My first memory of going to Block Island, RI was around five years old. My grandparents had a house in Charlestown, RI and we would frequently take day trips from there in the summer. I remember biking past the Surf Hotel, going to Mansion Beach and eating lots of ice-cream.
Block Island officially got under my skin Labor Day weekend, 1988. My husband and I booked a room at a B&B at the last minute to escape hot Manhattan. The B&B had thick shag carpet, a shared bathroom down the hall and a tiny room fan. We were hooked.
Years later, I met my friend and neighbor Bill Padien, an artist on Block Island. We met after I bought one of his paintings hanging on the wall of Winfield’s restaurant. My husband loves to remind me how expensive that dinner was. One painting that night and over the next fifteen years, three more…
Bill Padien caught the Block Island bug in college and took it with him to Los Angeles, where he got his masters in fine art from the OTIS Art Institute/Parsons School of Design. Upon graduating, Bill landed a job as the Assistant Curator at Gemini G.E.L. in LA. Gemini G.E.L. is an elite artists workshop and publisher of limited edition prints and sculptures on Melrose Avenue.
Bill was quickly promoted to Curator and stayed at Gemini G.E.L. for eight years, working closely with artists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Susan Rothenberg, Richard Serra, and Robert Rauschenberg to name a few.
His east coast roots and desire to spend more time on his art brought Bill back to New York in the spring of 1989. He rented a cottage on Block Island that summer before heading to Manhattan.
After completing sixteen paintings that summer, he realized how much the island inspired his art. Bill continued to work for Gemini G.E.L. in NYC for the next few years as an east coast consultant. He also traveled to Block more and more, ultimately moving to the island full time in the summer of 1991.
Painting, bartending and starting a family kept Bill occupied for the next seven years. In 1998, his wife Allison had the brilliant idea to open The Old Post Office Bagel Shop (thank you Allison!), an institution on the island. The line out the door for their famous breakfast pastries, homemade bagels, delicious sandwiches and salads is legendary. I don’t remember a time before the Bagel Shop!
A lot of people who visit Block Island know Bill’s familiar face from the bagel shop, but I still think of him first and foremost as a painter and someone quietly and impressively connected to the art world.
Visit williampadien.com for more information about his background and his art. I am putting aside my shekels for another Padien acquisition soon. Tim, get ready!
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