My family has been in the arts for a long, long time. Our first gallery opened in 1980 in New Jersey. It was my mother’s gallery, named The Williams Gallery of Fine Art. So when I opened my first gallery here in Oakhurst, I named it after hers: The Williams Gallery West. People assume we’re a gallery of western art, but we’re not—it just means we’re in the west.
My mom was actually a teacher and my dad worked for Univac, a competitor of IBM. Dad was an avid painter, though, and taught me to draw when I was very young. He loved adventure stories whether it was Jules Verne, or HG Wells, or about big game hunting in Africa. So he would read to us at night and then draw out the chapter when he was done. I did get a box of his old drawings when we were cleaning out his house and I use them now and again in my own work.
I got my undergraduate degree in printmaking from Indiana University and my masters in experimental animation from Cal Arts. I moved to Oakhurst to work for Sierra On-Line, a very big deal in the computer gaming industry. In fact, several of the artists who are still around worked for them: Terry Robinson and Bill Davis, to name a few. Bill (Trowzers Akimbo) was my boss.
After working for Sierra On-Line for ten years I kind of knew that my work in the game industry was ending and that if I wanted to stay I had to create a career for myself. I knew the gallery business and I knew I would always be an artist, and so I combined those two interests. I opened my first gallery in 1997 over by the Sierra Star offices next to the creek. Then moved it in 2000 to a storefront on 41 which is now the bike shop. When I opened Stellar Gallery I went back and forth between the two, so when the second space opened up in Gallery Row in 2008 I took it over and moved Williams Gallery West here.
My mom and dad came and helped me open the gallery (where the bike shop is now). She helped me organize and my dad built display cases. Over the years they have visited at least once a year, so they got to know some of the artists that I worked with. I still carry some of the artists that I was introduced to through my mother, before she passed a year and a half ago. Some of them are from exotic places like Japan, and Australia. So that’s why this gallery is so eclectic, because the connections go way back.
To me, great artists are innovators, expanding and evolving human consciousness. The artists I consider great are the ones who have contributed to the way the world is seen through their personal vision. I am intrigued by things that can be thought or experienced, but not necessarily seen.
My personal artwork is inspired by a passionate interest in art, history, science and culture. It focuses on a variety of subjects including nature, folklore, spirituality, music, theater, and the creative process. Dream imagery, spiritual and folkloric themes, and visualizing music are recurring themes in my work. It reflects my interest in science, philosophy, and nature.
Nature and community are what I value most about living in the Oakhurst area. It’s still a small town even though it’s growing. We have an arts community within the community and that’s so great. And living so close to thousands and thousands of acres of wilderness is ideal for me… and my art.
Jon Bock is an artist and the co-founder of Sierra Art Trails, October 5 – 7, 2018, now in its 16th year. His galleries — Stellar Gallery, Williams Gallery West, and Gallery 5 — are located on Gallery Row at 40982 Highway 41 in Oakhurst.
This is Us is a series of local profiles with first-person stories, written in a way we can get to know the people in our community on a little deeper level. Click here more information about this series.