Biography of Bill Wilson


[under construction]

“In my private aesthetic, I feel and think that something is beautiful when I desire to conceive something with it.” (pg 4)

“Sometimes I say that my experience of a beautiful work of art is marked by an increase in the available energy—energy for thinking and feeling.” (pg 6)

“I have made for myself a few statements about the feelings I experience with some art—not theoretical statements, but a home-made aesthetic or theory of art—statements about emancipations and about energies to use as scaffolding for my thoughts. In words which work for me, the moments I value and preserve are the moments which I experience as emancipations. I often laugh with glee when looking at even somber paintings, feeling that I have been freed from an oppression I can’t quite name, and which I haven’t noticed until being freed from it. Ray and his work immediately contributed to the sum of such freedoms. He was convincing because he acted on his belief that art should be free, liberated from money as well as from repressions. Certainly he used the art of friendship to free his friends from oppressive conventions and general unfreedoms.” (pg 14-15)

““Having majored in philosophy as an undergraduate, I was an amateur theorist to students of literature, and a student of literature to theorists. Born in Maryland, I was a northerner to the southerners at the University of Virginia, but a Southerner to the Northerners at Yale University. In politics, I think that I have been a radical to conservatives, but a mere liberal to radicals. I straddled the avant-garde, I didn’t take a stand in it. ” (pg 16)

The passages quoted above are by William S. Wilson in “The Art of Friendship” Ray Johnson: Black Mountain College Dossier #4, BMC Museum & Arts Center, Asheville, NC, 1997.

Below is the obituary for Bill Wilson published in The New York Times on Feb. 5, 2016

William Smith Wilson III, 83, beloved brother, father and grandfather, died in Manhattan on Monday, February 1, 2016 from cardiac arrest. Born in Baltimore in 1932, he was raised in Maryland, attended the University of Virginia for his B.A., Yale University for his Ph.D. and taught college as a professor of English in Queens College, City University of New York from 1962 until his retirement in the early 1990s. While raising three children in Chelsea he published a collection of short stories, “Why I Don’t Write Like Franz Kafka” (1975), and the novel “Birthplace” (1982). The son of sculptor and painter May Wilson, he was deeply involved in the post-war New York art world, the subject of his numerous published essays. Survivors include his sister, Betty Jane Butler, children Katherine, Ara and Andrew and grandchildren Jack, Alex, Augusta and Josephine. Contributions may be offered in his honor to PBS public television the High Line or the Baltimore Museum, ( join/give.html#tribute)