The art, prints and posters of William Gatewood (1943-1994) combine the iconography of the East with a Western painting approach. Borrowing from Japanese traditions and form, gold or silver leaf is frequently used as background, overpainting with transparent and opaque layers playing random patterns against more geometric ones. References to flight, space and fragility are represented by structures or objects constructed from paper and wood such as kites, panels and screens. Born in Utah, Gatewood lived most of his life in San Francisco, purchasing an old Victorian mansion in the Page Street district in 1982 which, over the next 12 years, was transformed into an elegant residence and studio. In the tradition of Whistler and Klimt, Gatewood incorporated his art in an application of paint, inks, gold leaf, metallic foils, rice paper screens and dimensional work throughout the mansion’s architectural detail, enhancing the period decoration and creating a unified artistic vision. In keeping with that vision, the house is being maintained for public access by the William R. Gatewood Trust.
Part of the artist’s vision included making his art, prints and posters available to the widest audience and, consequently, Gatewood thoroughly supported publication of his work in poster format. The last image published during his lifetime was “Olan Sun II,” a profoundly meditative image contributed by the artist to The McGaw Foundation, a non-profit art industry endeavor which directly benefits charities committed to AIDS prevention, care and cure.
The artist, who aspired to merge his art, prints and posters with each aspect of living, passed away due to complications resulting from the AIDS virus. In the several months preceding his death, Gatewood spoke often of the historical context created by the existence and effects of AIDS; knowing that his passing would be acknowledged as part of that continuum eased both the intellect and the spirit. “My art is experiential. It is aimed at the heart. I work to create an energy field within each piece which may be felt by the viewer who shares my vision of beauty. I attempt to release the viewer into a sense of safety and play, and I call this place ‘Olan.’ I rely upon beauty to attract the eye and release the heart.”