Past Commentaries

March Issue 1999

by Tom Starland

William Halsey Is Now Dead

That's a pretty harsh way to put it, but the statement represents two important factors in my own personal relationship with William Halsey. First, our meeting. About ten years ago, at an exhibit reception, someone pointed to a man and said, "Look, there's William Halsey." I was surprised and amazed. What I saw was a small man. It was hard to believe that this was, "the" William Halsey. I guess I expected him to be as large as his reputation. I walked up to the man and introduced myself and said that I was glad to meet him because I thought he was dead. I really knew he wasn't, but I told him that people tended to talk about him in the past tense and that galleries are usually named in honor of artists who have passed on. He laughed and said he agreed and understood. He then explained that artists can outlive their reputations. When people hear your name they tend to say, "Is he still alive!" I learned to respond to those statements with the fact that he's not only alive and well, but one of the most active artist I know.

In the following years, after many conversations with this man and his wife and fellow artist, Corrie McCallum, I realized how important that one statement was for an artist -- that artists can outlive their reputations. This fact is hard for a younger artist to realize, but it's true. I made myself a promise that this wouldn't be the case with Carolina Arts and as much as I could, I would try to let our readers know that some of our senior artists are not dead yet.

Over the years, since that meeting, I've tried to do just that and I've reported on both William's and Corrie's activities, no more and no less, than they deserved. Although some people thought it was a little too much by asking if I was related to the couple. I usually told them that if they live so long and were still as active as these people were and if I was still alive and doing this paper -- I would treat them with the same respect. Most of the time, I wasn't really worried about keeping the promise. But, I knew, I wasn't going to be caught saying to myself sometime -- I should have done this or said that.

So, when I say, William Halsey is now dead. I mean that in a factual sense and, with a dose of chiding toward those who couldn't keep up with the man.

Now, I know a lot of people would expect that this issue of the paper would be wall to wall William Halsey, but that's not going to be the case. It's too soon for me and a lot has been said about the past in other media. Plus, there will be lots of opportunities to talk about William Hasley in the future -- not so distant future. There are several exhibitions of his work coming up in the next two months. After all, artists know that you're talked about more after you die.

So, in closing, for now, I'll offer part of a press release from the College of Charleston:

The School of the Arts at the College of Charleston will hold a memorial service for prominent Charleston artist and professor William Halsey on Sat., Mar. 13 from 5-7 pm in the Simons Center for the Arts on St. Philip Street, in downtown Charleston, SC. The public is welcome.

Halsey, 83, died on Feb. 14th after a prolonged illness. He was the first person to teach Studio Art at the College of Charleston, and, after 20 years of teaching, the Hasley Gallery was named in his honor upon his retirement in 1984. He received an honorary doctorate from the College in 1995.

The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the College of Charleston Foundation, William Halsey Memorial Fund.

For more information please contact Mark Sloan, Director of the Halsey Gallery, at 843/953-5680.

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