Interviewsand Articles

 

Ted Fullwood

by Richard Whittaker, Dec 25, 2009


 

 

When I first visited Ted Fullwood, he was recovering from a foot injury. He graciously limped around without complaint as Tony May and I carefully checked out his house-upstairs and downstairs-and his front and back yards, enjoyably scrutinizing all the art that filled the premises and covered the walls. Returning for a second visit a few months later, I discovered I'd missed several pieces and, of course, there were new ones to look at, too. 
     Fullwood is one of those artists I can't help thinking of as an outsider artist. It's hard to describe why. There's an originality that seems to owe nothing to the artworld and yet, Fullwood holds an MFA degree from San Jose State University. 
     He's so well liked by the ceramics faculty that he enjoys something of an honorary standing there. After he'd showed me around his home again, we walked over to the ceramic studios at the university.  (Their facilities are superlative, perhaps the best in northern California.) Ted had several pieces underway there, one huge, unfired piece taking up an entire kiln and three others, quite large, one of which was bisque-fired while the other two had already been glazed-fired. 
     Just as we were about to enter the building, we ran into one of the graduate students. He and Ted stopped for a friendly chat. Fullwood seems to know all the graduate students and, before showing me his own work, he insisted on showing me the work of several of the students. His generosity was motivated, I'm sure, by nothing more than the wish to spread the good, so to speak. Here was a magazine editor and the chance to give a little exposure to the work of his student friends. Afterwards while we walked back towards his house, I asked him to tell me about the large ceramic heads he likes to make. After grappling with the question, he finally came up with the word existential. "They're island heads," he said. "There's no respect in the artworld for ceramics," he added. [I tried to argue, naming several exceptions, but Fullwood probably had a point. And if ceramics doesn't get the widespread respect that painting does, for instance, then what about Fullwood's over-the-top work with pipe cleaners? [You can see one on the cover of #19. That work is difficult to photograph and I wanted to concentrate on his ceramic work.]
     When he first told me he worked with pipe cleaners, I couldn't imagine what to expect. Even after seeing the pieces, it's difficult to grasp that they're actually made of pipe cleaners. Pipe cleaners? One immediately begins searching the mental archives for associations in an effort to create some kind of context. Pipe cleaners... Geriatric art activities? Holiday craft projects for Mrs. Mendelson's problem kids? Recreational therapy for psychiatric in-patients? Home craft projects to work on while drinking alone?
     There simply isn't a place in the fine arts for pipe-cleaner work, right? Fullwood's pipe cleaner sculptures range from more or less conventional subjects to wild creations that are sui generis. "I try to find a fine line in my work between what's cartoonish and what's serious. If people don't know how to interpret my intentions, I'll feel I've succeeded." He searched for words, "It's not one thing or the other. That's why it's art. It says all of those things at once, if it works."
-Richard Whittaker
    
    
 
  
 

About the Author

Richard Whittaker is the founding editor of works & conversations and West Coast editor of Parabola magazine

 

A Man Impossible to Classify One of my first experiences in San Francisco was of being flagged down by a ... Read More 711177 views


The Dumpster      “We can’t use these. They look like ... Read More 130216 views


Remember to Remember - Nicholas Hlobeczy I had the pleasure of getting to know the late Nicholas Hlobeczy over a ... Read More 87876 views


A Conversation with Silas Hagerty I met Silas, a young man in his twenties from New England, at a servicespace.org ... Read More 56340 views


A Conversation with Taya Doro Mitchell Taya Doro Mitchell July 3, 2007 Oakland CA I heard about Taya Doro Mitchell ... Read More 111032 views


READ MORE >> 

A Man Impossible to Classify One of my first experiences in San Francisco was of being flagged down by a ... Read More 711177 views


Interview with Bill Douglass—Jimbo's Bop City and Other Tales At the time I'd first gotten to know the widely respected jazz musician Bill ... Read More 359094 views


Greeting the Light It was thanks to artist Walter Gabrielson that I was able to get in touch with ... Read More 289627 views


Interview: Gail Needleman Gail Needleman teaches music at Holy Names University in Oakland, California. ... Read More 178968 views


Interview: Stephen De Staebler John Toki encouraged me to interview his old friend and mentor, sculptor Stephen ... Read More 148818 views


READ MORE >>