William (Bill or Billy) Gouin Tapley died after a long struggle on March 7, 2023 at the age of 83 years old.
Bill Tapley was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, to Lee Elizabeth (Davis) Tapley and William Earl Tapley on October 11, 1939. He grew up in a little town in east Texas called Sulfur Springs. As a young child, it became clear to his parents that he was extremely bright and artistic. He helped his father with his sign painting company. Later, when his father became ill, Billy took over the company and became the family’s sole breadwinner.
After he graduated high school nearly two years early, he worked as an illustrator for Baylor College to pay for his degree in Experimental Perceptual Psychology, another in Art, and a minor in Philosophy as well as support his family at home.
After college, he worked his way to Europe as a crew member on a commercial ship. He studied for a year at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, then moved to London, where he met and married Julia (Wheeler) Tapley in 1965. In London, he attended the Sir John Cass School of Art and the Royal Academy of Art and was awarded the Jeremy Cubitt Prize for Painting. He had two exhibits at the Federation of British Artists Gallery and another at the Redfern Art Gallery. He also taught art therapy at Tower Hamlets College, London.
He and his family relocated to New York City to live in a loft apartment where he continued to paint. He taught color theory and painting at Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts. In 1968, he began experimenting with environmental color by making paintings that completely surround the viewer. Over the next decade, he produced about 100 murals in New York City, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Texas, and California. Many were reviewed in Look, Progressive Architecture, Industrial design, Philadelphia Magazine, Interiors Magazine, The Herald, Interior design Magazine, the New York Times, and Underground Interiors. He had many exhibitions, including Bridge Paintings, Studies from Life, People Sitting in a Room, and Street Paintings in his own private loft studio and elsewhere.
From his 20s, Bill was strongly influenced by the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff and, throughout his life, was an active member of the Gurdjieff Foundation of New York, to which he devoted much of his time and energy. Respected for his insight and craftsmanship, Bill was influential in the design and realization of building renovations and unique and functional furniture that continues to be used in Foundation properties. Those that worked with him appreciated his frank, practical sensibility and humor, which provided insight into the ideas of Mr. Gurdjieff.
After years of searching for a property that offered incredible vistas and sunsets, Bill and his former second wife Lenna Kitterman found the perfect site to build a home in Callicoon, NY. The design and construction of the house became a passion that, over the course of time, attracted dozens of people willing to lend a hand in what became a never-ending project.
Proud of both his children, he encouraged them to be true to themselves and follow their passions. With Susannah, he shared a love of science and spent many hours discussing how the world worked, supporting her desire to be a pediatrician. They also shared a love for music. When Susannah was still a child, he bought her a piano so she could learn to play classical piano. He would take her all over New York City to hear classical piano concerts that filled them with joy. However, it was clear to all that his favorite person to listen to on the piano was Susannah, who played and sang for him until his last days.
He was inspirational to his daughter, Emma, in her pursuit of art. Initially, hiring her to become his faux-finisher for his specialty house painting company and then supported her in becoming a painter and creating her own faux-finishing company. He was fiercely proud of her talents and successes.
He was a wonderful grandfather to his three grandchildren. In fact, he successfully quit smoking cigarettes the day his first granddaughter was born so as not to expose her to his bad habit. He loved to tease and play games with his grandchildren. He had a mischievous childlike side that most of those who knew and loved him saw often.
Our father was an incredibly brilliant and beautiful man who was always very direct to the point of sometimes being harsh. However, at the end of his life, he showed how much he cared for the most important people in his life. He spent his last years only wanting to smile and laugh with family and dear friends.
He has left behind his two daughters: Emma Dorrin Tapley and Susannah Q (Tapley) Olnes; their significant others: Christopher Reynold Dinerman and Matthew Jonathan Olnes; his grandchildren: Stella Jean Olnes, Jack Henry Olnes, and Luna Julia Olnes; his sister: Bertha Mae Tapley-Lowe; and his godchild, Lucas Michael Robin Kane.
“We will miss his funny smiles and terrific love of people and life. Rest In Peace, Papa.”
A Celebration of Life is forthcoming.
In lieu of flowers, the family would love trees planted in honor of Bill.
Arrangements are under the direction of the Horn & Thomes, Inc. Funeral Home, 83 East Main Street, Pawling, NY.