Arts: Bill Cook Jr.

Sculptor inspired by what he sees and hears

Bill Cook Jr. has been coaxing artistic creations from natural materials since he was a boy whittling and carving wood. In his early 30s, Cook was living in South Florida when he saw a newspaper ad for a class in stone carving. Cook says, “I walked in and I was the youngest there by like 40 years. But what I found out was I learned a tremendous amount from these old guys who had been doing this for a long time. Learning how to chisel by hand.” He still has the first piece he made, a pregnant torso made from alabaster, which he gifted to his wife. “It has become a passion.”

Influenced by artists like Constantin Brancusi, Richard Erdman, and Elizabeth Turk, Cook has developed his own expertise in carving mobius, loop, and flowing curvilinear forms. When asked if he has a favorite piece, he said that’s like choosing a favorite child. However, one of the pieces he calls “one of my favorites” is a white marble loop called “Song of the Siren,” which now resides in a library in Alabama. Another piece he is very fond of is a griffin he made for L&M Stem Academy, here in Knoxville.

Cook says his work is inspired by shapes in nature—like a tree with a certain bend to it—and things he hears people say. He describes a piece called “Psalm 18:60,” which was inspired by a sermon about the hand of God reaching down and pulling a lost soul out of the quagmire. “I have to make stuff,” Cook says. “Sometimes I just start chiseling on a rock and see what happens.”

Cook’s latest piece is a commission for a new restaurant called Vida, opening in Knoxville after the New Year. The sculpture is a life-sized Aztec warrior princess made from a 900-pound block of Tennessee Brown Cedar marble with a copper headdress, breastplate, and loincloth. On a much smaller scale, Cook says he does occasionally do table-top-sized commissions. Cook plans to do studio tours in the spring at his new studio in North Knoxville. You can view his art on Instagram at @BillCookJrSculpture and his website: www.BillCookJr.com.   

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