Willem Volkersz: A decades-long exploration of America and art

Willem Volkersz’s artwork fills in the contours of his life through the unconventional materials he became fascinated with along the way — the neon lights, paint-by-numbers landscapes, tchotchkes and figurines might seem nostalgic at first, but he didn’t grow up around these pieces of mid-century Americana.

When he was 14, his family moved to Seattle from Amsterdam, still in recovery from World War II. Some of his early memories of the conflict were “collecting” things like grenade fragments in wrecked buildings.

In his work, you see the novelties of American life that surprised him: electric roadside signs on open highways, funky knickknacks in thrift stores, untrained artists making sculptures in their yards.

“I have an immigrant’s fascination with America, I think, and that has stuck with me,” he said in a phone interview. “The idea of being a kid in a candy store — a kid absorbing a whole new culture, and of course it gave me a freedom that I didn’t have in Europe.”

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“Follow Your Bliss” by Montana-based artist Willem Volkersz on display at

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