Harry Gould Harvey IV of Newport, all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Freddy

In mid July we talk about
Hitting Balls off into darkness,
The evening, the sunset
Tell me about growing up in the south.

As I watch the white paper crinkle and burn
Between my father’s lips
His skin, the texture of brushstrokes,
Mimics oil paint.

I have trouble concentrating
As the mosquitoes tickle my neck
And the scent of citronella makes me smile.
I stare at the trees through the mesh screen windows
And try to concentrate.

The comforting scents of linseed oil and turpentine
Mix with my thoughts.
An old whiskey bottle saved;
A potential home for fresh pigments.

Mom walks in with silence,
Warming her wet skin over the stove,
The odor of kerosene in the air is offensive
Not like the citronella.
She whispers a faint Goodnight
As dad rambles on about Tuscaloosa.
And I hear her vacuum over
The green and white linoleum tiles.

Coyotes begin to howl;
They’ve cornered a deer somewhere
In the mountains
But I just sit
And listen to stories about Alabama.

Dad, closing his eyes,
Hums the tune to This old smoke filled bar…
One I’ve had memorized since age 6;
Elementary school days when he would pick me up
At three o’clock and we’d walk home together
Laughing and singing songs.
My thoughts return to a
A deer somewhere in the mountains.
I close my eyes, too.

Brittle leaves line the beech floor
Inflexible, they fracture at the veins.
I follow his veins up the arm,
Giving way to tiny creases in his sun kissed,
Burnt Sienna face.

He smiles with genteel reservation
A dab of blue acrylic
Crusted on his cheek.
And magnolias in his voice.

Text by Rachel Willis.









Thornton Willis, Dreamer, 1999
Oil on canvas, 18 x 14 inches


Thornton Willis, A Study for Coyote, 2000
Oil on canvas, 20 x 14 inches


Thornton Willis, A Particular Arrangement, 1993
Oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches


Thornton Willis, For Vered, 1979
Acrylic on canvas, 14 x 11 inches


Thornton Willis, Untitled Study, 1979
Acrylic on canvas, 14 x 11 inches


Thornton Willis, Two Runners, 1969
Pen and ink on paper, 10.75 x 8.25 inches


Thornton Willis, A Late Zig Zag, 2003
Oil on canvas, 15.75 x 12 inches


Thornton Willis, Homage to Mondrian, 2009
Oil on canvas, 24 x 18 inches


Thornton Willis, Untitled, 1997
Oil on canvas, 18 x 14 inches


Thornton Willis, Bus Stop, 1969
Pen and ink on paper, 10.75 x 8.25 inches