Fine art came into artist William Cheever Turner’s life after a successful 30 year career in automotive restoration. Having earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Fine Arts from the New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA), he went on to teach art at NHIA as well as devote time to his fine art paintings.
His intimate knowledge of automobiles and a personal interest in them led him to choose them as the subject matter for much of his professional work as an artist.
His realistic oil paintings combine the majestic beauty of these weathered, often rusting relics — cars, trucks, farm equipment, and other machinery — with mythology and folklore to engage the viewer and tell a story.
He is influenced by classical art and by Greek and Roman mythology and reinvents these tales using his renderings of the vehicles often found on farmland in the New England area as surrogates for the human characters in myths. The realistic detail and skillful rendering of the surfaces and textures of metal, rust, chipped paint, etc. in his anthropomorphic vehicle portraits convey an appreciation of the condition of the materials as Nature reclaims them slowly, and invoke a sense of nostalgia and awe when viewed.
Sometimes the symbology is subtle, sometimes more obvious. For example, in the beautiful, award winning painting “Winged Warrior”, which is a realistic view of the front of an aging Oshkosh snow removal truck with a V-plow, the artist has added, above the familiar Oshkosh logotype on the radiator grill, an American Indian chief symbol in full headdress. This symbol is added as a reference to Chief Oshkosh of the Menominee American Indians in Wisconsin who was involved in treaty negotiations involving the selling of tribal lands to the U.S. arguably under duress, and who died an alcoholic.
Turner’s process involves a lot of time for research, and working out the composition of each piece in preliminary sketches. His work will often include visual or text references to mythological characters, birds or animal symbols in an effort to create a story on canvas.
More recently, Turner has been working on narrative paintings featuring vintage toys in whimsical settings. These new works invite the viewer to conjure up a story, starting with the title and elaborating upon it in one’s mind. For instance, in “Walking the Dog” the image is a clown toy walking a wooden Dalmation toy dog across a street at night on a leash in front of a waiting car. The clown has his hand raised toward thee car as if in thanks to the driver for waiting.
In another painting, a three-toed platypus-like creature is riding upon a giant tortoise toy carrying its own lantern on a rainy night along a fenced field. The tortoise has its head raised and turned toward the rider as if in conversation. It wears a collar of sleigh bells.
These paintings could almost be concept renderings for animated feature films produced during the era of Walt Disney. They are charming and worthy of collecting.
A native of New Hampshire, Turner continues to work out of his studio in Milford, NH where he lives with his wife Rosalie.