William Rand describes his first monograph, William Baker Rand Four Decades (Osprey Publishing), as proof of his existence. Encompassing four decades as an artist, the book is made up of poetry by as well as essays about him penned by his close friend, the late critic Rene Ricard, and Suzette McAvoy, director and curator of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art.
Rand certainly got around over the years; Four Decades divides his oeuvre into four dramatic scene changes: Maine, New York, Berlin, and Spain. While his early work largely comprises paintings that mirror his environment—the spaces where he worked, the places he lived—his later work deals with heavier subjects like slavery, death, and grief. “Paintings offer an opportunity to experience emotion,” Rand says. “And sometimes people are faced with images that bring those emotions out.” They’re a projection of his own feelings, Rand says, and act as a trigger for the viewer, a means by which they can explore beauty in life and death.
Aside from his use of monochromatic tones, there is a common thread which runs throughout his work: “The subject finds me,” Rand says. “I think of myself as a medium.” Models, soldiers, geometric shapes, and ethereal figures are just a few that have found him, all of which are represented in Four Decades including a portrait of Ricard, a mural depicting Ava Gardner, and a series of paintings inspired by Cold War memories of German train stations.
After decades of a peripatetic life, Rand recently returned to Maine, where he feels all aspects of his life are brought together. His storied career is encapsulated in his book––though after reading it, it’s clear that Rand has more than enough energy for another 40 years worth chronicling.