2618 O Street apartment lower east
USA (United States)
Stil: Street Art
I saw a bumper sticker reading, "Ceramics worlds most fascinating hobby". I have made ceramic's my life long pursuit.
Vita / Lebenslauf:
I Interviewed Myself!
You’ve been working with ceramics for over forty years now. Do you remember your first works? How did you evolved in time? Woodlawn Elementary School, near the Watts region of Los Angeles, had a kiln. My first encounter with clay was forced upon me. A large man, most likely a parent grabbed my 6 year old hand and smashed it into a slab of clay to form a handprint. A week later the print magically appeared in the classroom, brightly glazed with a hole poked in the top for hanging, the man had glazed it for me! My mother loved that piece of clay; it was hung on the wall next to a photo of me on a pony, dressed as a cowboy. My first wall piece was a hit; it made the family wall of fame. By age 10, I was influenced by my famous neighbor, "Big Daddy Roth" and Rat Fink, Big Daddy's hot rod driving monster; my eyes were opened to the possibilities of object making. Roth was a big deal at the time; all my classmates drew Rat Finks on their book covers. I, however, knew Roth’s mother and could obtain his airbrushed T shirt seconds for 25 cents, I would resell them for a profit and earned a reputation as the art guy. I made a series of ceramic cat heads, trying to be different from my Rat Fink drawing classmates, working with the premise, cats eat rats. These works were not received well, most likely because they were inspired by a dead cat I had seen laying in the gutter, with its eyes dislodged . I think most of them were solid clay bombs that blew up during the bisque firing.
Why did you choose this career path? It was at Lutheran High School in Los Angeles where I decided to become a professional artist. I was in a high performance, over-achiever system, where I was surrounded by students who had finished their homework for the next three years, or taken extra classes in chemistry, or had help from their professor-parent in one subject or another. How could I compete with that? I liked the way oil paint smelled and the way clay felt. Art making seemed the obvious path, the art department was well staffed and over funded. The supplies at that school were amazing. Gallon buckets of oil paint, with every imaginable color available. The main emphasis was ceramic figurative sculpture, with “The Crucifix” being the prevailing theme. With my anti-Disney, Big Daddy Roth upbringing, I had different Ideas and was not interested in the movement.
I rode the city bus to the high school through post” Watt’s Riots” Los Angeles. This ride inspired a series of foot tall ceramic sculptures of trash cans filled to the brim with ceramic garbage. They were slab built then colored with grey and brown low fire glazes. The school staff disliked the work, referring to it as depressing, but loved the watercolors of lighthouses I was working on. I eased away from ceramic work and focused on painting, usually hiding a trash can somewhere in the composition.
When did you realize that ceramic art was important for you? I became a Northern California artist when he moved from Los Angeles to the Mother Lode. While at several local colleges; starting out at Sierra College in Rocklin, I was the painter that hung around the ceramic department, this continued at California State University in Sacramento. I made more cats and cat heads but was more interested in painting on clay. I made a series of plates with an “It’s a dog eat dog world” theme which were formed from press molds, then painted with under glazes. The bisque was drawn on with glaze pencils, brightly glazed with brush and airbrush, then low fired. Lusters and china paint would be applied for one last firing. This process allowed a depth of field I could not replicate with paint on canvas. I realized by painting with glazes on plates I was object making again. Even though I was merely painting on plates, the finished work was a step for me into the 3 dimensional.
By the late 70’s, I was selling colorful plates and watercolors at the Candy Store in Folsom CA with the regions famous Funk artists, Robert Arneson, Roy DeForest, David Gilhooly, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt , Maija Peeples-Bright and Peter Vandenberge. I was a founding artist at the Stucco Factory in Sacramento during the 1980’s, producing paintings, etchings, videos, animations and a large body of small ceramics.
What was the starting point in your investigation with ceramics? Do you remember your early works? I acquired my first kiln a well-used 120 volt electric in 1980. I think you call it a test kiln; it had a low, medium, high dial, a very simple little thing with a peep hole but no kiln sitter. Having to guess what temperature it was by color, I would call, Fred Gorden or Peter Vandenberge and try to describe the orange shade, we would decide if it was 06 or not. I fired the heck out of that thing, never really thinking of myself as a ceramicist, I was just making little gifts, bowls with Folsom Lake Monsters on them for friends to put change i or guitar picks in or small cats and dogs for people to put on their TV sets. I would always have them around the studio for birthdays or Christmas. This is how I stumbled on my attitude about art making as gift making.
In 1982, I moved into my studio at an abandoned stucco factory in Midtown Sacramento, but there was a rat problem. I was taking over the rat’s home. I guess it wasn’t exactly scientific, but I reasoned with them by sculpting rat effigies, then shooting the wet clay with my plump up pellet rifle. The pellets tore thru the clay and left an incredible gaping exit hole. My friends and I would have contests, shooting heads off, little feet and tails everywhere. I left the clay rat mess around for a couple of weeks. I’m not sure it was the shootout, but the rats left the block. I wish I had fired the series, but I was busy painting for a show at the Fido Art Gallery.
I was making large Narrative Expressionistic oils in the early 90’s; a collector from Germany was buying most of them. When the collector saw some of my experimental ceramics he requested a clay dog, the one that was prominent in the oil painting, The Upper Room. I was getting the request thru an art dealer, so couldn’t really understand what he wanted. I made 7 or 8 clay dogs and he rejected all of them. The dealer sold the ceramic dogs to other clients, but the German collector had a vision. Finally, after a year of miscommunication we spoke face to face. The collector, Jim, was from California and lived in Germany working as a FedEx pilot. He showed up with photos of the oils he had bought and ask me to sculpt each of the figures, dogs, cats and all, in the narratives.
This was a challenge and I was willing to dive into head first! I idea of sculpting from a painting involved imagining what the back and side of a painted image would look like. This kindled a new fire within my creative spirit, I was thinking in 3D. I felt a new sense of freedom because it seemed like all the great painters in history were not looking over my shoulder as I worked; I could do whatever I wanted with clay.
I continued the process of painting, then sculpting for a couple of years. I would show the oils and ceramics together, but the demand and interest was for the ceramics. So for the past 20 years I focus mainly on ceramics. By using colorful slips and glazes I can still satisfy my painterly instincts and convey the joy I have for life. Honestly, I simply find ceramics fun and hope it shows in the work.
Where do you get your inspiration from and what motivates you? I have lived with my wife Kim, cattle dogs, cats and Chihuahuas, in a condo on the mysterious American River Parkway for the past 15 years. I call it mysterious because the area is full of wildlife even though it runs through the City of Sacramento (How can that be?). Every morning and evening we walk the dogs and encounter the nature, deer, coyotes, ducks, geese, otters, and pacific salmon, but the list goes on, not to forget the landscape. Art history is full of references of artists being influenced by nature and here I am, living with an incredible resource out my back door. I consider myself extremely fortunate.
Where do you see yourself now? Tell us about your future plans. What are you currently working on? Tell us about your future goals. One recurring theme for the last year or so has been dog houses. Dreams of Milkbone Fiend, for instance shows a sleeping pup with his dreams popping out of and illustrated on his house. When dogs sleep their feet kick around like they are trying to chase something, but they could be running from something. I tried to set up a situation for the viewer to complete the narrative.