Why this artist makes monsters

Writer: 
August 6, 2018

Bill Fick ’86, printmaker, lecturing fellow of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, and assistant director for visual and studio arts at the new Rubenstein Arts Center, makes monsters. In fact, his Chamber of Chills installation featured more than 500 linocuts and screenprints of werewolves, zombies, skulls, and demons covering the walls and floor of a gallery and paying homage to the horror comics of the 1950s. Here, he explains why he likes to keep things creepy.

My reason for making monsters is pretty simple and somewhat superficial. I’m very interested in cartoons and characters, especially ones with very expressive, eye-catching features, and monsters provide some of the best examples. Drawing mangled skin, bulging blood-shot eyes, big sharp teeth, and furrowed brows allows for expressive mark-making and bold graphic gestures. these grotesque characters conjure many different emotions. On one level, fear, anxiety, terror; on another, sadness, pity, sorrow; on a third, humor and silliness.

In the case of the Chamber of Chills installation, I created an immersive environment (a “chamber”) that was wallpapered with many repeating monster images. ese weren’t particularly scary monsters. But when surrounded by them, the viewer was forced to process this cartoonish unreality. The responses varied, but in general folks were intrigued and amused. Comics fans were definitely into it, which was gratifying.

I do get asked frequently whether I have lots of nightmares or whether I had a troubled youth—I don’t and didn’t. As to where this fascination with monsters comes from: I was born in Indonesia and grew up in Venezuela, where there are strong mask-making traditions that feature masks of creatures and monsters. My parents collected some and displayed them in our house. These captured my imagination as a kid, and as I got older, I was drawn to similar masks/cartoons, and eventually to creating my own.

When I was in art school, I was interested in medieval art (and later art influenced by this work), which is loaded with grotesques, demons, and odd creatures. More recently (the last twenty years), I’ve gotten interested in pop-culture art forms that use monsters, like punk and heavy-metal graphics, circus/sideshow posters, and book illustrations, along with comics.

After exploring these kinds of images for almost thirty years, I’ve learned that making pictures that connect (one way or another) with people is paramount. I want the viewer to remember the work; monsters generally leave a lasting impression.