William “Billy” Turtle (1938 - 2019)

The Flag, ca. 1990

From The Jesuit Series

Mixed Media/Assemblage

16 x 20 x 2 inches


Artist to ViCA


El Salvadorean Refugee Center, 1990

William Turtle: An Undisovered Legacy, Venice Institute of Contemporary Art, 2018

William “Billy” Turtle was an important - yet completely undiscovered - artist who practiced various forms of art, from geometric assemblage to metal and wood sculpture, to collage and found object derived works. Billy is fondly remembered for practicing his art daily while supporting himself as a woodworker in a well known collective studio on Main Street in Santa Monica for many decades. He rarely participated in shows - the occasional Venice Art Walk, and a couple of exhibitions in the 1990's organized by artist friend Sandy Bleifer at the Bradbury Building and a local El Salvadoran cultural center. Decades later, he’d been rediscovered.

Upon an urgent call from Bleifer on a rainy day in March 2018, ViCA discovered his work left behind in his studio, and many other artist's works being thrown in a dumpster, and endeavored to protect and preserve, clean and document them.

Partly as a result of the sudden devastating death of his wife and lifelong companion Bonnie - longtime part of Venice's venerable Small World Books, and later being evicted from his studio with just a few weeks notice - another casualty of gentrification - Billy was brought back to the east coast to live with his immediate family, no longer able to make art, where he passed away on September 30, 2019. He was part of the A History of Venice exhibition presented by ViCA and the Venice Heritage Museum at the Beyond Baroque Literary Art Center, and was spoken about during a lecture by Juri Koll on September 5. The exhibition closed on the day of his passing.

As part of our ongoing mission we present the remaining lifelong work of William "Billy" Turtle, along with insightful exhibits from a future-forward thinking, yet historical perspective.