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Bill Warde patrols the University Writing Center, but he’s much more than a member of the UNT
grammar police

DIRECTOR OF the University Writing Center and self-taught artist, is a man of many words and countless visions. It’s his job to make words make sense.

It’s his passion to see patterns of beauty in life. It’s his hope to help others explore new possibilities.

“What I do for a living is not my only focus in life,” says Warde. “I live in the now and concentrate on every moment.”


Warhol reigns

Dedicated to helping students improve their writing skills, Warde patrols the halls of UNT’s writing center wearing a black-and-white T-shirt.

The shirt proclaims him as a member of “UNT’s Finest, Grammar Police, ” but he’s much more than that. He’s a Renaissance man who wears many hats.

“Aesthetics makes life worth living,” he says. “I don’t just meditate on life — I live it through plays, music, art, literature, dance.”

Although his expertise is 18th-century English literature, Warde considers himself more of a generalist, and he is a thoroughly modern man.

“I’d probably enjoy a Warhol more than a Rembrandt, though I can appreciate Rembrandt’s beauty,” he claims. “I especially like popular culture and contemporary art.”

He is quite prolific as a sculptor and was influenced by such artists as Robert Rauschenberg, Marcel Duchamp and Alexander Calder.

Although he appreciates other artists’ work, Warde’s own artworks are a dominant feature in his home and office. They have appeared in Texas Sculpture Association shows in Dallas and Fort Worth, Irving Arts Council shows, and UNT and Denton art shows.

Humor is often a trademark of his art. For instance, he rebuilt a grocery cart and added cushions to transform it into a stroller.

“This is what I’ll have them push me around in when I’m an old vegetable,” he says.

Warde says he likes to take things out of context and create new ways of looking at the world.

In his world, a television set doesn’t need to receive transmissions to entertain. To prove his point, he gutted a TV set and installed a picture of Frank Zappa. He then flanked it with two stuffed dinosaurs. The set does not have any commercials.


Trash to treasure

Warde was an early conservationist. He recycled and reused before the words were even fashionable. He remembers as a child of the Great Depression that he entertained himself in an unusual manner.

“I used to pull my wagon to the local city dump,” he says. “I was fascinated by all the objects and started accumulating things and transforming them into other wonderful things.” For instance, Warde created a shovel-bird, composed of a shovel, bicycle parts, buttons and other metal parts.

Warde describes objects as “letters in a visual language.”

“They speak to us if we’re willing to listen to them. They can have many functions,” he says.

He finds new meanings for objects. For example, he has a silver horse in his office that he made out of old surgical scissors.

He says that as we perceive objects, we put our mark on them. We create a dialogue with an object by the way we use it. The object, in return, enriches our lives.


Nascar — not

Warde recounts the lean times during the Depression when his father had an almost new car, parked it and never drove it again because of finances.

Today, Warde owns 10 vehicles, including a 1946 Chevy pickup, a rare 1989 Dodge convertible pickup and a 1977 Chevy Impala art car he calls Braniffty.

When he saw a 1972 Braniff Airline travel poster, designed by Alexander Calder, it inspired him to paint a car in the style of
the poster.

“After nearly 25 years of thinking about the poster, I painted the Impala to reflect Calder’s work,” he says. “Calder invented the mobile hanging art form and was commissioned by Braniff Airlines to paint their airplanes.

“Working out the design on the car took two weeks from sunup to sundown each day and left me exhausted,” he says.

To paint Braniffty, Warde used 500 yards of lining and masking tape and matched 1972 Braniff Airline poster colors by using a computer.

Warde has driven Braniffty numerous times in the Houston Art Car Parade, which is produced by the Orange Show Foundation as a way to deliver the message that art is an integral part of everyday life.


Art influences life

In his 35 years as a UNT English professor, Warde has influenced many alumni.

One of his former students, Lisa Largen (’92), says he challenged her to be the best writer she could be.

“He walks with you and says, ‘Let’s not follow this planned path. Let’s go over here and make one of our own,’” she says.

“My students are an important part of my religion,” says Warde, who also has ministerial credentials. “Since we walk this path but once, let’s squeeze the most we can out of it.”

Warde, the wordsmith — Warde, the artist — Warde, the visionary — encourages himself and others to seek the path of endless possibilities.



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