What’s clear when reading artist Bill Worrell’s Places of Mystery, Power and Energy is that he loves a good story almost as much as he loves the Southwest. Southwestern landscapes provide the basis for many of the book’s observations, just as they provide the inspiration for Worrell’s popular bronze sculptures and paintings. His imagery echoes cave drawings, typically featuring shaman-like figures with their arms outstretched and adorned with horns, handprints, feathers and spirals.
Worrell is an artist and a storyteller. His book is not so much a volume of polished essays as it is a catalog of his experiences and his take on them. With a teaching and art career that spans more than 30 years, along with a lifetime of collecting stories, Worrell has plenty to share. He also took the color photographs scattered through the book.
A skilled tour guide, Worrell is intimately familiar with the places that he records, such as Sedona and its vortexes and the Lower Pecos River region in Texas, along with various caves, deserts, rivers, canyons and forests. He explores attractions including El Santuario de Chimayo and the Monastery of Christ in the Desert. He also includes tales from the place that is his life, whether that means his childhood or his lost loves. He frames each first-person story by interpreting whether it produces positive or negative energy, which is more effective when he writes about landscapes than about the more intimate details of his life.
But it’s those details that some readers will enjoy most, especially if they are fans of Worrell’s visual art. The tales include the construction of his New Art studio in Texas, his hazing into a fraternity and his experiences as a pastor. Although the stories aren’t chronological and sometimes repeat, they’re threaded together with Worrell’s sense of humor and satire. Above all, they show off his big personality and his personal philosophy. The book does suggest that it solves the mystery of the Sedona vortexes—each reader needs to decide whether that’s true. In that segment of the book, as in all others, Worrell unapologetically shares the energetic affection he has for life, which is inspiring in itself.