Guy Dill is Who He is. By Neada Jane
The warm yet assertive voice of prolific Californian sculptor Guy Dill rings with years of contemplations, “I am what I am, I am not striving to be that which I am not.” His understanding for the world he creates, and the pieces he builds to fill that world, are faced with Dill’s signature clarity – a knowing that this is the way things should be done. He sails above the ordinary man’s contentious road of self-doubt.
It is this knowing, of self and work, that is most striking when talking with Dill. He explains, “there is a mission at hand, and I pretty much stay on the path.” The frankness and terminology that he speaks with carry a hint of his time working with the coastguard – “it was Vietnam, you couldn’t escape it” – but there is a dreamlike resolve that break through. His art lives with him, “this is how I stay on my spiritual plane; this is how I stay connected.”
Or it might be in his bones. His mother a portrait artist and his brother a painter, he reflects, “I wasn’t the artist in my family, I never really drew until I was 20.” It was after his years in in service that he signed up for Chouinard Institute of Art, and it was with some irony that the day he graduated was the day he stopped drawing. “I knew I had to discuss painting in a sculptural way.” A frank and undiluted knowing, born of family or experience, which he maintains today – and that keeps him grounded and light-hearted when speaking on the illustrious career he has forged.
“This is how I stay on my spiritual plane; this is how I stay connected.”
Looking back on those early years, Dill explains, “it wasn’t about money, it was really about art. It was just the big guns who had money, but they all shared – they all took care of the younger artists.” It was a small kindness from one of his great heroes, the conceptually groundbreaking minimalist sculptor Donald Judd that Dill talks of most fondly. Though they never met face to face, it was Judd who commissioned a studio for Dill in his early, New York years.
“New York is about New York, and LA is about the world,” he philosophizes. In the late 70s, he departed for the West Coast in pursuit of the openness and inventiveness it permitted in stark contract to New York’s contextual overlays, its history and tradition. It was in California that he shaped his life, had a family – and he speaks openly on how this experience beyond art has informed choices he has made, with no sense of regret. When he talks of coffee in the afternoons with his daughter, who lives just two blocks away, his tone shifts to an easy happiness. Guy Dill the father, not just the artist. Uncompromising on his life beyond but knowing, to his bones, that he is an artist.
He acknowledges this is something rare when discussing his time teaching at UCLA. There is a special chemistry that makes an artist, and “you have to resign yourself to that is what they have to do.” Similarly, Dill understands his own fabric. “I have to make things,” and the world is better for it.