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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Interiors: Sculptor in a Socialist Realist Setting

There is something about Frank Williams' apartment that looks, well, too tidy -- as though no one actually lived in the expansive, white-walled flat with its picture-perfect view of the Moskva River and the Kremlin.


Williams, a sculptor, is no starving artist. He and his wife, a partner at the Baker and Botts law firm here, enjoy what must be one of the poshest addresses in Moscow, perched high above the city in their Stalin skyscraper.


If the apartment looks unlived-in, that is because, at the moment, it is. Williams' wife, Holly Nielsen, is on a routine trip between Houston and Moscow. He, meanwhile, has been preparing for the third Russian exhibit of his sculptures and drawings.


That means his real home is in his studio at the Moscow Professional Arts School, where he happily melds fiberglass, bronze and bits of scrap metal into images of man fighting against himself and a modern world of conflicting realities. The work resembles Socialist Realism, but instead of industry glorifying man, it often burdens him.


How did he feel when he arrived in Russia for the first time? "Really elated," he says. "My work is figurative and very expressive, and I saw a lot of that here."


Once he moved all of his sculptures and equipment to Moscow, however, elation gave way to something else.


"The studio I had found raised the amount of the rent six times," he says. "It took another four months to get a studio and then six months of remont that was supposed to be two."


Ten months without a place to sculpt made for one of the more frustrating times in his life, he says. But now, with one exhibit running at the Museum of the Revolution on Tverskaya Ulitsa and another at the Ostozhenka Cultural Center at 6 Savyolovskaya Ulitsa, he is enjoying one of the most successful periods of his more than 20-year career.


"Selling some art is like buying a new tool," Williams says. "You sell some art so you can make some more."True Confessions


Most embarrassing memory: As an art student at South West Missouri State University, in the 1960s, participating in a starving artists' sale. "They made us wear these little black berets, my friends and I. We were so humiliated."


Most recent meeting with Bill Clinton: At the Town Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where Williams was a chef about 10 years ago. "He came in through the back door with his state troopers, shook my hand and said, 'Hi, I'm Governor Bill Clinton. Can you fix me up some french fries?'"


Monthly rent on apartment: $5,000.


Favorite lesson from the 1960s that could apply to Russia: "The old saying 'If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.' That's a basic truth."


Work of sculpture he is most satisfied with: "Next Stop," in which the upper torso of a man clutches the handle bars of the front half of a bicycle. "It's about going from one reality to the next. It's an aging process, a maturing process. It's hanging on tenaciously to the ride."