Will Clift’s favorite toy as a child was a huge set of wooden blocks, which he’d assemble into cantilevered structures, pushing them larger and larger until they came crashing down. As he grew up, sculpture remained his main passion, but was not his first career ambition. He earned B.S. and M.S. degrees from Stanford that combined psychology, business, and engineering, then worked as an environmental engineer for three years before committing to his art full-time in 2006.
In 2016, Stanford invited him back as Visiting Artist, during which time he developed several interdisciplinary projects with departments ranging from Dance Choreography, to Material Science, to Environmental Engineering. Later that same year, Clift won the prestigious International Visiting Artist prize through Australia’s Sculpture by the Sea exhibition, one of the most-visited outdoor sculpture exhibitions in the world. And in 2021 he was awarded the 2022 Prix de Henry Clews, a biennial art prize originating in France. As part of the Prix, he is spending from the fall of 2022 through the summer of 2023 developing new sculpture projects at the Chateau de La Napoule, in the town of Mandelieu-La Napoule, France.
While much of his early work was in wood, as the scale and complexity of his pieces has increased he has mastered a wide range of materials to keep up. Large-scale and site-specific works are now a primary focus, in materials ranging from steel, to carbon fiber composite, to ultra-high-performance concrete.
I explore gesture in sculpture through the interaction of form, gravity, and balance. This interaction is my medium, as much as any physical material.
My sculptures are abstract but evocative, tied to familiar forms. They explore the line between order and disorder, combining intersecting parts into a whole that stands in delicate equilibrium on a small foot. Each work is precarious, yet ultimately poised and stable, overcoming entropy. I use this narrow point of balance to connect viewers to something beyond the sculptural object itself. In each form are tension and poise, the suggestion of gesture or movement, the ephemeral moment between breathing in and out.
My training is a combination of engineering, the sciences, and the arts, and with my sculpture I aim to pull these disparate fields together. As I would have said in my days as an engineer, the point of balance is where potential energy transitions into kinetic energy, and a form narrowly balanced can express both.
Over the last 20 years I’ve mastered several traditional sculptural media, including wood, bronze, and steel, and have pioneered within the sculptural field several others, including carbon fiber composite and ultra-high-performance concrete. Each material has its strengths and limitations, and matching the material to the multi-faceted demands of a project is something I care a great deal about.