Artist William DeBilzan’s artwork is immediately recognizable whether viewing the paintings in his gallery on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach or sculptures like the one in the next block in Worthing Park; the designs on the handbags, backpacks, cosmetic pouches, and luggage he produces with Mario Hernandez – creator of a luxury fashion and style house based in Bogota, Columbia; or the jackets and ties on the wall waiting to be worn at your next art, music, or style event. Once you have seen DeBilzan’s signature tall thin people in their Caribbean settings, they stay with you. In fact, if you spend enough time in the gallery they leave with you.
No one is more aware of this than Harry Gross, owner of the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere. While visiting a relative in Florida in Delray, he walked into the gallery, saw DeBilzan’s signature works, and offered to buy all the pieces in the gallery. Due to a miscommunication, DeBilzan never heard about the offer, but Gross did not give up. He called DeBilzan and invited him to New York, ultimately offering him a commission to bring humanity and warmth to the 65-story Marriott at 1717 Broadway that towers over Central Park. DeBilzan ended up creating 3 floors of artwork, 5 sculptures, 9 pillars, and 3 paintings, as well as 3,000 square feet of murals. There is artwork in the lobby, in conference rooms, and even in elevators. “He just let me do my thing,” says DeBilzan. And he did it in three months.
Luckily, DeBilzan is a prolific artist, with 9,100 paintings to date. He is always working on 15 to 20 paintings at a time, finishing 4 to 7 a week, in his studio.
His earlier style was entirely abstract paintings. Now his signature style is the long people who seem both rooted in the earth and connected to the sky. “I love the Caribbean and spent a lot of time there, a lot of time on the water. My paintings are a big reflection of life in the Caribbean, island life.”
His paintings are not just paint. Any number of objects may be integrated into his canvases: paper, fabric, bits of metal. Starting with a wash, he builds his surfaces with perhaps a luminous glaze in one area and thick impasto layers in another. The artist’s widely exhibited work is in many private and public collections, including in the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building in Dubai; and has been in TV shows and films including Frasier (of course, with the fictional Frasier’s discerning eye for art), Spin City, CSI: Miami, and Burn Notice. Collectors include Shaq, Adam Sandler, and Aaron Eckhart.
When not in his gallery on the Ave., his original gallery location in Laguna Beach, Calif., where he started his career in art 25 years ago, or studio, DeBilzan might be found on his 60-foot-long, two-story barge. “I lived in the Keys for a while and was hoping to have a studio in the Caribbean,” he says. Then he got the idea of a floating studio and gallery, which he started building near Palm Beach and is now anchored in a marina after a few big storms. It has evolved into a personal retreat where he likes to entertain and relax.
In fact, entertaining is another aspect of the gallery on Atlantic Avenue. Besides participating in Delray Beach events like Fashion Week, the gallery often holds receptions with appetizers and wine or cocktails and its white grand piano that has lured many an art lover to its keys. Until recently, there was a much-loved garden space in the back that was part of the art scene.
“Delray Beach has been incredibly supportive of my art and business,” says DeBilzan.
And we are so fortunate to have DeBilzan and his artwork contribute to the mix on Atlantic Avenue. Who knows what mogul, celebrity, or private citizen with an epic consignment might walk into the gallery next? In the meantime, come by and visit.
DeBilzan Gallery, debilzangallery.com, 38 East Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, FL
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