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Inhe started his family business, R. He enjoyed making and improving things and used machinery, technology and his imagination to take on projects through Shaw Contracting. Shaw Contracting has grown over the last 38 years, with his business partner, Roger Wesenick and his son, Bradley. He was known to many as a "master storyteller", jokester and unofficial historian. Dick's first love was spending time with his three children, and his seven grandchildren. His favorite hobbies were visiting his job sites, driving his red Mercedes, railroading, and sailing.
Dick was one who liked to do things his way after considering advice and alternatives of course and experienced a broad range of outcomes always learning how to make the most of the next opportunity and looking forward. Some things Dick looked back on with a smile are: The family will welcome family, friends and guests to celebrate Dick's life on Thursday, December 8, Visiting hours will be from 2: You know, I wasn't working in clay; I was working in wood. So basically I went back to show them I could Dick shaw shaw floor it. I had a show in of ceramic pieces like that big winged piece out there.
And that was the beginning of my ship pieces, too. Then the ship pieces all culminated the next year,when I did that couch piece with the sinking ship that Rene di Rosa has. I remember those sinking ships. I really liked them. I got into the Titanic because-first of all, it's kind of spooky. I mean that idea of being so confident and the bad fairy gets you right in the middle of the ocean, and in the nighttime! But some of those pieces are kind of funny, too, you know-making lids of ships that you could take off It seems to me there is a layer in some of your work that does reference the dark side of things.
I think it's spooky, and everything is on levels. I don't know if you saw some of the iceberg ones. I made a ship on an iceberg and then everything lit up. They're from about It's spooky, but then it's kind of funny because it's an object made out of something else. Again, I'm not making fun of tragedy, but when some of these things get old enough, they sort of become something else. They get into the joke mythology. I'm reminded of the wedding cake piece with the bride and the sinking ship. That, of course, is funny and sad and the fate half the marriages in the country. That ship, I haven't let go of it. I keep hanging on to it. It's such a powerful symbol. I read where you talked about how both of your parents were students at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Both of your wife's parents were, too. The interconnections are just amazing. Well it's so funny because my parents were from two different parts of the country. They met at the Chicago Art Institute. They moved to Newport. Martha's parents were from two different parts of the country. They met at the Chicago Art Institute and moved to the same place, southern California. Then it turned out their drawing teacher was Martha's grandfather. So my mom when she saw Martha's dad, she said, "That guy looks just exactly like the drawing teacher I had at the Chicago Art Institute. We found out that, sure enough, it was his dad. Those unlikely connections reminded me of your constructions of cards.
Is there anything in those about how sometimes in life these fragile things actually do exist? It's about someone who made them. I think it's about a time. And it is totally about fragility. But it's about maybe the act of building the things and then leaving them there. Then maybe again about the person who made them. I know what you mean, but I don't know if I really intended that, but I think it's great if someone interprets it that way. So the fragility part-what is that for you? I just think life is a real house of cards. I mean some people are lucky and some people are not.
Some people work real hard to have it not fall apart. It's how you hold it all up. I think luck is a big deal. Has that been important for you? I think I've been real lucky. Making the right choice, just intuitively, is a big deal. I mean, just the idea of going to art school in the sixties and wanting to be that painter-the guy with the beret and the Camel cigarette, you know-then falling into ceramics just because I liked it. It turned out that I was pretty good at it, because I was big into building models. It was just natural.
Gil Bulwinkle sanctioned me that he spent himself how to do think by considering a manual that you had made, and which was only at the Art Breeze in the prophets. I'm a valid of the San Francisco Art Pneumatic.
I just sat around making models, flior I didn't fit in anywhere. So the love of building my own fort and then getting in there, and building these model boats-just boats in general-because I was raised around them. I just did tons flpor airplanes and Duck, and I collected tin soldiers. You must have some really good memories from those hours of model making. I can even smell the balsa wood and the glue, and trying to carve that stuff foor and flokr it. Is there an important aspect of model building that has to Dickk with floro feelings shaa go along with it?
Shww still feel it. I get sentimental about it. I mean you think about the smell of the old house you used to live in. When you say, "I get sentimental about it" maybe there's ehaw dismissive in that word Sentiment is practically what all of this stuff is about, in a serious way. No, "sentimental," to me, is not a bad word. I mean I love all this old stuff. The neighborhood that Virgil [Shaw's son] fooor moved into in Portland, when it was new shzw it was probably a big deal. Now it's just sitting there abandoned. But there's kind of a sense of that whole period. But now it's going to go toney. At least, it's got some mistakes in it. It's not like a strip mall where everything is the way it's supposed to be.
Because not everything just worked. And it's got this cultural mix, including Russians, Spanish and Asians. You see stuff you don't expect. Why is that so much better than the polish? You know that stuff. You know what they want you to know. Then these guys figured out how to commercialize it, and turn it into something that makes money. Earlier I was looking at all the objects you've collected around here. I heard Wayne Thiebaud say that he thought it was important to surround yourself with objects that meant something to you. Collecting things that you love. You're not going to copy them.
You may not even draw them, but you've got to have them because they've got that sense of someplace. Well, I wanted to ask you about the art history that interests you. I know it's a big question Well, I think part of education is being aware of the whole picture. Usually, unfortunately, it ends up being only Western. Maybe it's better now. The history of ceramics is maybe the oldest art form. I don't know what else is. Maybe whistling or something [laughs]. It goes back so far. There are so many possibilities with clay alone. You can make stuff look real. You can make stuff look like dirt. You can make stuff be anything!
All over the whole world, there's someone making something out of mud. So I think all art history interests me. The only thing that really bores me is those goddamn Baroque paintings! I guess I'm looking for mystery, something you don't understand fully. But if I was to narrow it down to maybe the objects I like in art history, they seem to be of a smaller scale. A few days ago I saw a portrait that somebody had done. It wasn't photo-realism, but he brought this person to life! If you looked at the eyes, the brush strokes, it looked like he just jammed the brush on the table a couple of times before he stuck the paint on, but he just had the magic.
That's an interesting power that happens sometimes. That's what I hope the work will be.
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I think that an illusion is that magic, too. There's that shift that the observer makes, especially when they don't know what it's made out of. You think, "Oh, it's this dumb stuff. Hopefully, there are levels way past that. You have to examine this pen right here, which you wouldn't do. People sort of don't pick up on the beauty of things. I mean some people consciously see these things. Bob Hudson is a great one, and my wife is another one at seeing stuff. They'll see it and say, "Hey, look at that! Illusion will help that, in a way, and humor does, too.
Tell me again, what is the shift you're referring to? You didn't know if it was an accident or not. Well, I kind of noticed this yellow line, but then Martha said, "What's with this yellow line? So the shift has to do with conscious attention?
I think it is. A shift of attention. I was certainly going to mention this thing that William Blake said Dick shaw shaw floor it seems to relate to your work. He says that truth exists in the particular. That's a good one. That's a good point, because you're playing music in here [pointing to head], you're thinking about something, you're observing, and maybe there's a voice over here. I don't know if people are calmer than I am or just more aware visually of what's going on. So maybe you can, I wouldn't say isolate it, but bring it right there into focus somehow.
So you're walking down the street, thoughts going on, music running through your head-so would the shift be really seeing that pen sitting there on the table? That's what I'm trying to get at with what I'm doing. I read you being quoted saying, "There's something so great about a pencil sitting on a book. I keep using that same thing. It's there and you don't ever notice it. But when you do, it's a new experience. If you really see it. Talk a little about that. I think it's when things aren't what they appear to be. But there are so many versions of illusion. I mean tromp l'oeil is a trick, kind of-if you were to define it as just one thing. But with illusion, in a broader sense, like with surrealism, which is certainly an influence, at least for me, things aren't what they appear to be.
It makes you look at things. It makes you have a new experience rather than the same old experience. It's kind of jarring. I don't think it's just a trick. It's a tool you can use. Is my life, too often, an illusion? Am I living in a bit of a dream? Don't you wish it was? I mean, what about that? If I'm walking down the street, my head is full of stuff and a shift hasn't happened. But if I see that particular thing in its particular realness, maybe that inner talking stops. I think it does, probably for that second. I mean talking about that painting I was looking at the other day, I wonder if everything just slows down to a full-on focus on something? I guess it's even emotional, in a way, if it's that good.
It makes you want to go home and make something that's as good as that. It just stirs you. It had all these guys on horses made out of clay and then the scene went back into a painting. I had to go home and make that! Now that's interesting, because that portrait isn't something I can do. But I could do something else. Maybe I could bring something to life where, hopefully, someone else would get the same kind of reaction. I start wondering if you make things over and over and over because you're hoping to finally get that one, maybe this is a cliche, but it seems like I'm trying to get that one that really does the trick!
The one that's so great that you just fall over backwards. But illusion goes with a whole lot of things. It's not just visual. On one level, there's the delight of being tricked, "Wow, I really thought those were cigars, but they're made out of clay! Now why is that? I don't know, but hopefully it's more than that. Or it's delightful and something else-it leads to another emotion other than just delight. So when the word "delight" comes in, or the word "illusion," I'm hoping that it also has a serious quality to it somehow, and that magic we were talking about.
I can't explain that one. It's maybe something that comes to you through your body somehow. So if you see a pencil sitting on a book and you come deeply enough to that moment, a real moment of presence, it puts you in front of a mystery. And maybe it's not a pencil on a book. It could be a million other things that you make yourself that are like that. So it's your responsibility not just to imitate, but to bring that kind of an experience to somebody. I was watching some people look at one of my pieces, a house of cards, up in Sacramento. One of them asked the other, "Why is that in here? You can't force the experience, but maybe they have to go a little bit further because it's put in a different context.
You have to try to understand the point of its being there. It brings up the question of why spend all this time and trouble to make a copy of an object? It is an interesting question. When you look at it and you ask, "Why does someone spend all this time doing this? Why did they want to spend their time doing that? Why do you think they did? I think because it's so intimate. Maybe it's that truth you were talking about that Blake said: There's that concentration on something that's so prosaic. Because I spent that much time doing that, it makes that object important. And the object, is it a door into something? If you're willing to enter it, I suppose.
If you have to ask why, and you don't just walk past it and shrug it off. You have to think about it for a while. I mean, how many times, in a museum, do we think about something that's not just about a skill level or about a culture? It has to go further in. You were remarking somewhere on Cantonware that maybe thirty people touched one of those pieces. You said there was still a trace left. I wasn't quite sure what you might have meant-a trace A trace of a human hand. In other words it wasn't so commercial that it had completely lost that. I think George Washington had a set of Cantonware. Some of it is pretty magic. I probably liked it because, first I saw the commercial version and then I saw the original, which was all hand drawn.
It was probably like "Okay Charlie, you paint the birds. Jim you do the houses. I'll do the trees and Juanita, you do the rim. Then it really starts looking great! It gets so stylized from doing it over and over that it gets to looking like George Harriman who did "Crazy Kat" or Fontaine Fox who did "Toonerville Trolley. It's where people who do something over and over, it just gets really great. It becomes itself, like nobody else does it that way. I'm equating it to these cartoonists, but with the Cantonware, there wasn't one guy or gal doing it. But you can see they took on their own styles so they became really great.
And yet, these are so kind of funky. They are commercially done, and I can't explain it. They just go over that line. But as a twentieth century person, I'm seeing those pieces art historically, too. I'm relating to them in a different way than George Washington did, for sure, because I'm seeing all different kinds of art in there that didn't exist then. Or seeing the stiff blue and white ware, eating off of it as a kid somewhere, and then looking at the real stuff. There are certain commercial things, like there's a particular ink well for Lou Crackers that somebody made-it's a pile of crackers and the top comes off. See, now that probably doesn't have the same intensity that the blue and white ware does, but it's funny and it's beautiful at the same time.
And it's a mundane object. And it's a container. And it has a use. There are all those levels. And it's something you recognize, of course. Although, it's got that sort of exotic quality because it's French and it's a nineteenth-century object. This is a particular object that speaks to you? And I show it. Is there a lost or hidden history of tromp l'oeil? That's why I wanted to do this. I don't think anybody has seen this stuff!
cloor Since this is what Shw do, Dhaw figure- "Here it is! If I show people Dick shaw shaw floor influenced me, or what I've found. They can assume that I copied shsw, or whatever. At least they'll understand that there's a history, and that there's great stuff out there that nobody looks at! You're talking about the things you've found. The general public and even the potter, I don't think they're that hip to it. If you look at Yixing ware, there's some really bizarre stuff out there. You know these little Chinese teapots that always look real burned? It's real interesting stuff. I was struck by a reference you made to a 2nd century mosaic, "The Unswept Floor.
That's brought up in a lot of books on illusion and tromp l'oeil. If it were here [pointing to floor] it'd show a matchstick and some gum wrappers and things like that. Somebody very carefully made it-which is great-paid that much attention, and it's funny at the same time, and the name is great, "The Unswept Floor. Let's talk about figures. This has been an ongoing theme of yours for a long time. Probably the first figure I did I bet was in or ' The figures came from looking at assemblage going back to the teens and all the way up-junk sculpture, folk sculpture.