Interviewsand Articles

 

Panel Discussion: Berkeley Art Center – The Risk of Not Doing What You Love

by , Mar 3, 2018


 

 


photo: opening night...


In 2005 I was talking with Robbin Henderson, the director of the Berkeley Art Center. We were thinking about what kind of collaboration between us might work well. I'd been interviewing artists and suggested that it might work to do some interviews at the art center. We could make it a series and call it "Berkeley Treasures" after the Japanese practice of honoring their own cultural treasures in a public, formal way. Berkeley, after all, often goes its own way and this might show the way for other places how to recognize some of the creative people in the community who really are treasures.
     Robbin loved the idea and while she was the director we did four programs, conversations with individuals, mostly, but once with three artists. We then also began an international small film festival, which we did each year until Robbin retired.
     When Suzanne Tan came in as the new director she thought there weren't enough resources to continue the film festival, but wanted to carry on the Berkeley Treasures program. "Maybe we could expand it," she suggested. Why not do entire exhibits of artists who have been featured in
works & conversations? We could include evenings with interviews and panel discussions, too.
     Suzanne suggested we change the name to "Local Treasures" and draw artists from the entire Bay Area. During her time as director, we did three of these exhibits.
They brought back the feeling from the old days when, under the center's first director, Carl Worth, BAC got a lot of attention and was a source of much creative excitement in those first years.
    


Ann Weber:  Suzanne Tan is out of town and would like me to welcome all of you. This is a really special evening with Richard Whittaker, Squeak Carnwath, Bob Brady and Gale Wagner here.  I’d like to talk a little bit about this show. It’s a result of Richard’s publication works & conversations. He’s been interviewing artists for many years and when the Berkeley Art Center was under Robbin Henderson, he inspired a series here called “Berkeley Treasures.” Suzanne and I wanted to expand the idea to include Oakland, and even beyond. So now we’re calling it “Local Treasures.” All the artists in the show have been interviewed in the magazine, and I think you all know about the Berkeley Art Center so I think I’ll just let them take it from here...


Richard Whittaker:  Thank you, Ann. And thank all of you for showing up tonight. It’s rare for the art center to have this kind of crowd. It’s great fun and wonderful for the art center. Some of you may have read a few of the reviews this exhibit has gotten. In Squarecylinder David Roth wrote that two themes stood out - healing and transcendence. And Kenneth Baker [SF Chronicle] crossed the bay, much to our delight. He wrote, “Wow, there are planes here!” What came to mind, he wrote, was a line from the Laurie Anderson song, “O, Superman - Here come the planes,” So that was a little ominous. He wrote something about each artist and even the art center. It may the first time, at least since Thomas Albright, that the SF Chronicle art critic showed up at the Berkeley Art Center.
     In any case, I think the work here can carry a lot of different meanings. But I wonder if we could begin with healing and transcendence. And I want to link this with something I read before coming over here. I got an email about how we always think about risk in terms of disease, crime, or financial problems. What about thinking about risk in terms of spending thirty, forty years of one’s life working in a job you don’t really care about? Isn’t that a risk?
     I think this has an interesting resonance with healing and transcendence, and with art. I wonder if any of you have any thoughts about how in your own life as artists you’ve had the good fortune to avoid that risk of spending years doing something you didn’t really care about?

Squeak Carnwath:  I’m just going to jump in here—first of all we are all making art, or trying to—so I think we are doing something we love, which is a gift and a privilege. And we’re probably not risk averse because we wouldn’t be artists otherwise. So we probably flourish in a risk situation, whereas—I don’t know if you’ve noticed it [turning to Robert Brady]—but I have students who are really risk averse. They don’t want to do anything that reveals something about themselves.
     And I think one of the things an artist has to do is be willing to be who they are even if that means being an asshole or looking like a jerk. You kind of have to follow that. I’ll tell you a story. My mother never did anything she wanted to do, ever. So she, for me, was a fabulous negative role model.
     There is such a thing. She wanted to be an actor or a writer and her father told her, no, you can go to nursing school or you can go to secretarial school. She wasn’t sneaky enough to say, okay, I’ll go the university in upstate New York and learn nursing, because then she could have taken other classes. So instead, she left home and didn’t do anything where she could figure out how not to be afraid. But she did take some classes in writing and when she died we found these little short stories. They were really bad. The reason they were bad is because she wrote about what she didn’t know. She didn’t write what she was afraid about. She was afraid of dying. She was afraid of being seen as who she was. So artists live in an arena of risk. And I think that’s what makes it really exciting—like to be afraid all the time… [laughter]

Robert Brady:  Squeak pretty much said much of what I would have said in response to that question. In art school the typical risk is to get outside of your comfort zone, outside of your ease with a material or technique and push one’s envelope. That’s the typical meaning of “you’ve got to take a risk.” It occurred to me a long time ago that possibly even a greater risk is to risk being yourself and to disregard the voices that you hear. First it’s your mother and then it’s your high school teacher and you go on up. For me it was Bob Arneson, when I was an art student. Oh, my God, I can still imagine what he’d say to me. He was like a football coach all the way through. He never gave compliments. I think I got one little complement in my graduate time there. So that’s a huge risk because you might find yourself completely out of the mainstream, completely out of a lot of streams.
     I’m just reiterating what Squeak said. But the premise of your question kind of confused me. Do you think people are knowingly feeling at risk when they’re doing something they don’t want to do? I always think of risk as trying to leap over, say a wider piece of water than maybe you can, something that threatens your physical comfort. I don’t think about the risk of not living out my dreams.

Richard:  No. I’m guessing that a lot of people somehow sink into a life of agreeing to the pressures of earning money and so on, and that the artists—the three of you here, for instance—through chance, good luck, whatever, you’ve been able to hang in there and not give up on “finding oneself” or “being oneself.” So I thought it was an interesting question. For me, the three of you represent having traveled that path and somehow having escaped a life of working at a job you don’t like. Probably not everyone is aware that there could be a risk to something inside oneself that way, that is, of not being able to trust something, like Squeak said about her mother.  
     And in terms of risks in the art world, I couldn’t help of thinking of you, Gale, of what you’ve been doing lately making these small, flying planes, which I just love—and by the way [turning to Brady and Carnwath], I love what both of you just said.
     Now this exhibit happened because Suzanne Tan and Ann wanted to keep doing Berkeley Treasures here at the art center. “Let’s keep doing that,” they said. “What about Gale Wagner?” And I said, “Yeah, I love Gale. He’s great.”
     I hadn’t seen Gale for a while. The last time I saw him he was making these airplanes, which you see hanging here and I asked him, “How do you get that delicate tissue paper to go over those little struts so perfectly with no wrinkles?”
[to the audience] If you were to hold one of these planes you’d see how light they are. You’d see that they’re marvels of craftsmanship, almost mystical.
     And Gale, you said, “Well, sometimes the paper just seems to curl over by itself.” I never forgot that. And you’ve carried on making these - what even art people would say, “Whoa, those are model airplanes. That’s not art” - you’ve been doing this, and I think it’s really risky as an art decision. So tell us a little about that.

Gale Wagner:  Yeah, I’m set up to take risks. My mother said, we don’t care what other people think. And I took that to heart. I’ve been on a weird journey, I guess. It’s been a lot of fun. I just enjoy this thing. And I really am kind of outside in the art world—whatever that really is. I’ve always been an artist. As a kid in grade school, in junior high and in high school, I just thought that I was. [laughs] I never questioned it. So I just make stuff. I never stop making things. And all the things I make, it’s a dance; it’s a journey with the materials. I just love the materials, and I respect the materials.
     I try to show the viewer how beautiful my interpretations of these materials can be. With the airplanes, the people who collect my work—fellow artists and friends—ask me, “When are you going to do sculpture again? I like your sculpture.”
     I had my feelings hurt a little at first [a little wave of laughter]. Everyone knows these are model airplanes. What I find so fascinating, what I find so fascinating is that it’s the best work I’ve ever done, and it’s the most spiritual work I’ve ever done. And sometimes I’m in a space where if it’s a morning where there’s a lot of humidity it’s perfect for covering the struts with the paper because it’s not going to dry too fast. You can almost will the stuff to do what you intend it to do. And then, they’re alive. They fly. (Gale is a great performer—everyone is spellbound.)

Robert:  Literally, you mean?

Gale:  I braid a rope of rubber strands and wind it up. And they’re free flights. So they get to be in the moment. I look at them as paintings, as sculptures, that just fly freely.  No control. The first time I lost one of them outdoors, it was flying in a circle about a hundred yards in diameter and after twenty-five minutes, it was out of sight. It just flew out of sight. [laughter]
     I think, in that moment, I retired from making metal sculptures. [laughter] It’s like, I gave it to the big dude up there. [laughter]

Squeak:   You should film that. It would be fabulous, a little black and white film. Each one should have a diary, a film diary.

Gale:  We’ve done some filming.

Robert:  I just wanted to add another thing about that notion of being yourself, as being a risk. I ask myself who am I? And how able am I to be myself? I mean, who am I, really?  How shielded, how guarded, how hidden am I from myself? I mean, from knowing my pure, essential self?
     I don’t know how to get there. But that’s one of the reasons there’s a lot of variety in my work. I get criticized for that and I think there’s a very simple explanation. It’s because I’m curious. I keep thinking there are these little doors I’m going to open that are here and there, and here and there—and if I keep opening another door, I’ll find or peel off another layer and get closer to that essential self.
     I mean, I don’t think this on a day-to-day basis, “Okay, I’m going to open another door and wander aimlessly into some territory I’ve never been in.” But I like that idea of trying to uncover something. And I have fear of leaping from this spot to another spot. Sometimes I concentrate on work for a long time, a couple of years, and then I come back to it, circle around, hit it again. I’m apt to do anything on any given day based on an impulse that’s strong enough to believe in.

Squeak:  [applauds, clapping]

Robert:  I come from Nevada and there’s an old motto, “Shoot first and ask questions later.” [laughter]
     That’s how I do it. I get it done. I don’t talk myself out of it. I don’t dishonor it. And then I get analytical afterwards. I get thoughtful. No, that’s not true. I’m thoughtful all through the process. All of us here have a lot of training. Everything we do, we consider in kind of an unconscious way, and sometimes in a conscious way—every move we make in terms of what it will impart to the outcome. Anyway, I just wanted to say that part about knowing yourself. Will I die before I know? Probably.

Richard:   That’s why I’m doing the magazine, to hear people say things like what you’ve just said, Robert. Honestly. I didn’t find anything like what we’ve been talking about tonight in the art writing in the early 80s. I didn’t find anything like that.

Squeak:  The French took over.

Richard:  Exactly. The French, the Poststructuralists, blah, blah. Yes.
     I had this thought about your work earlier [looking at Brady]. And maybe you know this about Nathan Oliveira (I interviewed him for issue #11). He talks about his search to get back to the fundamental man. And when I was thinking about your work earlier today, I thought—dare I use the word “atavistic”? It means the basic, ancient man within—anyway, to me your work has a feeling of coming from some place like that. For me, your work is evidence of something like what you’ve just said.

Robert:  That’s nice.

Richard:  And I went over the interview we did, Squeak. And by the way, I interviewed Squeak quite a long time ago. It was the first interview I’d done with an artist of real standing. And it was a thrill, not just because it was you, but because of what you said.

Squeak:  It was really fun.

Richard:   You said things like, “I’m seeking the unmediated self.” “There are secrets in everyday breaths.” Are those questions still relevant to you after all these years?

Squeak:   Yes. But now it’s sort of folded in. I don’t even know what to say about it. But they are still relevant. I feel like that’s our job as artists; we’re supposed to uncover that stuff and pay attention to things that we might not pay attention to in the course of our day—like what Gale was saying about the humidity in the air and how the paper would fall over the skeleton of the plane. It’s being able to take the time to be that attentive.
     I’m not a Buddhist, but I think that being an artist is its own kind of Buddhism, that it really teaches you to be observant, and be in the moment. It’s a really great practice, in that you’re aware of each breath, each mark, each felt thing. You know your thoughts do all these amazing things. I used to be able to paint and talk on the phone. I can’t do that anymore. [laughter] I used to be able to do a demonstration in school and kind of talk. But as soon as I get to the brush, I start to be in this zone where I have to pay attention. 

Richard:  That’s wonderful, Squeak. I’d don’t think that any of you three do what we’d call didactic art. That was a phrase that came up in our interview, Squeak. Perhaps we need some didactic art, but what interests me is something that goes a little deeper, and I know that all of you work on this other level. And do you still teach at UC? [asking Carnwath]

Squeak:  I just retired.

Richard:  Really?

Robert:  Yaaay.  [laughter]

Richard:  Did you retire, too, Robert?

Robert:   Yes. Last December.

Squeak:  But the university and the state system is like the Medicis. It enabled us to be the artists we wanted to be and also to share information. It’s been an incredible gift, and it pays well. You’re required to make your artwork. It’s part of the publish- or-perish thing. It was great for me.

Richard:  So I want to ask you Robert—and you, Squeak—to talk a little about what you tell your students. I mean, the other day I was talking with Fredric Fierstein, the guy who made that great statue by the Berkeley pier. I said, “It’s strange, you make this incredible work, but you didn’t follow it. You could have had an art career.”
    He said, “Art career? There’s no such thing in this country.”

Robert:  You mean about the notion of survival, or what? How do we teach on a daily basis?

Richard:  Yes. You have students, and they come in with great hopes. These kids are spending time and money and there’s only going to be one in a thousand who will be able to make a living at it. So I wouldn’t want to be representing anything that wasn’t true about what the chances were of them making it.

Squeak:  I don’t think we’re teaching, at least undergrads, and even some grads, to be professional artists, necessarily. They may be better business people, better surgeons, better human beings because the art education has made them more sensitive to their surroundings and how they are in the world. It’s a critical thinking practice as well as a making.
     People just think we’re just doing patty cake things when in fact we’re making a metaphor for a spiritual climb, or for some kind of journey or seeking. It’s not just an airplane—[turning toward Gale] which is why you need to make films because we could have seen that disappearing one! That’s amazing!

Gale:  Come fly with me! [laughs]

Squeak:  Okay!  So it helps them think. I don’t know where I was going with this. Maybe Bob knows. [laughter]

Robert:  You were saying that often you teach undergraduates who are not going to be professional artists, or even aspire to that, and then you kind of…

Squeak:  I got lost. But a lot of students think how can I get my work into a gallery? They want to know the business side. You can’t discourage students, but you also have to be realistic with them. They are risk averse. They don’t want anything to be scary, a lot of them. They want to have a job with benefits.
     And I say, well, you have to have some work, first. I mean, you do! Period! [audience: yeah!] That may mean being out of school for a while and working on your own first without someone looking over your shoulder and saying try a little of this, or that’s really great. I mean, some people can’t work without some kind of praise.
     An artist, at least my kind—we’re in our rooms by ourselves a lot. People have a hard time with that. We want to be able to take care of ourselves. So I went to graduate school thinking that somehow I’d get a teaching job. I thought they were available. Well, twenty-eight years ago more were available and I lucked out. But I would have done other jobs, dumb jobs that weren’t as rewarding, just to pay for the habit of being an artist.
 
Richard:  Right. Well let’s shift gears. I wanted to get around to something about your journeys to becoming artists—so Gale you went to art school at the Kansas City Art Institute and then you got into Viet Nam. Then somehow you ended up in Oakland and got connected with Peter Voulkos. Could you tell us about your journey?

Robert:  If you can remember it.

Gale:  [laughs] Yeah. Those were pretty drunk days.  Well, I started at the art institute out of high school and I thought I’d be a commercial artist since I’d always drawn and painted stuff. Then I realized, oh my God, this sculpture! I’m going to do this for real!  No one in my family had ever been educated beyond high school. My dad asked, “Why are we working so hard to put you through art school? You’ll become something you can’t make a living at.”
     There was this guilt trip. So I tricked the draft board into drafting me so I could get away from my parents without them not speaking to me, and to get the G.I. bill. Along the way I ended up in Vietnam. I was in infantry and it changes you… [he pauses]—forever. It was obscene.
[the room is totally silent, he gathers himself and continues]
     I was an officer, and I developed self-confidence. I was wounded in Vietnam. I came back and went back to the art institute. I knew I wanted to heal, and I knew I wanted to make sculpture. And that’s what I did.
     Dale Eldred, who I studied under at Kansas City, an amazing guy, said, “You got to go to graduate school and study with Voulkos.” And he called Pete up on the phone. He says, “Talk with this guy I’m sending to you.” [laughs] So Pete and I were inseparable for years, really—happy hour every day.  He bought a building and insisted I move in so I wouldn’t get into trouble in Oakland—you know, not tolerating nonsense from people. Anyway, it was a gift like I couldn't image. I think Voulkos was one of the finest artists ever—in his life’s spirit. He was so simple. He took clay, the earth, and he made shapes; he used fire and wood kilns—and he made magic. It just doesn’t get simpler than that [spoken with much feeling] And by osmosis, just by being with him so much—I don’t even know what I got yet. It was just a gift. The whole thing was just a gift.

Richard:  Thank you, Gale. Now Robert, you told me your dad was in the casino business when you were growing up, and you’d work in a casino sometimes filling out Keno cards. Maybe you could say something about that? And also you have a great story about making your first pot in high school. 

Robert:  Well, the Keno thing, in terms of me being involved with it, came after my first pot, so I'll talk about the first pot. My junior year of high school, before it started, I contracted an illness that was misdiagnosed. It was thought to be rheumatic fever and I was put in the hospital to protect my heart from inflammation, et cetera. I spent three months bedridden in the hospital, and then I went home for three more months bedridden. I was able to move about the cabin a little. So for the better part of a year, I was homebound. A teacher came to work with me, but I couldn’t take all the classes that were necessary to keep me up to speed with my classmates. So in my senior year, in order to graduate with my friends, I had to really load up on academics. I couldn’t have a shop class or an art class.
     So I was feeling pretty stressed out with so much academic responsibility. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t really a good student. I was kind of a fuck-up, you know? Not a major one, but no-one seemed to really care. I lived with my mother. She acted like she cared, but grades weren’t a big deal, college wasn’t being talked about, stuff like that. I wanted to get out from some of this pressure and my least favorite class was algebra, which I’d put off taking until my senior year.
     So, I went to the office and found out I could graduate without algebra. So I dopped that class, and signed up for crafts. I’d heard you could go over there and just screw around, and that’s exactly why I took it.
     We were about eight weeks into the year when I got my chip from the office and reported to crafts. I went into this big room and the teacher, Thomas T. Tucker, was was busy. He came over to me and I told him, “I'm in this class now.” He looked around, and the lapidary was full with too many people, same with the leather working, you know. The place was full of these funky craft things.
     But over in the corner there was a table and a potter’s wheel, and nobody was there. He said, come on over here, took out a bag of clay, put a rolling pin on the table, and said, “Make a slab-built pitcher.”
     Now, this was a 50-minute class. I got there, however late it was, from the office. It took a little time for him to assess the situation and get the bag of clay out. But at the end of that 50 minutes, I was finished with my slab-built pitcher. I interpreted it as kind of a cowboy coffee pot thing. It had a lid with a stick handle off to the side, kind of Scandinavian, and a cowboy spout. And man, it was beautiful! I mean, I was looking at that thing [pauses very expressively – audience laughter] and I was so stoked! It was out of red clay and took me about 40 minutes to make.
     So I was looking around the room, thinking how am I going to protect this thing? .  I took my pot and slid a plastic bag over it. I slid it onto a bat like you do a ceramic pot off the wheel. I looked around and saw there were some shelves, so I climbed up on a countertop and put it on the topmost shelf way up there where no one was going to mess with it. Then I jumped off the counter and ran to my next class.
     Then, during every break for the rest of the day, I ran back to the crafts room, jumped up on the counter, and I pulled the bag off that piece. I’d look at it and go, “Oh, my God, I love you!”
     I’d take a moist elephant ear sponge up there and just stroke it. When it was dry I put this yellow glaze on it, and it was nice and even. When it was fired, the glaze “broke at the edges,” as we call it. So it had this reddish edge coming through the yellow glaze.
     The teacher said, “That’s really nice!”
     And he put it in his showcase in the hallway. It was the first time ever in my life—except for music. I was in orchestra. I played the bass fiddle and had a teacher who I loved, and he appreciated me. That was my next favorite thing in all of my schooling. But this slab-built, cowboy coffee pot was the epitome of anything I’d ever done, and it was incredible, that moment of making that thing.
     So I started a pottery club. I had these kind of rascal friends, car thieves, this and that, and I said, “Come on over! Ceramics is really fun.” And we started making ceramics. Tom Tucker would let us come every Wednesday after school and work until midnight. He was only like three years out of CCAC; I mean he was just a little older than us. He had whiskers and had some hair sticking out of here and there, so we knew he was kind of a man. But he was a cool guy. We’d throw clay at him and try to dip his head in clay buckets and stuff.
     And just to tell you a little more, Tom created a new award for the awards assembly called “Craftsman of the Year.” It never existed before, and I got it.
     The next year, he was so moved by having a student who really got into it that he went back to CCAC during the summer and learned how to throw pots. And the next year, he started a two-hour, uninterrupted ceramics class that he did the rest of his career, which was unprecedented in high school. So that was my turn-on.
     After about three or four months he said, “I think you have some talent. I think you should go to art school.” So, he literally put me and my pottery club friends in his car and drove us to Oakland. He took us to CCAC. We met Viola Frey and threw pots on those wheels. Then he took us to the De Young and to the Museum of Modern Art—you know, from Reno! It was just a big cultural blast. So I went to art school that very next fall and everything worked out good.

Richard:   And with the Keno story. I just remembered how you marked the cards.

Robert:  Right. This is when I’d go back to Reno. In those days when you picked numbers for a Keno ticket, there was a pot of ink and Sumi brushes in this little rack there for the customers. They’d take the brush, which was all ratty, and just make inky blobs on the numbers they wanted to play.
     Then they’d bring the cards to us. And some of us behind the counter took more pride in our brushes. We picked them, we manicured them, we trimmed them. We would try to make a mark by putting the brush down and lifting it just right and creating a beautiful diagonal ellipse with a little tail trailing off. Not all the guys were like that. My brother was really good at that, and I wanted to be good like him. So I would mark the numbers on the card like that [makes a gesture in the air of the brush stroke].
     Then in the margin of the ticket, you had to write all this information with the tip of the brush. That’s not easy to do with your hand in free space, you know? So I did a lot of that, and later I parlayed what I’d learned into brushwork on my pottery.
     And I make pottery—literal pottery, not just sculptural ceramics—and I love literal pottery to eat out of and drink out of, to this day. It’s just as fun as anything else I make, and some of these pieces have brush work on them.

Richard:  Art and everyday life.

Robert:  I just told you my life history there.
        
Richard:  It’s a great story. We’ll get some questions here by-and-by. Gale has a very interesting studio down by the estuary. There’s a lot of scrap metal and large pieces of welded sculpture just sitting out front, right by the street. When I first saw the place, it was, “Wow, what’s going on here”? I remember first seeing this place and stopping to check it out. And sitting there in the middle of the scrap metal was this hand-painted sign. It said something like, “I need this for my work, please don’t take…”

Gale:  “Please don’t steal the steel.”

Richard:   And some of the words were misspelled. I noticed that. Tell about that sign, Gale. Would you mind? I mean, you had a reason for doing that.

Gale:  I did. The misspellings were on purpose to help relate to the people who might want to take stuff. One time I was inside working and I heard the sound of some guy out there stealing steel. He was barefoot. He was about 80 years old, and he had a gal in his beat up pick-up truck that barely ran. She was maybe 17, with a little baby, and he’s walking across this hot steel. I could just feel the bottom of his feet frying. So, I go out and say, “What are we doing here?”
     He says, “We’re trying to get some food together to feed the baby.” And I said, “Well, you can take all this you want, right here.” And then I asked him, “How would I go about having other people not do this?” Because I was starting to acquire more and more stuff.
     And he said, “Just put a sign out there and say, “Please don’t steal the steel.”

Richard:   And you told me it worked, too. Now I was down at your studio and we went outside and there was a guy out front, kind of picking around. I thought, “Hmm, I don’t know who that is, but this is Gale’s place, so I don’t have to say anything.”  We were out there talking and you were just ignoring him. The longer this went on, the more uncomfortable I was getting and finally, I said, “Hey, Gale. Who is that guy over there?” So, tell that story. Was it Leroy?

Gale:  Yeah. There’s a guy named Leroy who picks aluminum cans up; that’s how he makes a living. He works 365 days a year He was burned real bad when he was in grade school. I don’t remember seeing many guys in the hospital from Vietnam that were burned as badly. I mean when his shirt’s off, his skin looks like a wrung dishrag. And this guy is as sweet a person as you’ll ever meet. He’s like my angel that comes by every day to work. He’s epileptic, but when he’s there, he’s comfortable and he’s beautiful.

Richard:   So you put him to work?

Gale:  Yes. And everybody who gets to know him puts him to work. He has different places all around our neighborhood now that know the value of his presence.

Richard:   I'm not sure how to make a connection between Leroy and art, but somehow, all this stuff is connected. Maybe someone else can connect the dots. I could ask a lot more questions, but now we could open this up for questions from any of you here. [turning to the three artists] Or you could carry on this conversation, too.

Gale:  Well, we talk about taking risks, and here comes a real risk. I'm not involved with the university, I'm not involved with art galleries, I'm way out there in left field, with just about everything I'm about. So, I get the luxury of picking up those finer vibrations like radio waves. It’s like you’re just so fortunate if you can be in that zone. And this is something I want to open up to all of you here tonight.
     I've opened it up to a number of my artist friends, and all of them look at me like, “There he goes again. He’s pretty whacked,” but here’s what it is. It seems to me like things are happening larger and with more energy than they used to. Like for thousands of years in war, it was hand-to-hand combat and bows and arrows and spears and stuff, and then whoo, we get a Gatling gun. Then 100 years later, we have nuclear bombs. And we’ve dropped them, so we’re really accelerating all the time.
     It’s like we used to have oil spills. Well, look at our last oil spill. Look at what’s going on in Pakistan now, look at Haiti. I mean, things are so huge. So, I'm thinking that this is a universal thing, and for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. So I'm believing these things are supercharged now. And each and every one of us—if we can get into that zone that all of us get into as artists in our studios where we’re not worried about anything except trying to connect up with the flow of energy—we’re a part of that. We’re not pushing it. We’re just trying to connect to it. And I suggest that there’s something going on right now in the world, where this energy is available to all of us.
     It’s like I was building a metal sculpture in my studio recently. It was almost like I was witnessing this energy. And I wanted to know if anybody else is experiencing this energy, which is just heaven if we can get out of the craziness of life and receive it.

Squeak:   Because we stop being all ego-bound and who we think we should be, and who we think other people think we are, and we just get to be this speck. I mean, I think that’s our goal, just to be a little speck of dust.

Gale:  I think it’s out there available for all of us.

Squeak:   I do, too.

Gale:  Right this moment.         
 

About the Author

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

 

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