An exhibition curated by the Grand Rapids Art Museum of sculpture by the late Billy Mayer of the Hope College art faculty celebrates his career as an artist and teacher.

The exhibition, “Billy Mayer: The Shape of Things,” opened on Saturday, Aug. 24, and will run through Sunday, Feb. 2.

The museum will host an exhibition reception on Thursday, Aug. 29, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., which will feature a panel discussion focusing on Mayer’s impact as a teacher.  GRAM Curator of Exhibitions, Ron Platt, will moderate the panel and the panelist will be Hope art alumni Laurene Warren ’89 Grunwald, director of sculpture exhibitions and installation at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park; Steven Haulenbeek ’02 of Steven Haulenbeek Design in Chicago; and John Saurer ’89, professor of art at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.  An RSVP for the reception is requested.

In its description of “Billy Mayer: The Shape of Things,” the Grand Rapids Art Museum notes:

“One of Michigan’s most distinctive and unique sculptors, the late Billy Mayer (1953-2017) created work in numerous media and materials that addressed the mundane elements of daily life as well as bigger, broader ideas about human existence. ‘Billy Mayer: The Shape of Things’ brings together both large and small-scale sculpture that demonstrate Mayer’s creative imagination and his impressive range of interests and sources, from Surrealism and Pop Art to souvenir kitsch. Mayer’s meticulously crafted sculptures juxtapose familiar elements in unexpected arrangements that seem conjured from a parallel reality or dream state. 

“Anchoring the exhibition is ‘Here,’ Mayer’s tour-de-force installation of 440 small skulls, each topped with a different everyday image or object – all handcrafted in clay. In its totality, ‘Here’ imbues its range of banal objects and images with personal meaning, creating a self-portrait, in a sense, of the artist’s thoughts and memories.” 

“In addition to his art and design work, Mayer had a long and distinguished teaching career at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Mayer joined the Hope faculty in 1978, and chaired the Department of Art and Art History from 1987 to 2004. Mayer challenged and inspired his students at Hope to think and create ambitiously, and his influence is still important to many of them. 

The Billy Mayer Scholarship Fund has been established at Hope in memory of Mayer, who passed away unexpectedly at age 64 in November 2017.  Planning is underway by his wife, Michel Conroy, Mayer’s former students and friends to sell online the individual skulls from the “Here” installation portion of the exhibition, with the proceeds to be donated to the fund.  The sale transactions will be processed by the Charity Auctions Today organization.  The details are still being finalized, but the sale will begin in October and continue into February, with works beginning to ship about two weeks after the GRAM exhibition ends.  Those wishing additional information about the sale or the scholarship fund should contact Abby Madison ’86 Reeg, who is a regional development director at Hope, at reeg@hope.edu.

The Grand Rapids Art Museum is located at 101 Monroe Center St. NW in Grand Rapids.  Admission is $10 for regular admission, $8 for senior citizens and students with identification, $6 for youth ages 6-17 and free for children 5 and under.  The museum’s hours are:  Mondays, closed; Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursdays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sundays, noon-5 p.m.  For more information about holiday hours and other admission rates is available on the museum’s website.