Artist/Sculptor Bill Burgess
Installation of “Continuum, the Julie Penrose Fountain” in America the Beautiful Park in 2007 is one of Burgess’ most iconic works.
“When heated during welding, steel is prone to warping and twisting, thereby forcing me to alter my decisions. I love allowing this conversation to take place, just as I prefer to leave marks made by the tools, much as a painter may allow paint to drip or a brush to become less charged as it nears the end of a stroke. These add … presence to the work and make it more personal.” –Bill Burgess, Artist and Sculptor, for the Preston Contemporary Art Center’s “Xhibit” Magazine (2011)
Bill Burgess’ award-winning love affair with abstract expressionism and the sculpted curve have earned him national and international acclaim. And the Pikes Peak region has played an important role in his rich and varied career.
“Continuum,” the Julie Penrose Fountain – a striking, four-story, 24-ton revolving steel helix installed at America the Beautiful Park in 2007 – was designed by Burgess in collaboration with Architect David Barber. Commissioned by the City of Colorado Springs, its design symbolizes both a celebration of spacious skies and gleaming cities as well as a framed tribute to America’s mountain, Pikes Peak.
“He’s helped to define our sense of place, our identity” says local Arts talk show host Warren Epstein on KVOR’s “The Ticket.” “Continuum is this iconic thing people see from the highway. So many kids play in that park in the summer. I hope they appreciate the brilliance of the man who created it … It’s a potent work of art.”
A U.S. Navy veteran, Burgess planned a career in Engineering but admits little interest in college-level Algebra and Calculus. Art, on the other hand, tantalized his senses and offered a compelling option – a way to explore life through the study of form, content and spatial relationships. “At that point, I realized I could not, not do it,” he says.
The CU-Boulder graduate soon had a growing family to support, so for 17 years he taught drawing, painting and design by day at Wasson High School and worked on his own projects at night. Penrose-St. Francis physician Tobias Kircher was one of Burgess’ Wasson art students. Today the Kirchers own a garden sculpture and an 8-foot hanging fountain-sculpture designed by the artist.
“Bill taught both my sophomore and junior years. He was very encouraging and pushed you. He was never just about the rote stuff of painting and drawing,” Kircher says, noting that he later learned Burgess was instrumental in getting Advanced Placement Art accredited in the U.S.
Burgess always made time to paint and sculpt, even while earning his Master’s degree in Art Education at Colorado College. His passion and talent soon found an appreciative audience. In 1975, he was awarded a Sculpture Fellowship from the Maryland Institute College of Art.
By the 1980s the artist’s work appeared in numerous shows and exhibits. Featured were small sculptures that began as bent steel arcs, circles and spirals and eventually grew into pieces that were a single spiral or circle. Early shows at the prestigious McMurtrey Gallery in Houston, galleries in Barcelona Spain, the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center and numerous U.S. arts centers, along with commissioned sculpture for the cities of Denver and Boulder, the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the Arvada Center for the Arts and more added to his growing reputation.
Burgess’ artistic style is recognizable, simple and elegant. His work often presents cast shadows or reflections rendered in steel. When using color he prefers pink or some pastel soft color on hard steel. “I also tend to place a formal element, like a circle with crushed steel or chaotic colors,” the sculptor explains.
At 85, Bill Burgess’ sculpture and his generous spirit are visible throughout the local community–and he continues to inspire us.
“That’s because, he’s more interested in how you feel about a piece of art than in how it looks,” Epstein says.