Content
Event Booking
Web Links
Contacts
Tags
Categories
News Feeds
Search - K2

Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight - Tracy Powell March/Apr 1996

This is an interview with sculptor Tracy Powell, which took place at his studio in Anacortes, WA on March 5, 1996. Tracy has been a NWSSA member since 1992 and an active carver since 1980. He recently was elected to the Association's board and will be a carving instructor at the summer symposium. He contributes in many ways as a kind, joyous and supportive person, and by example, as an active creator. His stone sculpture is currently being shown at Gallery Mack, Seattle, WA.

Stephen Sandry: We start by looking at one of Tracy's works, a standing figure with her face buried in hands. The figure is approximately 42" tall in marble, entitled "Sorrow".)

 

Tracy Powell: This image came to me the day that Yitzhak Rabin got killed. The television news showed a woman sobbing into her hands. That's the human condition! I walked into the shop and saw this block of marble which had been sitting here for a year, and the idea for the piece popped right out. On the carving bench, the figure read as full size. But when I put it down on the floor, I saw "this is a girl". The image was transformed, and her whole story was different. So, my thoughts were to combine that figure with a life-size mother-type figure, perhaps with her hand reaching out to the child. (Tracy has been considering this work for an open competition for an art purchase by Harborview Hospital, Seattle W A. The general theme for the commission is healing.)

 

SS: Certainly sorrow and grief fit well with the healing theme, being precursors to deep healing.

TP: Maybe just by herself, she could be useful as a healing instrument. I think that's a really important function of art: to touch that vulnerable part of somebody else without hurting them. Saying it's okay to do this (cry, feel sorrow); not to force anybody to cry, but just to say it's okay.

 

Technically its not very good at all. The proportions are bad, and I should have tried harder for the drapery. But, it works. Here's another piece, "Cloud Swimmer", in marble. This boulder was in a stream in Eastern Washington. In the creek it glowed, and sparkled.

 

SS: Where did you find the idea for "Cloud Swimmer"?

TP: From the rock, but it took a while to figure out. At first I tried too hard. There's no distinguishing shape to the stone, and I was trying too hard to find some shape. Until I realized, it's just a cloud, with little pieces of the swimmer peeking out. That's all you have to do, fmd a face here, a knee there, and let the rest go.

 

SS: This area, the Skagit Valley, seems to be an inspiring place to be, a place for artists to get inspiration.

TP: There are powerful primal forces that come together here. The Skagit River and Puget Sound come together, and Mt. Erie is the remnant of an old volcano. It's the basalt plug--all that's left of the old volcano after it eroded away. You've got the mountains, the river, and the forest to remind you of the primal elements.

 

SS: I'd like to talk about your history, particularly about your path as an artist. Where are you on that path?

TP: I'm in kindergarten!

 

SS: What do you mean? You've been seriously carving in wood and stone for about fifteen years. You've done lots of work. The work shows competence and confidence. You are producing regularly. How are you still in kindergarten? You've obviously learned enough to make a statement.

TP: No, not really. I feel that I'm getting closer, though. I think I'm still working on craft. The" statements" come later. I'm learning the "voice" now. I'm still learning the technical aspects: how do you hold the tool, how hard do you ~rike with the hammer, those kinds of things. And the material--what can you do to it without hurting it. How do you get it to do what you want it to do.

 

And it's understanding the forms. I've been playing with this one now for the last couple years. It's a leaf, and it's a flame, and it's a wing. It comes up to a point, and I see this everywhere. I'm constantly playing with that, redrawing the same form, hoping to understand it and learn what it's talking about. Other forms are the figures. I'm learning more about that and enjoying that a lot more.

 

SS: Perhaps you stay vital if you are a leamer, a student of anything you are attempting.

TP: There are things I think an artist should say. There is some sort of purpose to our work. But to express these ideas can be difficult. In writing a great poem, you've got to know your language so well that the words just spill out of your mouth. Robert Bums, or Bob Dylan ... although we may not have seen it, there was probably a great learning process for them to go through.

 

The skills have to become second-nature. It has to do with elegance. This I learned from a math teacher who sought elegant solutions to complex math problems. When you tear away all the bullshit, there is an elegance in the universe which we are striving to glimpse. For him the way to do it was "farout" math. He was right. Whenever you glimpse something like that, it's a big AH HA! 1 think you learn and then you unlearn.

 

SS: How long have you been actively carving?

TP: Since we moved to the Skagit Valley in 1980. Prior to that 1 had been working for the city of Everett Parks Dept. and playing a bit with art. That time was mostly devoted to work and family. I was hanging on to a little (artistic) thread that I knew was in the background and that I would get back to later. Prior to family life, I was bumming around, living on the streets--being inspired by Jack Kerouak! I painted pictures on people' s walls, ceilings, sheets, blankets.

 

SS: What led you to carving?

TP: I had enjoyed whittling as a Boy Scout. Later I was introduced to Indian art. I found the Northwest Indian art to be very exciting: masks, totem poles, and cultural paraphernalia. I started playing with copying some of those forms, as a hobby. My job with the parks led me into management, giving orders to thirty people, which I hated. It drove me berserk. That's why we moved to the Skagit valley. My head was ready to separate from the rest of me. My artist spirit was pretty well smothered. It felt like moving here was the only place I could survive. It seemed like a life-or-death matter. I worked with my brothers here at boat building and odd jobs. Eventually, I started my woodcarving business, doing signs for boats and businesses. 1 worked at another parks job, but kept the carving going.

 

I carved a large cedar resnrrection figure ("The Burning Christ") for a church in Anacortes (4'xlO'). I worked for the Samish tribe and spent a year carving the "The Maiden of Deception Pass (24'h x 5' dia.) sited at Deception Pass. I then did cnltural preservation work for the tribe, cataloguing artifacts. I wrote a book on woodcarving in Co-Salish sty Ie (Handbook For Carvers: The Samish School of Co-Salish Woodcarving), this was about the local Native style (Vancouver Island to Oregon) which hadn't been written about. And I taught classes in this carving style. Working with the tribe, I saw how connected they were to the past cultural heritage. Things were still alive that had been going on for countless generations connected to this area. Going through that process as a voyeur made me want to find out where we came from, to get connected to that past. This has taken me to studying Welsh, Irish, Scottish history, and back into Celtic history. I'm looking for a Druid (the shaman class of Celtic and Iberian society) to talk to. There's written material dating to 500a.d. telling stories that were old then. These feel important to me, as if I can almost understand them. Some of the symbols I'm interested in come from this period.

 

SS: One of the things I'm interested in are the ideas and work that come through us unselfconsciousIy: ideas that flow from the universe beyond our limited selves. It appears like your work flows for you.

TP: I'm striving for that. As I said before, one thing I've been struggling with lately is abstract versus figurative work. All the abstract things that I do are basically two dimensional, they have two separate sides. In figure work it's three dimensional, every angle is a different picture of it. When working with a figure, it just comes naturally to work in 360 degrees and it's truly three dimensional. Bul. I haven't found that facility with abstract forms. I call them two and one half dimensional. more of a picture than a sculpture. I'm an admirer of Rodin. And one of his rules was that the sculpture had to be perfect all the way around, including from top and bottom views. That was a complete sculpture if it had that trueness. That's tough!

 

The other thing is a concept. Bill Holm and Bill Reid discussed in their book on Indian art, an idea called "emergent line". It is not a line that you draw, but a line that happens when you carry one plane in one direction, and you bring another plane up to it. Wherever they meet, that line emerges. Those kinds of lines have a certain grace to them. Those lines result from true three dimensional activity. You don't draw them in; they happen. That's a wonderful thing. They come out the cleanest and with grace. I think that's where I'm trying to go. Because you didn't force these lines to happen, yon allowed them, they've really got a presence. Maybe that's the "elegance", those things that happen "behind your back".

SS: What are your favorite stones to work with?

TP: The oolitic limestone. I enjoy all the stones, but limestone is by far the most fun.

 

SS: What qualities do you like about it?

TP: It doesn't get bright. It's very uniform in color. It makes nice shadow. In the stones with more color and pattern, they fight with the sculptural form. The other thing is that I do it all with hand tools. With a good point you can move this limestone fast. With the harder stone you have to hold the image in mind for so long. It takes much more time to get to where the figure is. It can turn around on you before you get there!

 

SS.: What is your source of inspiration?

TP: Life, The Force. Trying to interpret or describe that. One way to say it is that it's all religious art--it's Life. I want to describe it and tell how beautiful it is. There's a great joy in doing it. It's sensual as well as intellectual. That's why the hand carving in soft stone is so much fun. You can get intimate with the material and the image.

 

SS: With the flame/leaf/wing image, do you know why it is important to you?

TP: No, I don't. It just seems to be important. There are many natural objects that have that form to them. There are man-made symbols, like the yin-yang and the infinity symbol. It's primal. If I make enough variations on that, I might stumble upon an answer. There's a secret in there.

 

SS: Is it important to you to have your work shown, seen by others?

TP: It wouldn't have much function, if it was just for me. It's a lot of fun to do, but I don't particularly get off on looking at them when they're done. If someone else responds to it, then its complete.

 

SS: Perhaps that's the whole "conversation".

TP: If it doesn't go beyond you, what's the point? That's where fme art is different than spoken or written language. It's not very precise. It's more solid and tangible than other communication, but more up to individual interpretation. You're not saying one thing. You're saying a lot of things. The object becomes something else in the eyes of each person that looks at it. This can also change over time as perspectives change.

 

SS: Do you have a story in mind while working on a piece, particularly the figurative work'?

TP: Yes. When I'm carving a figure, I imagine a whole scene that it's in. The other figures, the scenery. the sounds and the smells. It's got a whole little world. But, the stone figure is all I can pluck out of that scene. That's why I may get back to painting again, to show the whole scene. That's part of the conversation with the piece. Over the time it takes to create a piece, that inner story or background may change several times. This may cause me to change the idea I started with originally.

 

SS: What is your work pattern?

TP: I squeeze studio time in amongst the other things I have to do. I'm always working on half a dozen images, but I try to do only one piece at a lime, all the way through.

 

SS: Where are you going with your art?

TP: I want to get better. I want my pieces to say what they need to say. Elegance, that's what I'm after: something like clearing the pool table with one shot. Start with a rock; hit it once and have a perfect sculpture emerge. That would be an elegant act!

SS: How are you involved with N.W.S.S.A.?

TP: I've been a member since '92 and was recently elected to a position on the Board of Directors. I've received so much from this group: technical skill and inspiration, guidance, support and love. I want to give a little bit back, to keep the wheel spinning.

 

SS: What is your vision for the group?

TP: I think it would be nice to have a permanent home, a place that was equipped for what we want it to do. It would be good to have a big studio somewhere that we could all use. The idea of a sculpture center at Sandpoint in Seattle (formerly the Naval Air Station) is a wonderful dream. I love that! It is supposed to be a dedicated art environment. Our group is on the list to be part of it, although it will take a long time before it is sorted out.

 

SS: Well Tracy, have you got any parting comments?

TP: Most human activity is either pointless or worse, except art. I think it's the only thing worth doing.

 

SS: Many thanks, Tracy, for all your contributions.

Artist Spotlight - Sandra Bilawich

The following is an interview with sculptor Sandra Bilawich, of Victoria, B.C., which took place in late December, 1995. Sandra is a regular contributor to the workings of the NWSSA Summer Symposium. She most recently coordinated, along with Daniel Cline, the Vancouver Island Stone Sculptors Symposium. She is one of those inwardly solid people who seem to live with clarity and purpose. In the last few years, she has focused that clarity on the creation of her sculpture as a full time occupation. Our discussion began while looking through her portfolio.

Steve Sandry: Tell me about the first sculpture, "Risk".

Sandra Bilawich: I returned from my second symposium in 1993 wilb a strong desire to try sculpting a human torso. I was feeling lbe need to take more risks wilb life and. by extension, my sculpting. I tried to think of all lbe tbings lbat "risk" meant to me as I worked. I selected Italian alabaster because it is soft, translucent and bruises like skin. Decisions involving risk usually involve running around the waist and up lbrough lbe right breast. This could represent a vulnerability or even scars left from life experiences. The overall figure is strong. with a twist at the waist, suggesting flexibility in dealing wilb life' s changes. The figure IS kneeling to indicate humility .

 

SS: So, was this a metaphoric piece about your getting into sculpture full-time?

SB: I guess it is. I had been sculpting full-time for a year. The very first day I spent sculpting at my first Stone Sculptors Symposium, in 1992, I felt tired but exhilarated, knowing I was looking forward to doing it more. It was lbe first time I'd done anytbing !bat had "ands" attached to it, instead of "buts". Then it became a matter of figuring out how to make it happen.

 

SS: How much sculpture had you done prior to 1992?

SB: None. During lbe summer of 1992. I met George Pratt selling his stone sculptures at Granville Island Market in Vancouver. He mentioned an upcoming stone sculpting symposium at Camp Brolberhood. I was working for one of lbe airlines at lbe time, as a technician. On an impulse, I booked my holidays and decided to give it a try. My first day. Myrna Orsini showed me how to hold a hannner and chisel. Everyone I met had so much to share, so open and tactile. It was an incredible experience. and I left feeling like I had found a new family. It reminds you, when you are working alone, how important olber people are.

 

SS: Do you tend to work long periods alone?

SB: Yes and no. The act of sculpting involves a lot of time alone in the workshop--in isolation. The finished product. lbe sculpture, provokes a reaction and is a form of communication and connection. Communication, interaction and play give me a source of inspiration and feedback which is very important. too. I need to have a balance between lbe isolation and the socialization. Both element,> are important, and help me to learn and grow as a person and as a sculptor.

 

SS: When you're working on a piece, are you thinking about communicating with people?

SB: Yes. but it is equally important to communicate with the stone, too. I remember once making a maquette for a sculpture lbat I wanted to do. I picked out a stone and began chipping away. Large pieces began to drop off in the wrong areas. I must have looked frustrated, because someone came up and asked me what was wrong. I remember saying, "The stone isn't listening to me. It isn't doing what I want it to." As I listened to myself. I realized I was trying to force my ideas on lbe piece. I had not taken the time to listen and find out what was in the stone. It occurred to me that I would never have tried lbat approach wilb a person. So, after lbat I began approaching my work with more awareness. From the beginning I now see lbere have been layers of "fog" !bat have lifted like little veils. And I'm allowed to see tbings with more clarity each time. The stone and the process of sculpting are therapeutic, like an extended course in communication. If you can communicate with a stone, you can certainly communicate with a person.

 

SS: As you work in lbe creating process. how do you stay in touch wilb lbe end product which will do lbe communicating?

SB: It changes as I go. Each piece is like a relationship. It grows and evolves as you put energy into it. You can't really define it beforehand. If I'm working on a commission, I try to think about lbe person for whom it is intended. Some of my ideas for sculpture come from stories. I think of a single image that will encompass the important elements of that story. As I work on it, each piece evolves--the ftnished sculpture is never exactly what I first envisioned.

SS: Tell me about your process of making sculpture.

SB: I'm a multi-task person. I like to have four or five things on the go, in order to feel good. T get a clear idea of what I think I want to do, then I start it. Then I start something else. I repeat this process about four times. Once I have all the pieces started, it moves along very quickly. If they are big pieces, I may have only two in process. Sometimes I will go to my metal work to keep playing and creating, yet give my stone carving muscles a rest. When I'm ready, I'll return to the stone and dive right in. But if I'm not ready, that tells me there are things inside me that need direction, or another experience I require.

 

For me, focus is very important. I'm a fairly spiritual person. Part of my Buddhist practice is to do prayers every morning and evening. They ground me; lbey remind me who I am and what I want to achieve. I go over my dreams and reiterate them to myself. This is where I build my sense of determination and my appreciation. done in lbe form of ritual prayer.

 

SS: Wherever the inner image comes from, it must be some kind of composite of who you uniquely are.

SB: I trust lbat whatever I am exploring at lbe time is important. However, it is not necessary that people see the same things in the sculpture that I do. Sometimes it will have a different meaning to them. There always remains that unknown element: the sculpture may act as a catalyst for them, revealing something in their lives that needs expression.

 

SS: I understand lbat you put on several of your own shows per year.

SB: I have done four shows on my own so far. I am discovering lbat my sculptures sell better when lbey are displayed all togelber. One of lbe benefits of your own show is lbat you get to meet lbe people buying lbe pieces and a sense of the sculpture's destination. The pieces are like children; in time, lbey leave to fmd lbeir own place.

 

SS: Do you keep the pieces around any given length of time before you show or sell them?

SB: I like to enjoy lbem for a while once lbey are finished, but occasionally lbey will disappear as soon as lbey are completed. When lbey're sold, you get to See lbe individual's excitement. I also enjoy it when people call me later to tell me lbat lbey lbink the sculpture is beautiful and how much it means to them.

 

5S: That sounds like real communication. Why do these objects have meaning to people?

SB: Because we place meaning upon them.

 

SS: Is it the energy that goes into it? Does this sculpture have an energy that's different than the raw stone?

SB: I think it's like magic. I have learned simple magic such as rope tricks and slight of hand. The whole idea of magic is lbe ability to change consciousness. With stone, people are amazed by how we, as sculptors, fmd something in the stone. I think of my work in stone and metal as taking things people overlook and presenting these materials in a form that they can appreciate. Sometimes, people discover more in a piece than even I have managed to see.

SS: Would you tell us about your history?

SB: I was born in Saskatchewan in 1963. My family moved to the Yukon when I was seven. The natural environment was very close. I was a big daydreamer, and had a good imagination that occasionally got me into trouble. I spent time wondering, "Why am I here? What is my purpose in life?" I was, left to my own devices as a child, and encouraged to pursue whatever interested me. I created fantasy worlds in my head, like parallel worlds. And you had to pass through little doorways in your mind to get to them.

 

I felt I knew more as a child than I do now. I felt like I was part of the world, part of nature. I was very comfortable being in nature on my own with animals; grizzly, caribou, moose. I felt in tune with nature. It was about people that I didn't have a clue. That was my next big adventure--leaming more about myself by learning more about people.

(Sandra recounts her adult travels and work history which include prospecting in the Yukon. studying geology, doing home renovations, sales in the stock market, working in a gold mine, working as a welder for an airline, and eventually becoming a sculptor.)

 

This was when I met George Pratt. I burned my boat once I found the shore I wanted to stay on. I quit my job and began to figure out how to make a living as a sculptor. I do not recommend this particular technique for everyone. It has created some challenges.

 

I've been a practicing Buddhist for the past eleven years. One expression they have is, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears". The teacher isn't always someone obvious. It could be a child, perhaps. who could teach you how to look at things differently. Sculpting is one of lbe things that appeared for me.

 

I'm also a member of the Soka Gakkai International, a nongovernmental organization associated with the United Nations. This group promotes world peace through education and cultural exchanges.

 

SS: What about your involvement now with lbe NWSSA?

SB: The Association has provided me with an invaluable opportunity to network with other sculptors, and many other resources--materials, education. The newsletters help me to stay connected wilb people and events. even lbough I am living a little off lbe beaten palb on Vancouver Island. This past year I was able to help organize a new symposium at Lake Cowichan. It was one of those opportunities for growth. I have renewed respect for the NWSSA members who are always so generous with their time and energy. (Sandra also participates in the fund raising auction held at the International Symposium at Camp Brolberhood. )

Artist Spotlight - Sudha Achar

I visit Sudha in her home near Wilsonville, Oregon. This is a spacious, light-filled contemporary-style home that looks like it was designed to display and enjoy art (Sudha designed it). It has a very open layout, with large windows that create an expansive sense of space. Sudha's paintings and sculptures abound and are displayed with their art collection. Mount Hood, in all of its splendor, can be seen in the distance across a rolling autumn landscape.

I am reminded of why I attempt to visit people in their own space/environment Simply experiencing a person's unique environment speaks volumes on who they are. As we view Sudha's large assortment of paintings and sculpture, it becomes clear that she is very diverse in both her art and her life and very at peace with it alL In her graphic work, she seems at home in several different styles; she works in very large and small scale (we look at her award-winning, 6'xlO' painting, "The Ganges'').

Her sculptural creations also cover a wide range. Stone carvings in alabaster, marble, chlorite, granite, jade, and basalt. She also works in ceramic, cast bronze, and most recently, glass. She seems to be an avid experimenter and learner. I came to talk to a sculptor and got a many-faceted creator who loves to cook and garden. She seems to allow herself to move with the creative impulse very effectively. I can't help but think she is something of a three-dimensional painting herself (she is often wrapped in silk "saris''). She has a gentle grace about her.

 

SS: What balance do you work between your painting and your sculpture?

 

SA: I don't have a plan. I just get into something, do it for awhile, then do something else. I have some very good work areas (an inside graphics area where she often works on the floor for large works, an area in the pool building where she paints and sculpts, a garage for clay and stone work and a barn for stationary grinding). But I don't like closed spaces when I'm sculpting, so I sculpt outside in the summer and I paint in the winter. That's how it worked out. With the breeze and the bird-song and the mountains, it's so inspirational. I just really love it.

 

 

I like to paint also. I belong to the International Experimental Society of Painters. You don't see anything traditional about my paintings. It's about freedom to create and have your own technique. There is an international show with members from around the world. They get together to paint and have a newsletter. They have regional symposiums. I go to Florida and paint for two weeks. All this is possible for me because of Patrick (Sudha's husband - both are psychiatrists in private practice). He is so encouraging. He's really my inspiration. If he wasn't behind me, I don't think I'd be doing all this. It's so demanding.

 

SS: And it sounds like you've found a personal balance with your art and your life. And having a supportive spouse is a god-send.

SA: He is so generous about wanting to make it happen for me. He covers my patients. He is so pleasant about me being gone, and then about coming to participate in my art activities and then the receiving hundreds of phone calls ... (An air of hawks soar by on the Oregon wind) I'm not under any pressure with shows and galleries so I do what generally pleases me. Fortunately for me, the galleries I'm in accommodate that to meet my time schedule.

 

SS: How do you organize your life? You seem to almost have three careers: psychiatrist, painter, sculptor. Anyone of those could fully engage a person. (Sudha even created a silk import business for two years.)

SA: People ask, "How do you do it?" It seems to come together. Sometimes I have to work at it, but most of the time it seems to fall into place.

 

SS: How long have you been doing all this?

SA: Painting ten years and sculpture eight years. I like to learn different techniques; glass fascinates me. It's like three-dimensional painting. Sometimes I think, oh, maybe I should put all my time into one medium, but I think I like the variety.

 

SS: What results from working in such different areas?

SA: My glass instructor aid my glass work was painterly. Others say my paintings are sculptural, which means you create a three-dimensional effect in your paintings. I guess one helps the other very much. Drawing certainly helps sculpture.

 

SS: Do you think drawmg can help when you're doing "direct" (spontaneous) carving?

SA: I like to direct carve. Sometimes I conceptualize the piece by drawing it from different views although it may not end up that way. I have not been successful at making a maquene; it's not my style.

 

SS: When did you move to the U. S.?

SA: 1973. I did my graduate work in London. I actually lived a few miles from Henry Moore. I'm really influenced by that group: Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Jean Arp. My favorite artist is Antonio Guadi. He was know for his architecture. His architecture is sculptural. (She also mentions Donetello, Alexandro Pamodoro, David Smith, and Georgia O'Keefe.

 

SS: Do you find inspiration from Guadi's work in your sculpture?

SA: I think it's a summation of all these people I have admired.

 

SS: How did your upbringing in India affect your art?

SA: When I was seven, I remember looking up at an old temple sculpture and thinking about sculptors chiseling and making dust as they created these figures.

 

SS: How does your cultural experience affect what you do now?

SA: Being brought up in the sophisticated and cosmopolItan Bangalore area, I was encouraged to have the ability to do anything that can be done. Some of my paintings show the Tantric influence. (We walk around and view her art. We look at a piece of stone sculpture in yule marble, a 16" long "Lingmn" phallus shape - "part of the creative force." She tells about her adventure getting the piece through the airport x-ray machine and explaining that "it was just a stone." We look at a small standing figure in Colorado Yule marble, and "Black Iris" an abstracted lily form in chlonte.)

 

SS: What are your favorite stones to work with?

SA: Marble is my favorite, with all its colors. Even though I like the white marble, it's tiring after awhile. I like stone with more of the inclusions. And I like the harder stones: granite, basalt.

 

SS: Is there something about a stone that has more character, shape or color to it that might enthuse you to do something with it?

SA: I let the stone inspire me. (She tells about coming to her first symposium 1991/92 showing up in her silk shirt and red hat (trademarks) without any tools. George Pratt helped her get started and loaned her his tools. She chose to carve a face marble.) He has started so many people that way. That same year I went to the Marble, Colorado, symposium because I wanted to learn this. They gave me this 7' grinder and said "go for it" I didn't know any tools then. Initially I was intimidated but, with encouragement, I learned. (Most of the time, I liked using the 4" grinder.) I don't like to carve away too much stone. (We look at a female torso in realistic style with a dramatic opening to the abdominal area.)

 

SS: Is the opening a conscious thing or...

SA: It's just a "Iet-us-see-what-happens" thing. It's a free-associating thing.

 

SS: When you go back to it, does it have a rational meaning for you?

SA: It's a highly erotic piece. It was hard for me to do that (cut in the void because it was such a good figure form) but sometimes you want to not be so attached to that (perfect form).

 

SS: (We look at "Shiva", a male torso 3' tall in a thin slab of chlorite.) Your pieces have radically different styles. Why is that?

SA: It's a different day. It's a different me. If you watch the colors (in her painting), they're similar. I can't get away from that (brilliant primary colors) (We look at her fused glass, and small cast glass. She is excited about her recent experiments.)

 

SS: Do you have a preference in the sculptural media you use?

SA: I like stone a lot But then, I like the spontaneous too. And now the translucency and luminosity of glass is getting to me. (We discuss an alabaster figure "Parvathi" - Shiva's consort.) This piece evolved from the curved cut of the grinder mark on the stone into a torso form. At one viewpoint, it looks like there are two figures. That's what I aim for - a sculpture that has rhythmic lines from any angle. It doesn't matter if it has an identifiable shape or not as long as that works. That's what I'm interested in.

 

SS: So you don't have a clear preference between realistic and abstract style?

SA: I'm intrigued with the human form becanse of that pleasing line from all viewpoints. More so in the female form. (We look at her new fused glass panels and talk about their color.) That's how I see work in one media supporting the other. My interest in painting helps me with design. Glass, oh, it's fascinating. It reminds me of coming to the symposium for the first time and seeing all the different stones. I was like a linle kid following the piper.

 

SS: How do you find your art work relates to your work in psychiatry?

SA: They're very interrelated. They connect free association and logical thinking. A good physician is an intuitive physician. A great physician-scientist doesn't make a healing physician. A physician who blends the art of conveying his science to the patient makes a great physician. So I think it's absolutely interrelated. Also, I have the knowledge of so many souls, intimately, more than most people (having worked with many people). And that stays with me; it shows up in places I'm not even watching out for.

 

SS: Do you use drawing in your therapy?

SA: With children I use it a lot They don't know how to tell you their sorrows. But if you let them tell you a story about their drawing, you've got all that infonnation. It's non-threatening. You can talk in third person.

 

(We tour her carving area in the garage. We view several sculptures in process then move to admire her collection of stone: large pieces of jade, granite, many types and colors of marble, and basalt laid out for viewing around her outside carving area.)

 

SS: How do you do your lifting?

SA: All by hand with the help of others (often it's Patrick). Soon I'll buy an engine hoist. I'll learn how to strap and lift. I don't think there is anything like doing it yourself to learn how to do it. (We look at a 4' high triangular column of black granite and she describes her plans. "I'll leave it simple, work the edges, add a circle here, and polish it."

 

SS: Do you find the physical part of stone carving difficult?

SA: In medicine I got accustomed to being in a position of gi~ng. To ask for help is hard (in moving things and such), but I learned to get help. I'm now physically stronger than I've ever been in my life and I pace myself in the work, alternating tasks to ease the stress.

SS: How often do you work?

SA: Whenever I have time. It's actually in spurts, between traveling and other activities.

 

SS: It seems your whole story is about traveling, experimenting, learning and creating. Were you encouraged by your family to do art?

SA: More in the performing arts. My mother was a concert vocalist in Indian classical music. I can't carry a tune. I remember my father taking me to a local collection when I was a linle girl. There was a painting of a woman holding an oil lamp in which the lamp is burning, illumined. I went over to see what's behind the painting, lighting the lamp, and hit my head on the wall. It thought it was so beautiful that someone could do that. My interest was medicine at the time and my parents supported that.

 

SS: What are your major themes?

SA: The human figure. In my paintings a lot of times, the soul comes through. As the figure, it's the form and the line, the grace; I really feel it. In my abstract work, it is shape-for-shape-sake when I am sculpting the piece. But when I look retrospectively, the shapes seem to represent some part of the human body.

 

SS: What would you say the origins of your art are?

SA: I think it's the intuitiveness. It comes from the soul. And intellect defines it. But you couldo't do it from smarts alone. When you look at things in retrospect, you analyze and get insight into it. When I look back and think "why am I doing this?" I realize my philosophy of us being here is "have fun and leave the place a little more beautiful." I've achieved that in medicine. I've relieved pain and suffering and comforted patients. Hopefully in my art, I'll leave something behind. In my home life, I think I make Patrick happy. I do struggle with some of my art when it doesn't achieve what I want as soon as I want. In some pieces, pain does surface. As long as I'm not fully confident of the technique, then I'm conscious of what I'm doing. Once I know the technique, I let it happen. And then things show up. And most of them end up being an exuberant expression of myself.

 

SS: Thanks, Sudha.

 

Note: Sudha has been a board member for the 96-97 term acting as liaison to Oregon members and is just finishing helping review our bi-laws. She arranged and organized an upcoming stonecarvers show at the Oregon capital building. She also helped organize the last Silver Falls stone carving symposium at which she was an instructor. She is represented by Nancy Jordan, Inc. (Seattle), Art Inc. (Portland, Oregon), and Charlotte's Gallery (Sun River, Oregon). She has had shows at the Medical Association (portland. Oregon) and Intel Corp. (Portland. Oregon), and the State Capital Building (Salem, Oregon). She also shows with Sitka (a non-profit group promoting art and ecology).

Artist Spotlight - George Pratt Sept/Oct 1997

As I arrive at his home George is showing his sculpture to some customers at his dining room table. It is a nicely appointed room; the pieces are displayed in an attractive showcase and on various surfaces around the room. They are lighted with spotlights. Most are smaller pieces carved from marble and jade. His customers select two of the bird forms in Rainforest Marble. The birds are balanced so that they pivot on their plate-glass bases. George wraps them up and writes a personal note to accompany them. On the way out the door one of the people puts a 'hold' on one of the sculptures on the shelf.

 

GP: You see, those people who buy that little coffee-table sculpture for a wedding gift- they also work somewhere-perhaps at a firm downtown that would have influence on doing public artwork. The guy who owns one of your smaller works may be the one who will recommend you to be purchased into the corporate art collection.

 

We then head off to George's studio a few blocks away near Vancouver's Chinatown. It is a one-story industrial building with a paved surrounding yard right next to the train tracks. Trains occasionally thunder by...

 

GP: It's difficult for sculptors to find suitable downtown space to do their dirty work. A screaming diamond grinder will bring an irate neighbor faster than anything I know. I have a wonderful shop immediately adjacent to the railway tracks. If you think I make a little noise or dust, you should see what the railroad does! So they can hardly blow the whistle on me.

 

We proceed to tour his studio. We look at his 'Shadow Garden', a collection of large river boulders gathered together in a grouping. Each boulder is carved with different patterns of line and texture, hewn deeply to emphasize the shadow effect of sunlight shifts and with depressions designed to catch rain. We move mto the studio and view a work in progress-a large horse's head in startling blue sodalite which will be featured in his November show.

 

GP: It needs to be a little more 'equine', more graceful of line. Up to now it has the character of a carousel pony. Simplicity is the name of my game. Strength and power through simplicity.

 

The discussion shifts to showing sculpture.

 

GP: You'll find few people attempting to make a living carving stone who've had a successful relationship with a gallery. Few gallery owners know how to present sculpture. Most have a tendency to put the sculpture in the corner as an adjunct to their paintings. Few will actually feature sculpture nor light it properly.

 

Michael Binkley and I had our own gallery for two years. We made it a policy to show only sculpture abetted by lots of flowers in stone vases. There was not a painting in the place, because much as we like paintings, they steal the focus from sculpture and we wanted to make sales. And sell we did - a tremendous amount of sculpture from that delightful little showroom, both of us building our collector base tremendously. It was well lit with spotlights-a must if you want to sell sculpture. As you can tell, I'm opinionated about these things. But that is what has helped me survive. I've seen people set up home sculpture shows but they don't go to the trouble of installing proper lights, i.e., focused spotlights on every sculpture. It's half the battle. (Another of George's interesting opinions is that assigning a title to a sculpture can interfere with a sale if the client can't relate to the title. He tags his works with only generic descriptions.)

SS: When you price a piece of sculpture, what are the considerations? Why do you price the sodalite horse's head at $10,000?

GP: Clearly I didn't work it out 'by the hour'. The price in this case reflects an arbitrary value I have placed on its uniqueness and elegance, a factor that goes beyond the hard cost of producing it. It's priced for mystique, not practicality. However,l must know in my heart that the piece will be perceived to be worth the money. It may not sell. But who wants to be seen at a show where everything is cheap? What art writers would care to write about it? There are many people among us to whom $10,000 for a fine artwork is not significant. Such people do not want to buy what everybody can buy. They seek out that which is rare as well as beautiful. At our last Faces & Figures show, I sold a $15,000 piece and in the one previous, Michael sold a $19,000 piece and I sold a $6,000 piece both to one customer. Those people will be back to our next show with their friends-and they will be expecting an encore of something equally worthy. But as well, one's show must have many works priced between $250 and $750. There is an army of ordinary working people out there who love sculpture and they can and will put that amount on their credit card.

 

We examine the horse's head.

 

GP: I made this for our biannual Faces & Figures show about five years ago. It started out as a massive block of soda lite from a quarry near my home town in northern Ontario. It is a splendid stone, profound blue, nicer than the Lapis Lazulis you've seen. I showed it as a finished work, but although it was competent and adequate, it never really pleased me. It was not exciting. It was a playground pony rather than a spirited mare. So I put it away out of sight for four years and have now started recutting it. And I can already see that in this year's show it will convey the excitement it lacked before. Horses are not my forte, I should point out. I've had to struggle with this one. But it was almost a horse when I found it in the quarry.

 

SS: So what was your thinking in reworking it?

GP: I thought, if I do recut it, will it be a better sculpture? Or will it just be a waste of time? I firstly had to figure out what was wrong with it. After a four-year cooling off period it was easy to look at it clinically rather than passionately and see that the main problem was too much weight in the throat and an indistinct jaw-line. As well, the ears needed to be more drawn out and graceful. Clearly there was a more elegant horse lurking in there, it just needed some tweaking. So I got started recutting. I want a lot of money for it, so let's make it worth the money. I'll be also working on slightly 'doming' the flat bottom so that the horse will rotate when gently pushed. I discovered that in sanding the flat bottoms of my 'coffeetable' sculptures they have a tendency to round off. If the center of the resultant 'dome' be near the balance point of the carving, then it will rotate on its base, lending an agreeable kinetic value that a stationary piece does not have. It has become a trademark.

 

I love art. 1 love sculpture. But I've never considered myself to be a great artist. I go to the symposia and I'm envious of the abilities some of those sculptors possess, novices and experienced artists alike. I could take a lesson from most of them. My natural skill is in making sales. I genuinely like people and can relate well to almost anybody. I can sell things to people who didn't intend to buy in the first place. In the beginning, I didn't give much conscious thought as to whether I could be a success as a stone-carver. I just knew that even if I wasn't very good at it I'd still make lots of sales. I encourage all aspiring sculptors to work hardest on the sales part of their career. I hear some who say loftily that the purity of their work is all that counts and they will never compromise their principles merely to make sales. And that is very noble. But it usually ensures a career as a waitress or taxi-driver.

 

We tour George's studio. We visit the 'wet' room in which he does his waterfed carving and polishing. He has a drill press for core-drilling with water, a station with 10" x 1/4" carving blade running at 3400 RPM, and a station for sanding with both silicone carbide and diamond belts. (The carbide belts are not as aggressive but they are more flexible, he explains.) All machines are driven by permanently wired 220V electric motors. The room has a floor-drain to carry away the carving slurry into a cleanable catch basin. As well, he has a 20" diamond chopsaw which results in an 8" cutting depth, used for getting his raw material down to a carvable size with little waste. He considers this to be an essential for the serious carver. His compressor and air-powered carving gear as well as hand tools are in the main room, He

likes to work on pieces in progress in the outdoor yard where he also store his raw material. About the shop are example of 'utilitarian art' as he calls it: Granite benches and garden lanterns; stone oil-lamps and flowervases; and an attractive business-card caddy made with granite cores set in a concave base. He produced two hundred of these last year for presentation gifts for a bank. More hard work than

great art, he comments, but it paid the rent. "If you reserve the ability to make utilitarian items you can stay alive as a sculptor."

SS: What balance do you try to achieve between utilitarian items and fine art pieces?

GP: In a perfect world I would like to produce nothing but pure art sculptures the size of a bread-box. One can start and finish such works before one gets bored with them and they fetch respectable money when they sell. And they are large enough to be thought of as important. Good for the ego, very collectible for the corporate lobby. That I'd like to be able to do with no interruption. But there's always the nagging practicality of making sales, So the preponderance of my work is in pieces smaller than a loaf of bread-mostly animals and birds and small human (mostly female) figures. About 70% of what I have survived on has been those kinds of pieces. The other 30% has been 'larger-than-a-bread-box', in fact sometimes quite massive. It's nice to get a commission for a large public art-work. But such works tend to be better for the ego than they are for the pocketbook. They take a lot of energy and can result in a big-time vexation to the spirit.

 

SS: Note: George's resume includes "The Builders", a 21'-high composition of large black granite blocks and polished bronze figures located in a Calgary office complex. The commission included doing all phases of construction and installation for a price of $150,000, taking seven months. Among others, he promoted and co-created a multi-figure life-size installation depicting an Eskimo myth of the Sea Goddess Sedna. (George carved the Sedna figure which was seven feet high, carved from a 13,000 lb. piece of Arctic marble,) Three Eskimo carvers created accompanying figures of the animals over which Sedna rules. The pieces were carved at a wilderness marble site near Cape Dorset on Baffin Island (with many difficulties) and then transported to Toronto for installation in the corporate lobby of The Royal Trust Company. Commission price was $230,000.

 

GP: I am negotiating just now for a large public work which will be similar to an 'inukshuk', which is a structure of natural stones assembled into a human form. These forms are built by Eskimo people in the Arctic and are often used as markers for travel.

 

We look at the foam models for this potential piece. He has set aside two massive granite quarry-blocks at Quadra Stone's yard, each measuring 20 feet in length. These will be the 'legs' for his inukshuk.

 

GP: The stone is now in angular blocks, but I want them to look like worn river-stones, akin to the shape of huge french-sticks. My inukshuk will not have a secret, inner meaning. It will simply be a huge, carefully balanced sculpture of great mass and power. And its power will be, in its simplicity, there being only five pieces in the structure.

 

We look at George's sculptured benches, including one he describes as 'The Palliasse' bench. (Look it up in the dictionary.) At 4' long by 18" wide, it is made to look like a padded blanket or pillow which is flowing like a magic carpet. The flowing curves make it comfortable to sit on at any position. The base block is carved with rippling waves and shadow-lines.

 

SS: I know you don't profess to have any hidden 'meaning' in your pieces, but what were your thoughts when you were doing a work like 'Shadow Garden'?

GP: I'm not entirely into birds and bears. This work is total fantasy, no one piece being identifiable as a known creature or thing. Each is carved to maximize the effect of texture and shadow and form. Will it sell? I don't know. But in a departure from the eternal practicality of making a living that I have been harping about, 1 feel that I must do it and to hell with whether it sells or not. Not like me.

 

SS: How did you get into stone carving?

GP: I had worked at various industria I sales jobs. In 1970 I took a job selling high quality business furniture, which opened up the world of design and art for me. It was like being born again. I was surrounded by designers and architects. I learned the joy there can be in simplicity. I met my mentor, E.B. Cox, who was the first stone carver in Canada to work in the scale of the 'coffee-table' sculpture. I became obsessed with his work and his life-style and I pestered him mercilessly to show me how it was done. I carved at every spare moment, learning all I could from E.B. and experimenting with methods of my own. By 1972 I had produced a small collection of very humble little carvings and was encouraged to sell eight of them at a craft show that year. So I worked at it all the harder, eventually spending more time at carving than at my job. I moved to Vancouver in 1975, doing two shows a year at my home for the next 13 years, building up a stable of collectors and getting much better at the craft. Eventually the business built up and 1 took my last regular paycheck from a job in 1979.

 

SS: How do you see yourself as a teacher?

GP: I seem to know most of the things you have to know to make a sculpture. I don't pretend that I'm teaching people much about art. There are so many good artists in our association. But I carve stone every day and there are not many problems about producing sculpture that I have not encountered. So I have a let to teach people who seek knowledge. I like people who like stone. I'll be at the Cowichan Lake symposium in September and Silver Falls again in the spring.

 

George seems to embody the notion of "Just do it." He is generous, if opinionated, as well as energetic, very productive and encouraging of others, a fact to which many in this group can attest. He is one of the founding members of the association. He is a regular instructor at our symposia, in which he shares his knowledge of tools, process, and sales. He also occasionally shares articles about tools or carving processes in this newsletter (a collection of which he promises is getting ever closer to being a book for stone-carvers.) Many thanks, George, for all you've contributed!

Artist Spotlight - Nancy Green

The following is an intenriew with sculptor Nancy Green. Nancy has been a NWSSA member since 1992 and is currently membership chairman. She has been a teacher, artist, sculptor, and mother. Although "retired" from fulltime work, she has a fulltime schedule with her art work and assistance to NWSSA. I visited her at her home and studio in Seattle, Washington. The small home contains her art - both finished and in progress. She showed me her outdoor studio - a covered porch obtained with the help of Mary and Forest Hamilton, Jim Paget, Irene Hewins, and Nicki and Steve Oberholtzer and built by Steve. It contains a small work table. (Editor's note: Stephen Sandry will return to doing the interviews next issue)

 

Barbara Lynch: When did you began to do art work?

Nancy Green: I have been drawing and painting since the age of eight. I took my first life class at age twelve. I have drawn portraits since high school and done watercolors and landscapes.

 

BL: When and how did you begin sculpting?

NG: I took sculpture classes taught by Everett DuPen in 1946 and 1956. We worked with clay, wood and plaster casting. I did wood carving when I could.

 

BL: Was this the beginning of your interest in sculpture?

NG: No. When I was a child, I would do drawings of sculptures. I have always been interested in the human form

 

BL: Did you have exposure to art as a child?

NG: Yes, when I was eleven, my folks took me to New York to the art museum.

 

BL: What is your formal training besides the sculpture classes?

NG: I have a degree in art education. I graduated from the University of Washington in 1962. I also took art and anatomy there. I had wanted to be a medical illustrator, but it was not meant to be.

 

BL: Did you become an art teacher when you got your degree?

NG: No, I taught handicapped children. I did, however, use some of what I learned by having the kids do paper sculptures.

 

BL: What was your first job or sale doing sculpture?

NG: In New York City, I made two sets of teeth in wax for the Columbia University Dental School at five times normal size for them for teaching purposes.

 

BL: Have you worked on other projects that might be classed as teaching aids?

NG: For forty years I have worked off and on to carve a wooden skeleton to use to teach human anatomy to sculptors. This would be more fully articulated than medical school skeletons and would allow clay to be used on it to show muscles in various positions. Several years ago, I had access to some skeletons in the Anthropology Dept. at UW. I made several sketches to use for this project. The bones are being carved from boxwood. When I worked at Boeing doing drafting, I had a large french curve I used a lot. I realized this would be useful in doing a spine. That was how this project started.

 

BL: What sculpture are you currently working on?

NG: An African woman with a baby done in chlorite. My fish sculpture was recently on display at the Washington State Convention Center and has been entered in a juried show at Anacortes.

 

BL: What is your philosophy about sculpting?

NG: Understand the subject you are projecting in stone whether it is abstract or representational. Then you can visualize it in stone. Practice in any medium yon can.

 

BL: What is your approach to doing a sculpture?

NG: The first thing is roughing it out. This takes a long time. Then I refine it. It is important to pay attention to the parts that stick out. An example is the dorsal fin on the fish. I had to keep carving the fish down to have enough room for the dorsal fin.

 

BL: Do you do sketches before you begin the work?

NG: Yes, and sometimes I do a maquette such as a clay model.

 

BL: How do yon know when a piece is finished?

NG: WhenI am satisfied with it.

 

BL: Have you had pieces that you start that don't work for you and how do you deal with these?

NG: I have two friends who give me feed back. They can be more objective than I am when I am working the piece. I also put the piece away for awhile and am able to be I more objective when I later work on it.

 

BL: Do you have advice for begimting sculptors?

NG: Patience is a given. Also, different stones have different characteristics. Learn the unique characteristics of the stone you are using.

 

BL: How do you approach teaching?

NG: I respect that each person has a uniqne way of seeing things. I have them look at the thing they are sculPting from five sides including from the top.

 

BL: As a woman. do you see your approach to art as different than a man's.

NG: I think that women can do children better. Everett DuPen did wonderful children. He was an exception.

 

BL: Tell me about your bronze piece "Mother and Son."

NG: When I took sculpting from Everett DuPen, I remember working on a clay model and doing what I thonght was a fairly good piece. Everett looked at it, said okay, and then had me throw the clay back in the clay pile. We didn't save any of our work, but by the end of the quarter, "Mother and Son" done in clay was the result. I was a mother myself then and could understand a little of what being a mother meant. I later had the piece cast in bronze.

 

BL: Has this piece been entered in any shows?

NG: Yes, in the show that Patti McPhee organizes for the blind. Here is what the blind judge had to say about the piece: "This goes well together. I like the hand, and it all really works together - shoulders, face, everything. It is a person. I can tell it is a person. Everything works well. The lines are well formed, even the shapes work well together. It is a person, I know."

 

BL: Which sculptors most inspire yon?

NG: Michelangelo, Henry Moore, & Gaston Lachaise.

 

BL: Are there themes in your work?

NG: People and animals. Their structure and form. That has always fascinated me.

 

BL: You have worked in various media such as wood, clay, stone, and with painting. Have you had a time when the knowledge from these have come together to enhance a piece.

NG: It has enabled me to see the sameness of people. I can call a person with black skin "brother" because the bone and muscle structure are all basically the same for everyone. I have also learned to see better. For instance, all Chinese people don't look alike to me. My son had a Polynesian and an African girl friend. I could appreciate their beauty and I used them in some of my artwork.

 

(Nancy took me an a tour of her harne, showing me various pieces of her work)

 

NG: This was my first threedimensional piece. It is a bird done in juniper. And this girl in myrtlewood was an early piece that was in a show at Queen Anne. I know now that the proportions were not quite right. Proportions are so important. I wish they would have given me some feedback at the show.

 

BL: That is an interesting piece (pointing to a 2-1/2 foot carving). Tell me about it.

NG: It's a house post. We were doing some remodeling and on my family home on Queen Anne and replacing a section of post. So I carved it into a female nude in a dance pose. When we sold the house, I was able to take a part of my home with me.

 

BL: You have been active in the Association since you became a member in 1992. I know you are membership chairman and have helped with the newsletter. And I was at a workshop working with clay using a live model. You were teaching proportions and bone structure. Someone mentioned that you were involved in a show for Everett DuPen.

NG: I was working at the Frye Art Museum and suggested they have a show of Everett's work. Everett had had a show there some years before and it was well received Everybody agreed it was time for him to have a retrospective show. A group from the Association helped to gather and bring in the work. I later heard from several sources that it was the best show they ever had.

 

BL: Thanks, Nancy.

Artist Spotlight - Reg Akright

The following is an interview with sculptor Reg Akright. Reg has been a NWSSA member since '91 and has been a contributor to the Sculpture Northwest newsletter. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Art Council of Snohomish County. He has worked at various heavy construction jobs including bridge ironworker, bronze foundry chaser, and miner. He works a full-time day job as a repair technician for a hot tub company. 1 visited him at his home and studio in Everett, Washington. The small home is full of art .(his and others including paintings by his father), a welded dining table and other metal art furniture by Reg. We then headed toward the backyard studio. Reg showed me his outdoor work areaa welded, awning-covered, "A" frame designed to support an "I" beam and track-mounted 3-ton chain hoist. Within this structure, a 5'x2' slab of granite awaits its first cuts. Next to this is his "cozy" indoor studio which is set up for pneumatic carving and steel fabrication and is warmed by a wood heater.

 

RA: I have a strong sense that I want to work with stone that's locally available. I really like the local granite, the cascade granite. It's cheap, it's a good stone to work, it's a part of our local environment and I like that. I like native Washington stones, though I'm not drawn to sandstone. With granite, it's so cheap I can play with it. If I screw up or break a piece, it can become "yard art". I'm not out much except my labor. In contrast, I have a beautiful piece of Portuguese marble in the studio that I'm anxious to work, but I don't have a refined idea yet, and I don't want to start 'til I'm certain of the way I want to go with it because it's such a rare piece of stone. I don't want to do the "wrong" thing with it.

SS: With the granite, are you more likely to just dive in?

RA: I have a pretty good idea where I'm going to begin in granite and I'm not afraid to just dive in. If I have a good idea about the piece, even if I haven't sketched it, I feel comfortable just diving in. I sketch on the stone or do rough sketches. But with the granite I rarely do a maquette. I have a pretty good mental picture of where I'm headed. I'll work out specific details on paper sometimes.

 

SS: You seem to primarily work with abstract or non-figurative forms. Why is that?

RA: I don't feel drawn to doing realistic work. I used to be an art-school elitist, but I don't feel that way any more. I've come to respect realistic work. Carol Way and Maarten Schaddelee use elements of realism in a way that I really like. I like it for what it is. I'd love to have some of Tracy Powell's work in my house. Rich Hestekind is a strong source of inspiration for me. When I first came to NWSSA meetings, he showed me a picture of a sandstone piece he'd done. The piece spoke very strongly to me. His formal vocabulary was such that it was yelling at me. It was seriously communicating. That was the inspiration to start carving again.

 

My source of inspiration, my pieces, are more a meditation on shape and line and form. I like gentle lines, subtle curves as opposed to sudden sharp curves. I like a smooth flow to something that makes a quiet statement of its own. I've tried to think of a formal justification for what my pieces are and why they are, but I don't have one. I just do what pleases me. I want something that's quiet and makes a statement and becomes part of wherever it is. Something that alters the space in a pleasant way. I want my pieces to affect space, not dominate or control it. I'm not out to make a social message or statement.

 

SS: What do you see as the importance of art? How does it function?

RA: (sigh) Try to imagine a world without art. Without great painting, sculpture, without a sculptural sense, the world would be au awful place, a dreary place. Art infuses every level of our lives. I view art as aualogous to pure research science, which has little point other thau to "find out". That's what art is, "finding out". From there it filters into society through design, into functional objects. Also, just to have art around, like large sculpture, is au expression that we're doing it because we can. They're expressions of the joy of being alive, being humau aud being able to produce a fine work of art.

 

SS: In your work it seems like you've settled into a path of sorts. You seem to have types of forms that you are developing.

RA: I've accepted the family of forms that has come to me. I've begun to identify "Reg" shapes. I don't fight that auy longer. I see the continuity in the work of other artists, similar forms. I like and respect Uchida a great deal. In his work, his formal vocabulary is one which speaks volumes to me. His work is similar to what I aspire to. He uses spare lines, not a lot of texture. I waut to integrate more natural surface in with somewhat fiuished surfaces, aud so on.

 

SS: Why is that? Why are you drawn to certain forms? Why are certain forms more compelling?

RA: There's something about strong simple forms that has always struck me. While working heavy coustruction on highway projects in Wyoming, I loved looking at long stretches of unmarked concrete, bridges that were completed, but without road approaches yet, standing alone. They were like huge pieces of sculpture standing in the Wyoming sky. The process of seeing those coustructious come together was almost a mystical sculptural- type experience. I've always loved those clean simple shapes. Then being on WWU campus in Bellingham, Washington (where he attended and graduated in sculpure '78-'79) and being around their contemporary sculpture collection (which includes work by major contemporary sculptors such as di Suvero, Caro, Nognchi, Serra, Morris, Holt), influenced me a lot. I always loved looking at sculptors who used strong, simple forms: Henry Moore and Braucusi, the classic moderuists. I've seen lots of art from different areas aud the work that has always drawn me is work that uses few lines to say a lot.

 

SS: Out of the possibilities which occur to you, how do you decide what to do?

RA: I gness it's au editing process. I have to trust that what I decide to do is going to be right. I don't know how spiritual a person I am - I sometimes think not very. And other times I think I have some sort of real strong, unexplained, spiritual connection. One thing I'm learuing over time is just to trust. Not to think things out too much, when I'm trying to decide how to go with a piece. It's that sudden impulse to do something. Before I know it, the tool's in my hand and I'm just doing it. You have to trust your artistic instinct. I could over-rationalize a piece aud kill the piece that way. Sometimes I just have to start. I've got a rough idea of what to do. I'll sketch and sketch, bnt I can't quite laud the idea, exactly what it is. But, I've got to start! I just start and it works itself out. Not every piece is going to be the best so you have to accept a mistake here and there as far as the learning process. You also have to learn to trust. If you make a mistake, you make a mistake. You're better to risk creating a piece that's not everything you think it could be, then over-aualyzing aud not creating anything.

 

With Cascade Monolith #1 (seen at the flower and garden show and subsequently sold to the 9th District Circuit Court of Appeals, Pasadena, Califoruia.) I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do with that piece when I started. But the opeuing in that, which turned out to be a square window, I hadn't conceived of. Originally I thought of a round opeuing, but couldn't figure out how to do it. I started working on the piece aud it just came to me, "this is how I do it". It turned out to be one of my favorite pieces because there was an element of surprise in it. Stonecarving is a slow enough process that you have time to think about it as you go.

 

SS: How do the rational and the intuitive elements work together for you?

RA: The initiative comes as the sudden flashes of insight. The ah-ha, the bolt out of the blue that says "this is how you do it." The rational part comes with thinking the process through - in the mundane parts of the process like gelling a good flat base, or looking at a line and deciding what bothers me abont it, what I need to change. The intuitive is the sudden flash of insight that's the heart of the piece. The rational is about "how" to make that intuitive flash work a bit better.

 

SS: Do you feel a sense of control over both processes?

RA: I don't know how to kick the intuitive into gear. It just comes to me at various times.

 

SS: How do you balance your day job with studio time?

RA: I like to get 10-15 hours per week in the studio. That is sometimes difficult to achieve with the demands of my day job. When I'm involved in a project, I'll set it up in the studio where I can work on it for whatever time I have available.

 

SS: How much work do you produce in a year?

RA: My goal is to get at least ten pieces out per year. I want this to be more and more a part of my living. The studio did earn a full quarter of my income last year. And the studio paid for itself.

 

(We then toured his yard stopping to view "Oolitic Apollo" a large Utah limestone piece atop a structure made of welded steel plate, painted red)

 

SS: One of the things you've got going here is the use of fabricated metal elements or bases. What is your thinking about these? Do you see the "base" and the stone form as one composition?

RA: I did "Organic Nike" and "Oolitic Apollo", (both contain limestone carvings aud welded metal elements painted red) one after the other. They were very important pieces for me. I was truly happy with what they accomplished. That's been controversial for others, about how well that works. I am working towards a piece that cau be viewed as a single integral piece, with metal and stone working together to create the piece. That's how I view this piece although the trausition between the metal elements aud the stone isn't as seamless as I would like. But, that's the artistic process, you don't know until you try. Each step brings me a little closer (to finding the best solution). I view art as experimentaL It's trying something new, going in a new direction, trying new combinations.

 

(We move into the studio and view Cascade Monolith #3 a cascade granite piece close to completion, on its w~ to be displayed at Gallery Mack, Seattle)

 

RA: This is a piece which took its own course. It was one of those pieces in which the energy didn't feel "right on". So I set it aside and completed several other sculptures. Finally, I saw the solution to what had troubled me about the piece and was able to complete it. It will have a "nine point" texture over the whole piece. I like that texture on this granite. Cascade granite is such a strong stone unpolished, rough, showing the strength of the stone. (I don't think it comes off well polished.). For the most part I like stones that are monolithic in character without much variation in color. The color tends to complicate a simple form.

 

SS: How do you decide about scale?

RA: I can have a general idea then go looking for the stone and adjust the scale accordingly when I find the stone. Or I can go rummage through the end cut pile at Marenakos stone yard aud find a piece I want to work with. I like a scale that is close to body size. Not so large that it becomes monumental. But not so small that it becomes an object.

 

SS: I'll close this interview with a quote from Reg's artist's statement:

 

"I love the processes involved in creating my sculptures. The noise and dust and resistance of the material involved in the stone-sculpting process, and the heat, smoke, spatter, and flame of the welding process, all satisfy an almost primal urge. From these violent processes are born pieces which, I hope, have a strong, yet serene, almost meditative presence. In that way I am able to integrate my intellectual/artistic side with my hard-laboring industrial history. Art is the glue that bonds and makes sense of my life."

 

Thanks, Reg.