Judging by the reactions of the attendees with whom I had the pleasure of talking, the opening reception for Al Williamson: A Tribute at Marywood University’s Mahady Gallery on Friday, October 8, was an unqualified success. Based on numbers alone, with over 200 coming out for the event—a mix of comics fans, appreciators of popular art, fellow professionals and old friends—it would have been hard to imagine a more fitting celebration of Al Williamson, the man and the artist.
The exhibit features over 60 pieces of Al’s original art and published material, chosen by Cori Williamson, mounted by Cori and Melissa Restuccia, and hung by curator Bob Schweitzer, who, with Marywood’s gracious permission, arranged for the exhibit by carving out a four-day period (October 8 through 11) from a previously scheduled exhibition.
Bob, who had presented work from Al’s collection at Scranton’s Everhart Museum back in 1986, noted the unfortunately limited number of days available and expressed interest in the possibility of a future exhibition featuring Al’s work with an extended showing. That would be good news for all those who could not arrange to be here this weekend.
Cori and son Victor were on hand to greet the various artists, art teachers, art students, musicians, bookbinders, merchants, Sons of the Desert lodge members and assorted bon vivants who came to celebrate the life and career of a man remembered as both a towering figure in comics and a dear friend. Many a story of Al’s fellowship, good humor and storied talent wafted through the rarified atmosphere, while those unfamiliar with his work were educated with framed examples of his mastery of graphic storytelling.
Cori chose representative pieces from all stages of Al’s 50-year career. Included were early pre-EC works, EC pages, a Classics Illustrated Prehistoric World page, many examples of Al’s Flash Gordon work from throughout his career, a representative showing of his Secret Agent Corrigan strips, Warren pages, Epic Illustrated work, Star Wars adaptations and examples of his Marvel inking over other pencilers.
A number of attendees specifically mentioned how much they enjoyed the many examples of Al’s preliminary work and sketches presented. There absolutely is something magical about the expressive freedom of line and design in the images Al created for his own use.
In addition to all the mounted artwork, Cori and Victor brought Al’s drawing table and an assortment of his working tools for display at the opening. Set in the center of the gallery with an empty chair, the simulated workspace served as the cartoonist equivalent of the aviator’s “missing man” formation—a fitting salute to a master who has moved on to the great beyond.
Text and Photographs © 2010 Mark Schultz
All photographed artwork is copyright © the estate of Al Williamson
A special thanks to Mark Schultz for sharing his experience and photographs on the Al Williamson Exhibit!