UNCG artist incorporates paintings with dance

by Kashif Stone

Billy Hawkins enjoys the best of both worlds. He’s a contemporary painter by day and a dancer by night that intertwines his artistic diversity in an analytical way. Hawkins is currently a senior at UNC-Greensboro pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting. Dancing, however, is an art that he has grown to appreciate just as much.

Hawkins was born into an ethnically mixed family in Jacksonville, North Carolina. His father is African American and his mother is Filipino American. His father was in the United States military, and when Hawkins was five, his father was stationed overseas. The family left the United States and moved to Japan for six years. After his father retired from the military in 2005, they moved back to Jacksonville.

Hawkins took a serious interest in art while in middle school and was very dedicated to his drawings. He believes his interest derives from reading the animated magazine Shonen Jump and often found himself doodling the illustrations inside. In high school, he was enrolled in general art courses that required students to draw independent art. He took his first painting class during his sophomore year and that was the moment when he realized he wanted to embark upon a career as an artist.

At first, Hawkins parents were not fond of his decision. However when he was awarded the UNCG Artistic Merit honor, they realized that his artistic talent could take him very far in life. A big part of Hawkins work is self-portraiture. He attempts to figure out the complexities of the human form and human condition. “Why do we do the things that we do is the question I ask myself upon beginning a new work,” said Hawkins. “My heritage, environment, historical art references, and several other factors all feed my inspiration.”

Hawkins came to the dance scene through one of his closest friends, James Realubit. Realubit introduced him to the dance community in the Raleigh/ Durham/ Chapel Hill area, which is different compared to the underground dance scene here in the Triad, according to Hawkins. The scene in the Triad is more freestyle street dance while in the Triangle area you find more commercial street dance. In November 2014, Hawkins and Realubit attended the KODACHROME workshop, which is designed to enhance a dancer’s talent. Since then, his friends have encouraged him to dance more often, yet he only views the art of dance as simply a hobby. However if it develops into a job outlet, Hawkins said he would not mind becoming a back-up dancer or choreographer.

At different times, Hawkins encounters conflict between art and dance. He described the conflict as an imbalanced scale and his job as an artist is to find the balance between the two art forms. The conflict arises from his lack of patience since his go-getter attitude makes it difficult to wait for results. “My need for immediacy can be both a blessing and a curse,” said Hawkins. “I have overcome obstacles by working hard and being persistent. If you do not work through a large volume of problems, how can you figure anything out?” Hawkins determined to pursue an art career while in his sophomore year at the university, aspiring to success in the contemporary art world, including the gallery circuit and commissioned work. He praises Mariam Stephens, Jennifer Meanly, and Barbara Campbell-Thompson, members of the art department’s painting staff, for contributing to his artistic growth. “The art department’s painting staff has nurtured my growth since I began school here; training my eye and challenging my ability to draw and paint with a purpose,” said Hawkins.

Hawkins became interested in street dancing last year, a style of dance that he was unfamiliar with. His interest in street dancing has prompted him to attend workshops to learn more of the dance style and improve his craft of street art.

Aside from his artistic diversity, Hawkins is also a supporter of cultural enrichment. He’s been an active member of the UNCG’s Filipino American Student Association since August 2014. The organization strives to teach second generation Filipino Americans about their culture. Hawkins said that Filipino culture is very big on the performing arts of dance and music and he believes that drives his passion for the arts.

After graduation in December, Hawkins intends to save money and gain more professional experience as part of a plan to move to Los Angeles by the end of 2016. Next month he will be showcasing his dance skills in the Charlotte-based production entitled Loose Leaf Showcase, which will take place at the Duke Energy Theatre and will run October 17-18. !