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From an early age, William Acheff had an interest in painting. Though he studied art in high school, he never dreamed of becoming a painter. It was not until several years later, while working as a barber in his California salon, that Acheff had the opportunity to meet the Italian artist, Roberto Lupetti. The Italian awakened Acheff's interest in art once again. He soon began an intense European-style apprenticeship with Lupetti, spending five days a week for six months studying with the Italian master. Acheff's lifelong interest became a passion.
In 1973, Acheff moved to Taos, New Mexico, to separate himself from the influences of his teacher. It was in Taos that Acheff found his niche. Acheff, who is of Alaskan Athabascan heritage, has a special affinity for the historical and cultural artifacts that he chooses to paint. The appealing forms and designs of the Indian pots and artifacts are intertwined with Acheff's preference for painting textures from nature. The vintage photographs that often appear in Acheff's compositions help the artist set a mood. Each article in relation to the others becomes integral to the composition as a whole. The results invite lasting contemplation.
William Acheff's paintings have won the recognition and praise of his peers, critics and collectors alike. In 1989 and again in 2004, Acheff was awarded the Prix de West at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma City. His paintings are included in prominent private and public collections throughout the United States.
Residing in Taos, New Mexico, William Acheff brings to his art a background rich with influences of his Georgian and Athabascan Indian heritage. His work is noted for an incorporation of Native American pottery, drums, blankets, fetishes and other arrangements of Southwestern memorabilia and relics. And his proximity to the numerous New Mexico pueblos provides Acheff with a fertile field for these portrayals.
His 1989 Prix de West Purchase Award winner, Flapjacks, reflected his forte at using remnants of the past and an Edward Curtis historical photograph to portray a lifestyle based on old values and customs. He also won a Special Recognition Award for that painting. He says,"I always find that artifacts and traditions of the past seem to hold more mystical and aestetic values than those of contemporary times."
Trompe l’oeil oil painter of Indian artifacts, William Acheff was born in Anchorage, Alaska in 1947 and has been iving in Taos, New Mexico since 1973. “I paint Indian objects,” he says, “because I relate to them, maybe because I have some Indian blood and because I was close to my grandmother, but that’s not the point. I t’s the ethnic quality of the artifacts. There’s a purity in them. Nothing’s manufactured by machine. There sits a pot. The whole mood of what went into making that pot is a story, and that’s what I want to capture.
“I moved to California in the early 50s. I had taken numerous art classes in high school for the simple reason that I enjoyed art. I never had any intentions of going to art school even after the encouragement of my high school art teachers. Went to barber college in San Francisco in 1965. There I met artist Robert Lupetti in the barbershop in 1968, and started taking art lessons from him in 1969, again for my enjoyment. After a month or so, he said he would like to train me on a more serious level because he felt I possessed the receptiveness and ability that he was looking for in a student.
“After six months of very regular training, five days a week and two days to cut hair, I would see him twice a month for the next two and half years for his very enlightening criticism. Then I’d drive to Sausalito and sell a small canvas for $15 and feel just great. I moved to Taos out of curiosity at the Southwestern art movement and my first major show there in 1978 at Shriver Gallery was a complete sellout. In 1981, my Western Heritage Sale painting Yellow Rose of Texas’sold for $45,000 at auction.”