There are two defining qualities about William Keyser: Yes, he’s made a good living as an “artist,” and second, he doesn’t believe in the “R” word—as in “retired.”
Woodworking and furniture design were Keyser’s (MFA furniture design, ’61) passion during his 35 years of teaching at Rochester Institute of Technology’s School for American Crafts. The professor emeritus also became renowned for his professional accomplishments—his furniture and sculpture for residential, corporate, ecclesiastical and public art appreciation.
But after he “quit teaching,” Keyser decided to go back to school and earned his MFA degree in painting from RIT in 2005. “Furniture—especially my ecclesiastic work designing altars, pulpits, and objects for sanctuaries in many churches in the Rochester area—is what I have been noted for,” Keyser says. “But this is my first initial foray into painting and sculpture; it’s sort of my coming out.”
The Dyer Arts Center at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf will host the William Keyser: Sculpture and Painting exhibition from Monday, March 9, through Sunday, April 11, with an artist reception from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 20.
For the exhibition, Keyser plans to fill the Dyer space with more than 100 pieces of artwork: paintings, sculpture and mixed media in wood, metal, glass and paper. Visitors will be able to see the chronology of his work in the disciplines of painting and sculpture, and how it has evolved over the years.
As Keyser explains, his modus operandi has also changed. The spontaneity of creating abstract paintings and free-standing sculptures is what drives him to work in solitary bliss for 6 to 10 hour intervals at his studio—a 2,000 square-foot building behind his residence in Victor.
“Furniture design is diametrically opposite from painting—everything is premeditated, and once the designs are approved by the clients there are none, if any, changes made during the process of building it,” Keyser says. “Many times after a piece was done with 15 coats of oil on it and ready to deliver, I would look over and see the scraps around the band saw and they were often more interesting than the furniture.
“That intrigued me and I started looking at the debris around the shop and saying, ‘Hey, that could be a piece of sculpture.’ I find inspiration in architecture, junk yards, yoga, calligraphy, the scrap box in my studio, and in the last piece I did. I try hard to surprise myself, to have fun and to go where I’ve never been before.”
NTID Dyer Arts Center, located on the RIT campus in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Building, is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday; 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. For gallery information call (585) 475-6855 or email Robert Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org.