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Will Salisbury Making Waves

Will Salisbury began his art adventure more than four decades ago. “It was in Big Sur in 1971, that my first sales occurred with carvings I created as I traveled the west coast with my backpack. The pieces were kept in my bedroll as I traveled, and taken out at night and placed on the ground around me as I slept. I’d drop them off at galleries along the way and picked up some money when I came back through. This was a cycle in my life that I have fond memories of and causes a smile to break forth yet!”

Will Salisbury is an artist who brings his smile to many. It w Will Salisbury Making Waves again as an early September morning when my husband and I dropped in to have a coffee with Robert and Prudent Matthews at their home in Fisher’s Landing. Before we got settled, Prudence asked if I had ever met Will Salisbury, the artist and sculptor. When I said I had not, she immediately called him and within a half hour we were all driving to Omar, a couple of miles south of Fisher’s Landing. 

Finding the property was not difficult if you knew where to look, and Prudence pointed to a carved stone tucked into the side of the road. On the opposite side of the road was the sculptor’s yard, complete with fanciful pieces of art and a sign on the building. 

Walking into the workshop was a complete delight. Almost every square inch of space was taken up with interesting pieces of steel, plaster and imagination. Will was a gracious host, taking time to give us a tour of his work spaces. He was scheduled to head out within the hour, so our tour was brief but memorable.

Will Salisbury was born in 1949 in Syracuse, NY beginning his work as a sculptor at sixteen. Many have viewed his work over the years as he is well known in the North Country. However, his work is often not easy to see as William Salisbury expresses his particular social commentary through his art form on difficult subjects such as the atrocities of war.

He describes his philosophy as, “I have the need to express and determine what I’m feeling inside myself. First there is uncertainty and fear, then as my friend Carmen D’avino always said - “you need to get something going.”

To begin a piece he says, “My process starts in a void, where my dreams are the ranting of Carl Jung’s observations. A big house with many doors that I can’t open, a bit of flying about from the roof and folks looking up as I soar over them. It varies mostly, tangles of the subconscious trying to rise to the top.  This happens in the days before I start a project and the only way I can break the cycle is to “get something going”. Then I’m fine till the work is done……. an’ the void approaches again.”

“Ethiopian children” is an early work expressing Will’s awareness and compassion for those in need. His work is not always easy to view as he expresses his particular social commentary through his art form on difficult subjects such as the atrocities of war.

And like other artists and craftsmen, Will travelled. He related his Italian journey in 1972, “being with the great works in person was the best.” His sculptor hero at that time was Henry Moore whose life time retrospective was on display at Forte de Belvedere in Florence. Will camped under the wall of the fort of a month and he says, “in worship.” It was there one day, while sketching, he was discovered by a women, whom he described as, “as fine young poet,” She invited him to live with her family for the next two months. The family became his tour guides providing a true Florence experience.


“I have become fluent in many sculptural mediums over the last 50 years,” he says, “including clay; ceramics; plaster; wood; wax; bronze; stone; steels; aluminum; copper; resins and epoxies.  Many of my works are plaster pieces molded for bronze ‘lost wax’ productions, employing life casts as tools for expressing realist emotions.  Also Ceramics have joind my work and commissions”. 



On that September day when we toured the Omar studio and the “shop”, for the real bread and butter funding is in sheet metal work of every description for industries near and far, we looked on walls, the ceilings and books! Several of Will’s artistic works illustrate books, with the authors stumbling on Will’s website and asking permission to use his illustrations.

Commissions have, for the most part, been with individual clients and are in private collections. “Lately these commissions have brought me out of the closet a bit and proved a wonderful experience working with the community in Clayton.” This fall he completed the Tree of Knowledge for the Hawn Memorial Library and has already started on a “Breaching Muskie” sculpture for Frink Park on the waterfront.

And then there is the personal life. Will and his wife Karen Matthews Salisbury were married in 1984. He had planned to live on Grindstone Island year-round, but “Karen,” as he put it, “informed me I was in error (as usual) and we would get a place on the mainland too.” They have built a stone house on the on Grindstone and, “as always I hope to find ‘Island time.’ When 8 months old I was given a dishpan baths on the front porch of my family’s cottage on the head of Grenell Island. This was the Gardener’s cottage, belonging to my mother’s family since 1883. So… I still like a bath in the river.”

And his final life’s advice… “Have a good cruise everyone, make some waves.”


Sculpture by Will Salisbury
Will Salisbury’s “The Three Crows” are easily seen from Interstate 81, driving south from Clayton to Watertown.

“In 1997 I was driving home after a long weekend in NYC where I showed my works for 7 years, and the thought occurred  to me that I could afford to take my winters off for all the money it cost to advertise and mount a show in SOHO, NY.    My head filled with things I could do and then I thought the land behind our house would make a great open air gallery. Hummm . The first real idea was a Statue of Liberty… As an old woman ragged and not able to keep the light of liberty up anymore. You know ( Liberty ain’t what she used to be) 70 ft. tall. The satire was perfect, with all the talk of closing borders and fences…… well in the end they would have strung me up after 9/11.  Lucky me”!

“The next idea was large crows heralding the millennial change and the looming y2k uncertainty. Well no one ever got my drift and the whimsical aspect won over, lucky me!”

Top Knot On Roof, by Will SalisburySculpture by Will Sailisbury 
A familiar site in the main channel.  “Gargoyle on Woronoco Island”
Metal work by Will Salisbury 


Will traded a sculpture for his 1959 MGA, and will take it to Watkins Glen Vintage Weekend this year.
Have a great trip  Will!
Iron work by Will Salisbury
A commissioned fire screen for a center fireplace.  A fine example of Will Salisbury’s artistry.
Sculpture by Will Salisbury
2010, Astrolabe by Will Salisbury

Sculpture by Will Salisbury

“Thomas I”

Moonwalkers Shop, Will Salisbury

“Moon Walkers”



Looking up at one point in the tour I was startled seeing real life figures high on a loft – they are the beginnings of a future exhibition called “Moon Walkers.” Will is no rush to complete this project as he claims it will be his last – and luckily for us he has only created 3 of 30 pieces and each takes a long time to complete. “They will be my statement on human condition”.

I thank Will Salisbury for his artistic passion, for his willingness to share his marvelous creations with our Island community, and most of all for continuing to make waves.

By Susan W. Smith, Editor,

Be sure to visit Will Salisbury’s creative website.  Take the time to “poke about.”,
Email :, Phone : 1.315.408.1836


Please feel free to leave comments about this article using the form below. Comments are moderated and we do not accept comments that contain links. As per our privacy policy, your email address will not be shared and is inaccessible even to us. For general comments, please email the editor.


Dan Morrow
Comment by: Dan Morrow ( )
Left at: 5:24 PM Wednesday, January 15, 2014
A question for Will
Do you change the direction the crows are facing?
I swear that over the years they have faced in different directions.
Robert P Hedden
Comment by: Robert P Hedden ( )
Left at: 6:05 PM Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Yea Will! Keep chugging.
Will Salisbury
Comment by: Will Salisbury ( )
Left at: 4:41 PM Monday, February 10, 2014
The crows get turned once in awhile. But most often they end up back in their original pose.
William Christopherson
Comment by: William Christopherson ( )
Left at: 7:59 AM Wednesday, July 23, 2014
The Woronoco Island Gargoyle. We marvel at it as we pass by on our Clayton Island Tours. Worthy to note - that on some of our night time returns from down river - the Woronoco Island Gargoyle is not there. Gone from the roof! Could it be possible this strange creature crawls about the island at night?
Will Salisbury
Comment by: Will Salisbury ( )
Left at: 10:53 AM Thursday, July 24, 2014

I suspect your vision may be blurred by the sunset, though I wouldn't turn my back on him.... Just say'in