"When I recall memories, dreams and inspirational ideas, I thinks of them as fragmented pictures like stills of thin film with each one layering over the other. And as I develop a thought these layers interact with each other. In my paintings I like to show the depth of interaction between these layers by uncovering them as I scrape and wear away paint to reveal the initial layers on the canvas. The distressed and corrosive qualities express the ephemeral nature of theses ideas and memories and how they can coexist on canvas the way they do in the mind.
In As Above, So Below, these paintings explore parallel universes. Each pulling, keeping us in a balance of Simultaneous Gravities. The electromagnetic field around every living thing from microbes to galaxies is the torus. The opened centered oval. I consequently positioned the sleeping deer coiled in on itself in a mode of solitude in regeneration."
Everyone knew Richard on campus; his hair was like a neon light, and his persona was just as stunning. He first cut my hair in a classroom down in the Arts Building, next to a slop sink in the printmaking studio. As time went by, we became thick as thieves and my hair got progressively shorter, until I too came home with a Mohawk and my mother hit the roof. It was turquoise. We always turned heads at UMA on our way to the SAC (for you newbies, the SAC, or Student Activity Center, was located where the photo lab is now, with a cafeteria and pool tables), or “The Pit” (now the center of Danforth Gallery). I always saw him full of confidence and boundless energy. His bold “live sculpture” exhibit in Danforth Gallery on April Fools Day in 1983, “Primitech,” drew me in hook, line and sinker, propelling us for three years into realms of incredible creativity. Richard always pushed us all in Primitech a little further than we were willing to go, never satisfied until he had taken every concept to the extreme. Through it all, he always projected a disarming humility, a gracious sense of humor, and a quiet, clear leadership ability to bring the most out of every situation. Recently, he shared with me that he had felt no sense of accomplishment or ability before he came to UMA. He felt he was, in fact, a mediocre student in high school, only excelling in art, and had no idea what to do with his life. His guidance counselor at Winthrop High School, Mrs. Whitney, steered him to UMA and the graphic assistantship with Phil Paratore, who mesmerized Richard with his dreamy painted imagery. Richard highly regarded his early exposure to UMA while still in high school; he sees it as playing a key role in building his self-esteem and confidence to earn a college degree.
Bruce Armstrong and Robert Katz also became strong influences for Richard, and it was always an adventure for both of us to reconcile all the varied teachings together, and a testament to the balance of UMA. It both challenged us to excel in our chosen path and to do so with all-out support and encouragement. One lesson that stood out in Richard’s mind as a great influence at UMA was from Robert Katz: “He made it very clear to us that we need to stay in concept. Design skills help us make our point clear, but concept drives our pieces to communicate to our audience. It triggers our higher imagination and creates an environment for our observers to be in. He was always pushing us to see a bigger picture and stretch our idea of what materials to use to best get that idea across. With Robert there were no boundaries.”
Richard now shuttles between California and Maine and has operated a business in decorative arts and painting for over 25 years. He credits his success both as an artist for others, from demanding celebrity clients to precision designers, as well as his success painting on canvas for himself, to the experience he had close to home at UMA.
His personal collection of surreal land and skyscapes were recently shown at Slate’s Restaurant in Hallowell, and large percentages were sold quickly. Slate’s all along has been very supportive of his art and theatrical career, having hosted many avant-garde performances of Primitech, where we “took over” the place in improvisation and mayhem. Anyone who was around in Hallowell back then will remember the hooplah. In recent years, he continued occasionally at Slate’s with a solo career as “Zu,” refining his voice and production level to a roaring audience. His last musical/theatrical show, entitled “TruHuman,” harkened all the way back to the exploration we began while students at UMA. I recognized the same strains based on Charles Ives eerie discordant music that we performed to then in my father’s basement, as I filmed video for an assignment in Phil Partatore’s “4D” class. That was quite a class; I know I was never the same. It seems ironic now that Richard’s powerful voice, that always reminds me slightly of David Bowie, was born in such a meek way. He asked me once, timidly, after we had started to create original music for Primitech, whether I really thought he could sing. I assured him that he could.
As we spoke recently of that journey through the 80’s, it strikes us both as important that we acknowledge not just the outstanding faculty and school atmosphere, but the community formed by peer students at UMA. In fact, the three years we spent collaborating, starting at UMA, were some of the most productive of our lives; they were just as important as the schoolwork, and we both hope to collaborate again in the future.
Only this time I think I’ll skip the Mohawk. All set with that.