A few years before, clinic my parents had sold their business and moved to Oklahoma City to be closer to my brothers and their families. Moving to Oklahoma City was also the logical move for us at this time. So, we packed up another U-Haul and headed up I-44. We found a nice little rent house on the north side of Oklahoma City, fairly close to my mother and my two older brothers. Jo had great clerical skills and never had trouble finding a good job and Oklahoma City was no exception. I on the other hand was a different story. My oldest brother knew the owners of one of Oklahoma City’s oldest and most respected art and frame shops, Denton Frame. I called them and they interviewed me and offered me a job the first week we were there. I came to work that first day thinking I knew everything there was to know about framing artwork. I had two degrees in art, I had framed most of my work for the past 12 years and I had even managed a small art supply and frame shop in Lawton the last month we were there. What more could I learn? Well, the very first day I made more frames than the entire month that I managed the shop in Lawton. The first month I made more frames than I had made in my life and the frames were more complex. In Lawton, I prided myself in mat selections almost always using a double mat with a nice contrasting color accent then surrounding the work with a thin simple frame. At Denton’s, Mrs. Denton would choose three and four color mat combinations with frames that would consist of four different moldings put together. It was hard work and I learned a lot about the framing business and the successful system that Mr. and Mrs. Denton had put together over 40 years in the business.
The house that we were renting had a spare bedroom that I converted into a studio. I continued to work on my collagraph series, finishing up two large paintings that I had started at Cameron and several smaller collagraph prints that I printed on the press at Cameron before we left. Quickly, I ran out of printed collagraphs and to continue this series I would have to find a press to print more images. I considered purchasing a press but that was a lot of money, so I started experimenting with the collagraph plate making techniques and adding color as I built them as apposed to coloring them after they were printed. The last painting of this series was completed on canvas using these techniques. I have included this painting in my retrospective show because of its significant contribution to the evolution of my artwork.
After almost a year at the frame shop I really wanted to use my art talent more, so I started looking for graphic design related freelance work. I answered an ad that I saw in the newspaper, seeking illustrators. It turned out that the company was a recording studio that was looking for design and illustration help for album covers. This seemed like a very glamorous job and at the interview I learned that the company was divided in two parts. One part of the company worked with Christian music and the other worked with secular knock off music. The majority of the work they were looking for at that time was the knock off music. Let me explain, during that time period, the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, there were very few copyright laws on performed and recorded music. In the early ‘70s there were a lot of companies that sprung up called “bootleg or pirate” companies. They would buy the latest recordings and duplicate them and sell them in eight-track format at a cheap price in truck stops all over America. They didn’t pay royalties and the original artists and recording companies got nothing for these sales. As you might suspect, legislation was quickly passed making this illegal. Many of those same companies started making “sound alike” recordings to keep their product legal. A “sound alike” was a recording of the same music by a different artist that tried to sound as much like the original as possible. For a short period of time this was legal and that is where I came into this picture. The company that I interviewed with was one of those companies. They gave me one assignment to see how I would do. They would pay $75.00 for an illustration of Dolly Parton to be used as cover art for an eight-track tape. The product name was “The Hits of Dolly Parton” and in real tiny type “as performed by The Nashville Sound.” My illustration career was born! They loved the Dolly Parton illustration and quickly gave me more assignments. I started doing one to two of these a week in addition to my full-time framing job. I liked the challenge and we could certainly use the extra money. After a few weeks the recording company asked me if I would be interested in a full-time position with them. I knew from the beginning that this company was a little shaky but I really liked the idea of making a living with my art skills. I talked with them more about the opportunity and they told me not only would I be working full-time but also I would be the creative director of the newly created art department. As the director, I would be in charge of the entire creative team and could hire additional artists to expand the production. That’s all I needed, a title and I was in. When I started working they didn’t even have a place for me or the newly created “art department” to work in, so they asked me to go to their warehouse/manufacturing plant. They literally put a drawing table in the middle of an open area in the warehouse and said “Here’s your desk, we’ll put walls around it soon.” So, I started working. There was one other illustrator, a production artist and a secretary when I started. Everyday was a new experience, the first day we kind of huddled in the middle of this giant open space. The next day when we got to work we had one wall propped up and another being built. The next day we had four walls and a door. It really got interesting when they started putting the roof over us while we were working! I eventually hired another illustrator and another production artist/typesetter and we gradually built a pretty efficient team. The company had a large catalog of products that they were selling (or trying to sell) with type only labels, usually printed on day glow paper. Our job was to make these products look like real tapes from major recording labels. This was no small task and they wanted it done yesterday, so we worked. We had 3 illustrators and our goal was to finish one product each day. That meant one full color illustration per day or five illustrations per week for each illustrator for a total of 15 per week. One of the things I noticed very quickly was that the covers started all looking alike. This was no real surprise under the time restraints we were under. I also noticed that even though the illustrations looked really good they did not look like real products from major labels. Most of the major labels used photography, so we started using some photography to vary the look and style. This not only helped with variety but also it was less labor intensive so it helped us achieve our quotas. At first I hired a professional photographer and used his studio for a couple of projects. I had always used photography to shoot slides of my paintings and while I was in school I learned how to process film and use an enlarger to make prints. Working with a professional photographer and watching him in the studio gave me the confidence to try it myself. I realized that all I needed was a little more professional equipment, so I talked with the owner of our company and he agreed to purchase a lighting system and a 4x5 camera and just like that my professional photography career was born. We continued on at our frantic pace, and I began to do more and more photography work while the others did illustrations. This continued for about a year and suddenly we caught up with the company backlog of products. My supervisor talked with me and told me that I would have to trim my staff. We had grown to about 8 -- 3 illustrators, 2 production artists, and 2-3 support staff. This meant I would have to fire someone. This was the hardest thing I had ever done. I started with the last production artist I had hired. This bought me a couple of weeks before I had to let someone else go. After the first, the second and third came pretty quickly and it never got any easier. The questionable ethics of the company and their instability really pushed me toward leaving and starting my own design studio. I talked to the owner of the company and he seemed relieved at the prospect of me leaving and going back to a freelance basis so I started looking for a small office space that I could set up shop. Originally I asked one of the remaining illustrators to join me and a writer/public relations friend that we had worked with for a short period of time in my new graphic design/ad agency. They both came with me but it was a struggle financially and my illustrator friend left after about a month. The PR person left after about a year and it was down to me. In addition to the pressure of starting a new business, Jo and I had our second child, a beautiful baby girl we named Devin. I struggled on for the next 15 years. During these years I continued to paint and tried to stay up with current trends in the fine art world. In the late seventies and early eighties I became aware of a minor art movement called Abstract Illusionism and in particular with an artist by the name of James Havard. I was definitely influenced by his work and started using some of his cast shadow techniques on commercial illustration projects. Later, I used these same airbrush techniques on larger scaled paintings. In the course of writing this book and researching my facts I came across the Wikipedia definition of Abstract Illusionism.
Abstract Illusionism, a name coined by art historian and critic Barbara Rose, is an artistic movement that came into prominence in the United States during the mid-1970s. Works consisted of both hardedge and expressionistic abstract painting styles that employed the use of perspective, artificial light sources, and simulated cast shadows to achieve the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. Abstract Illusionism differed from traditional Trompe-l’oeil (fool the eye) art in that the pictorial space seemed to project in front of, or away from, the canvas surface, as opposed to receding into the picture plane as in traditional painting. Primarily, though, these were abstract paintings, as opposed to the realism of Trompe l’oeil. By the early 1980s, many of the visual devices that originated in Abstract Illusionism were appropriated into the commercial world and served a wide variety of applications in graphic design, fabric design and the unlikely decoration of recreational vehicles. This proliferation of Abstract Illusionist imagery eventually led to the disintegration of the original artistic movement and its transition into the mainstream.
I found this definition quite ironic since I first used the technique in illustration and then converted it to fine art, just the reverse of the definition. I have used this Trompe-l’oeil technique in various ways for over 30 years. I guess I am no longer (and probably never was) in the forefront of innovative trend setting art. Oh well, it still interests me so I’ll keep doing it until it doesn’t feel relevant to my work.
[caption id="attachment_895" align="aligncenter" width="555"] Commercial illustration projects greatly influenced my future paintings and where I discovered "Abstract Illusionism." "Book Cover Comp" / 12"x9" / printed map, photography and acrylic on watercolor paper[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_896" align="aligncenter" width="520"] "Book Cover Finished Illustration" / 12"x9" / printed map, photography and acrylic on watercolor paper[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_897" align="aligncenter" width="468"] "The Gift of Life - Magazine Cover Finished Illustration" / 8.5"x11" / photography, Xerox copies and acrylic on watercolor paper[/caption]
The next major series of work was motivated by these early illustrations. The first was a book cover illustration for a book that pointed out restaurant locations in the state of Oklahoma. I used a road map and colored dots with abstract acrylic paint splashes all glued in a collage technique to rough watercolor paper. All the elements had airbrushed shadows that made them appear to float above the watercolor paper ground. The second was another cover illustration for a local health magazine. The featured article was on the topic of organ donation and the gift of life. Again, traditional illustration and photography were collaged onto a rough watercolor textured paper with airbrushed shadows. The primary inspirations came from the Abstract Illusionism movement and an illustrator by the name of David Lesh. Lesh uses a collage technique with Xerox copied elements, typography and paint on rough textured surfaces. These two commercial illustrations were very successful for me and inspired me to take the concepts to a larger scale. About this same time my early mentor back at OU, Gene Bavinger, developed a technique of painting in reverse on glass. This technique produced some of the most visually exciting paintings I have ever seen and became his trademark style that he explored until his death in 1997. Bavinger used very thick transparent acrylic paint and applied it to large plate glass sheets with a variety of tools including brushes, palette knives, squeegees and occasionally spray guns. As I mentioned the paint was very transparent so he layered the thick paint on to build up a rich and deep color saturation. Occasionally he would lift the glass up to see his progress from the bottom because it would eventually become the top. When he was satisfied with the layering, he would apply one last thick coat of straight polymer acrylic followed by raw canvas. The acrylic would bond the canvas to the rest of the paint and after it dried, he would peel it off the glass. The canvas would then be stretched in a normal manner on a stretcher frame. As I mentioned, the result was spectacular. The paintings were deep, rich and textural while the surface was shiny and totally smooth. This new technique inspired me to combine the glass technique of Bavinger with the collage and imagery techniques that I was using in my illustration work. The first couple were fairly small, approximately 24”x36” and allowed me to experiment not only with the technique but also the imagery. They gave me the opportunity to use my photography skills and combine images that I had created earlier in my career. The first images were black and white personal images that I hand colored. This later led to commercial images that helped tie my two worlds of Graphic Design and Fine Art together. The bulk of this new series had a central image theme, flowers. The inspiration for these images had a direct tie to my design/photography business. One of my largest clients during the late eighties was a floral wire service company by the name of Carik Floral Services. They were based in Denver, Colorado, and I knew the owner when he worked in Oklahoma City for American Floral Service. He was head of sales and I worked with him on several promotional and advertising projects. When he started Carik, I developed the logo and corporate identity for his new business venture. After the company was established, I started working for him on several photographic catalogs. He would fly me to Denver and I would rent photo equipment and set up a temporary photo studio in his warehouse. We would work for about two weeks, then I would fly home for about a week, then fly back and start all over. We did this for almost the entire summer to complete their first sales catalog. My job was to shoot 4x5 transparencies of each floral arrangement as the floral designers finished them. There were three floral designers working in the design studio with almost unlimited fresh flowers to pick and use in their arrangements. Even with three designers working, I still had quite a bit of down time, so I filled that time by shooting “flower portraits.” These “flower portraits” eventually became the imagery that I used in my floral painting series.
In 1990, I got two separate calls from different friends, to tell me that they had seen ads in different newspapers advertising an opening at Central State University for a teaching position in the Art Department. Amazingly, I had also seen an ad in the local newspaper for the same position. I thanked both friends and told them I would check it out, but frankly, I didn’t have much hope. My previous experiences had taught me that often positions advertised in this manner were already filled and the ads were merely a method of satisfying state government regulations on hiring. I did look into it and was told the position was still open and was given information on how to apply. I immediately started the application process and submitted my credentials, letters of recommendation, and slides of my work. The position was for a person to teach graphic design and computer graphics. My degrees were in Fine Art, but I had been practicing Graphic Design as a professional designer for the last 15 years, so I felt comfortable in my abilities to teach in this field. My computer skills were not very good because this was a very new skill at that time. Most of the graphic design production at that time was still being done manually. Even with my extensive professional experience, I was still not very optimistic about this position. As I mentioned, it had been 15 years since my last teaching position at Cameron. Outside of the first summer after Cameron, when I was actively looking for a new teaching position, I had not heard about a possible teaching position let alone applied for one and all of the sudden three separate leads, all for the same position. The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways! The hiring process at the University level is a very slow and methodical process. I was not surprised that I had not heard anything from Central State, in fact I kind of forgot about it when I got a call from a professor in the Art Department. He introduced himself over the phone and said that his call had nothing to do with the teaching position, but rather he was looking for information on how computer technology was being used in the graphic design profession. He asked if he could come to my office and talk with me further about this topic. I said, “Sure” and we agreed on a date and time later that week. The professor’s name was Bill Wallo and at that time he was the gallery director at Central State. The Macintosh computer was fairly new at that time and the desktop publishing software, PageMaker, was making a lot of news in the graphic design industry. I did not own either but I had read several articles about them and had talked with many designers and production artists at various service bureaus in Oklahoma City. When Bill came to my studio, he brought a friend, Dave Hessie. They were very interested in my opinion on the topic of desktop publishing and what they called multi-media. To this day I am not sure what that word multi-media means in the context of computer graphics, but we spent a good hour talking about the topic. I shared with them what I knew which was not much. At that time service bureaus were primarily typesetters and color separation houses and they did not feel the new “desktop publishing” quality was good enough to affect the current methods of graphic design production. The one thing that I took note of was the amount of industry buzz there was about this new topic. You could not pick up any graphic design periodical without seeing at least one main article devoted to the new computer and software. In the 15 years of my professional design career, I had never seen anything that commanded that much attention. In less than two more years many of those typesetters were closed or had converted to digital output service bureaus. It took about two more years for the color separators to go out of business and the rest is history. Through our discussion I learned that both Bill and Dave were painters and became friends in school, so I steered our conversation toward fine art and showed them a couple of my new pieces which both used photography and a collage technique. Bill seemed very interested and said he was curating a new show that he felt my work was perfectly suited for. I said I would love to participate and he verbally asked me to get a couple of pieces ready. I said I would and thanked him for the opportunity. I submitted a couple of pieces to the group show that included about 10 artists from the local area that used photography in some form in their artwork. I went to the opening and this was my first visit to the campus. I later found out that Bill was on the search committee for the position that I had applied for and I definitely think our meeting had something to do with me being hired.
I finally got a call from the chair of the search committee, Dr. Jim Watson. He asked if I could come to the campus for an interview and I quickly agreed to do so. The committee included Dr. Watson, Bill Wallo and Dr. Joann Adams. The interview went well and they introduced me to several other faculty members and asked me a few questions about my teaching philosophy and how I would handle a few specific teaching situations. They asked me to come prepared to show my work and talk briefly about it to a small group of faculty and students, which I did. After my lecture they showed me around the art building and explained specifics about their program and students. At that point Dr. Watson walked me across campus and pointed out a few buildings on our way to the Administration building. In the Administration building I met with a person who explained the benefits and salary package, but no one actually offered me the job. I left feeling pretty good about the interview but a little confused. Later that week Bill Wallo called and offered me the job and said they would prepare a contract that would make it official. I was elated and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. I immediately started planning and finishing all the current work in the studio so I could close the studio. Thinking back on that time period, I now realize that everything went together amazingly well in a very short period of time. By the time the fall semester started, all of my business responsibilities were pretty much settled and I was able to concentrate on my new job.
Chapter 13 Even though a teaching position at Cameron University in Lawton hadn’t worked out I stayed friends with Jack Bryan and kept in touch with him and what was going on there at Cameron. When I decided to look for another position, I called Jack and told him of my plight. He said that they would be looking for a temporary replacement for my friend that got the job I hoped that I could get. He had been granted a sabbatical and was going to leave for a year. This was my dream job and even though it was technically a temporary position, I thought there was a good chance that my friend would not return. He had never been very happy there and I knew he wanted to leave. I talked it over with Jo, we were both very homesick and hated the weather in Iowa and now that the school situation was less than great, we decided to take the chance. I called Jack back pretty quickly and told him that I was interested in the position and he replied how quickly can you get here. So, after only a year in Iowa we were putting our house on the market and planning to move back home. Maybe everything was going to work out. The housing market in Sioux City had not improved over the last year and we didn’t have any problem selling our house at a nice profit. We quickly packed up, rented another U-Haul and headed for Oklahoma. My parents had left Lawton and moved to Oklahoma City a couple of years earlier but Jo’s mother and sister still lived in Lawton. They were excited about us moving back and started looking for a house for us to live in. By the time we got there, they had found a small two bedroom in the same neighborhood that they lived in, in fact it was just two doors down from the house Jo’s sister lived in. This was maybe a little closer than I would have chosen but amazingly we had fun.
When I was a student at Cameron, the Art Department had a couple of classrooms in a general classroom building. They had expanded now to two barns on the edge of campus. One of the barns was a concrete dairy barn that was at one time part of the agriculture program. The other was a metal barn, also at one time part of the agriculture program. The concrete barn housed painting and printmaking and the metal barn housed sculpture and ceramics. The buildings had their obvious problems but it was nice to have dedicated space that you didn’t have to share. I taught all my classes in the concrete barn. It was the smaller of the two buildings but it was functional. We even had a small gallery that I took responsibility for booking and curating shows. The larger metal barn had a hayloft that was not being used so I asked Jack if I could use it for a studio. He said sure, so I started cleaning it up, adding lights, tables, etc. to make it functional. It was a little cramped but I made it work for painting. I was teaching painting and printmaking so I used the schools printmaking room for my prints. During this period I was painting with acrylic as usual but I wasn’t painting on canvas. I was experimenting with painting using as little substrate as possible. I was using a lot of acrylic paint with a little cheesecloth to keep the paint from stretching. These paintings were inspired by Ed Moses’s resin paintings. I was trying to get a similar paint layering while keeping the painting flexible and less brittle. Throughout my career I struggled with visual continuity between my prints and my paintings. The standard printmaking methods lacked the spontaneity that I had come to rely on in painting. The difficulty in printmaking to work on a large scale also seemed to hamper the visual energy I felt was so important in my paintings. I had used a collage technique for years in my paintings to build texture and image. In the current paintings I was using paper, cheesecloth and string in a collage manner to help stabilize the acrylic polymer. So, in printmaking, it seemed like an obvious move to work with collagraph techniques. Collagraphs are intaglio prints that use collage techniques to build the printing plates. This plate making process was very similar to the way I paint without using color. I would start with a cardboard plate similar to mat board or chip board then build up texture with modeling paste and gluing textural elements to it using acrylic polymer. The finished plate would be inked with standard etching ink and wiped off the surface leaving ink in the recessed parts of the plate. The plate would then be printed on etching paper using an etching press. The resulting print has textural effects that are very realistic and unique. The whole concept of printing is to produce multiple images but to do this, every part of the process must also be duplicated exactly. This makes color application difficult and the process to apply color very stiff. For these reasons I decided to forgo the multiple duplication and hand color each piece making it a one of kind work of art. This resulted in a very rich and visually exciting work that complemented my paintings. For the first time my love of painting and printmaking seemed to be working together. The rich textural effects of the collagraph prints ultimately affected the paintings and pulled me into a subtle but new direction in painting where real texture was an important visual effect. This led me to experiment with larger paintings created with smaller prints that are pieced together.
My art was developing nicely but my teaching job was coming to a screeching halt! I don’t think I really realized what was happening. If you remember my position was a one-year replacement position and my year was coming to a rapid close. I had really never let myself think about the fact that this was a temporary position. I felt from the beginning it would work out to be more but now it was coming to a close and nothing seemed to be opening up. My friend was definitely returning so that position would no longer be available. I started looking for a new position at a new school on a national basis. I attended the National Art Association conference in Los Angeles but found nothing. Things were looking pretty bleak for a full-time position. Cameron’s program was growing and there was a possible need for part-time or adjunct work. Jo and I talked it over and neither of us wanted to move so we decided to try for a part-time position at Cameron and stay in Lawton and seriously pursue my professional painting career. I talked to Jack Bryan about the possibility of me staying on at Cameron as an adjunct professor. Jack was less than positive about this possibility but said he would ask the other faculty. This was my first clue that everything was not as wonderful at Cameron as I had thought. I had made good friends with the sculpture instructor and the adjunct ceramics instructor but I had not gone out of my way to make friends with the art education instructor. This turned out to be a big mistake. Without going into a lot of painful details, I was not asked to return in any capacity to Cameron. I was devastated, I had never been fired before and technically I wasn’t fired in this case but it sure felt like it. I was very disappointed in Jack, it felt like he didn’t fight for me, which really hurt and had a huge negative impact on our relationship. On reflection, I was so young and naive; I didn’t have a clue about the inner workings of an Art Department or the politics that it took to run one. Even though I thought I had done an excellent job in teaching my assigned classes and had stepped up and done more than had been asked of me by organizing and directing the gallery, maybe I really wasn’t a good fit in the organizational growth of the Department. Whatever the reason, I was out of work and the reality finally hit and we realized our future was not in Lawton.
[caption id="attachment_886" align="aligncenter" width="501"] The first Cameron paintings were inspired by Ed Moses' reisen paintings. These were done with acrylic, cheesecloth and paper and were hung unstretched. "Yellow and Blue With String" / 36"x36" / acrylic, string and cheesecloth[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_887" align="aligncenter" width="480"] "Six Panes" /48"x48" / acrylic, paper and cheesecloth[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_889" align="aligncenter" width="469"] "Opposite Rotation" /48"x48" / acrylic, paper and cheesecloth[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_888" align="aligncenter" width="437"] "Textured Chevron" /48"x48" / acrylic, paper, muslin and cheesecloth[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_880" align="aligncenter" width="721"] "New Start" / 5"x6.75" / collagraph print on Arches Buff Cover[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_881" align="aligncenter" width="646"] "Pork Bait" / 7"x7.75" / collagraph print on Arches Cover[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_882" align="aligncenter" width="609"] "Birthday Jitterbug" / 6.75"x8.5" / hand colored collagraph print on Arches Cover[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_883" align="aligncenter" width="644"] "Blue Spot Spinner" / 8"x8.75" / hand colored collagraph print on Arches Cover While teaching printmaking I produced a series of collagraph prints that had the same visual appeal that was in my paintings. The plate making process was similar to the techniques I used in painting and the heavy actual texture was refreshing after the lack of texture in the resin paintings. These prints and this printing tecnique led to larger works and my next series.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_884" align="aligncenter" width="725"] "Collagraph Painting" - 64"x80" - acrylic on Arches Cover mounted on panel board[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_885" align="aligncenter" width="707"] "4-Way 4 Panes" - 64"x80" - acrylic, modeling paste and muslin on canvas After leaving Cameron, I no longer had access to a printing press, so I started experimenting with collage techniques on canvas and then using thin glazes and wiping them off similar to the inking process in printing. This began the development of painting techniques that I still use today.[/caption]
Chapter 12 This time we rented a U-Haul and moved ourselves. We weren’t going to make that mistake again. The problem this time was we had a baby to take care of so we thought it would be better to drive our car rather than tow it. I talked with one of my students who agreed to come and help drive the truck and we bought him a plane ticket back to North Carolina. It was a long hard trip but it went well and we made it to Sioux City with no major problems. Dalton and his wife were expecting us and said we could stay with them until we found a house. He had made arrangements with the school to store our stuff in a school owned storage building so we were set for a while until we found a place to live. They lived in a big old two-story house with a full basement. There were plenty of bedrooms for us and it was great fun to see them. We had been good friends through grad school and we even visited them once after they left Norman when Dalton took his first job in Wisconsin. My student that helped drive also stayed at their house a couple of days before he flew back to North Carolina. The job offer and move had all taken place so quickly we didn’t know anything about the school, cialis city or state. As it turned out there was a housing shortage in Sioux City when we arrived, particularly in rental property. Our stay with Dalton ended up being about six weeks. We couldn’t find any place to rent so we started looking for a house to buy. We ended up buying another old two-story place about 5 blocks from school. This was a truly scary event for us; buying our first house was no small thing and it took a lot longer than we thought before we finalized the deal and could move in. Jo took the baby and went back to Oklahoma for about three weeks. This was definitely better for her, she had her Mom to help with the baby and it reduced the burden on our friends. By the time we could move into our house school had already started and it had started getting cool. I will always be very grateful to Dalton and his wife Linda for opening up their house and being such great friends. I have great memories of them and that house. As it turned out those are about the only good memories I have from our stay in Iowa. One of those memories included other graduate school friends coming to visit. At that time whenever two or more artist friends got together we pulled out a slide projector, found a clean wall in a dark room and started showing each other what our new work looked like and any other slides of inspiration. The guys, there were four of us, went down in the basement and plugged in the projector and started looking at each other’s slides. The girls all stayed upstairs and talked and visited leaving the men to be men in the basement. We were in the basement watching the slides in total darkness. The light and humming noise from the projector were the only noise or light in the room. I suddenly heard and felt a fluttering noise close to my face. I jumped and said did anybody see that. The other three looked at me like I was crazy then we saw something flutter through the light and project a shadow on the screen. We all jumped up as this mysterious flying thing flew all around the room. We finally figured out it was a bat and it definitely had our attention. We quickly turned on the light so we could see the critter and this just made it fly more frantically around the room. We were all dodging and ducking as the bat flew around us. Dalton kept some sporting equipment in the basement so one of the guys grabbed a baseball bat and Dalton picked up tennis racket. I picked up a scrap of wood and we proceeded to try and knock the evil critter out of the air. Needless to say we were all scared silly of this tiny little animal and I guess we were screaming like little girls. Jo and Linda came to the stairs and wanted to know what was going on. Dalton finally made contact with the tennis racket. I think it was a very clean forehand with topspin, Jimmy Connors would have been proud of the shot. The bat hit the wall and fell lifeless to the floor. We all felt like big game hunters after the big kill, the girls were not impressed.
When we finally moved in our new house it had been almost two months since I packed up my porch studio and I was anxious to get a studio set up. As I mentioned earlier our house was a two-story house with a full basement. This was not unusual in Iowa; almost all the houses had basements. The basements ranged from completely finished to completely raw with dirt walls and floors. Ours was somewhere in-between with concrete walls and floor. With a new baby and more furniture than when we moved to North Carolina there wasn’t much space available upstairs for a studio so, it was downstairs to the basement. There were some positives; I didn’t have to worry about getting paint on anything or being excessively neat, cleaning and putting every thing away after each time I used it. There were also some negatives; one of those was the lighting or lack of it. At the time I realized that it wasn’t very good light to work in and it definitely wasn’t like the natural light filled studio in North Carolina, but I didn’t think it would affect my work. I was wrong but I really didn’t notice it until we moved away from Iowa, back to Oklahoma. I still think the work done in Iowa was good but it is definitely different from my other work, particularly in color and light. The work generally is darker and lower in contrast. I think this is partially because of the studio, but not entirely. I call this series of work my “Basement Series.” Teaching at Morningside College and living in Sioux City was good at first. It was great to reconnect with Dalton and his wife. We also enjoyed the other faculty at Morningside. We became good friends with an exchange faculty member and his wife, Roy and Sheila Jones from Southport, England. The three art faculty members, Dalton, Roy and myself all had similar ideas about what contemporary art was all about. That was definitely different from North Carolina. The students were a little more sophisticated than North Carolina. All of this was good but things changed during that first year. Shortly after Jo returned from Oklahoma, she became sick with what we thought was a simple cold but it got worse and worse and we couldn’t find a doctor that would take new patients. Along with this, winter hit! Winter in Iowa is brutal. We had never lived anywhere that had that much snow or that was that bitterly cold. On top of the severe weather, the Art Department began to have problems with the Administration of the College. Dalton was acting as temporary Chair of the Department while the actual Chair was in England as the other half of the exchange. He started having a few minor problems early in the spring semester and it came to a head over an invitational sculpture show in our gallery. One of the invited guest artists submitted a three quarter life size carving of a nude human male figure. The administration felt it was inappropriate for a Methodist based college. Dalton argued to keep the sculpture in the show on the grounds that it was art and very appropriate. They left the sculpture but fired Dalton. The art faculty, all of the art students and many other faculty members were appalled. We immediately started protesting with letters and meetings with the administration. They said the reason had nothing to do with the show or the sculpture and insisted that it was because of low enrollment and economic reasons which made no sense. I learned a valuable lesson about politics in small colleges and universities. Administrations can do anything they want and justify it with economics and there is nothing you can do about it. I lost my Dad that spring to a heart attack. He died just a few months short of their 50th wedding anniversary. We were all very upset, particularly my mom who was also suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis. All of this tension and the weather was more than I could endure; I started looking for another position immediately.
[caption id="attachment_874" align="aligncenter" width="562"] "Iowa Basement Series - Dotal Pingere Red Grid" / 45"x45" / acrylic on canvas[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_875" align="aligncenter" width="636"] "Iowa Basement Series - Dotal Pingere 3 Panes" / 66"x90" / acrylic on canvas[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_876" align="aligncenter" width="466"] "Iowa Basement Series - Dotal Pingere Blue Grid" / 66"x66" / acrylic on canvas[/caption]
Chapter 9 During the massive job hunt, I packed up the studio and stopped working on art. There was no one using the studio space during the summer so I moved most of my large paintings to a back room and brought my paint, brushes and materials home. After talking briefly by phone to the Chair of the Art Department at Pembroke I was very excited to accept the invitation to interview for a Printmaking position. He said they would make the arrangements for the interview and be back in touch with the details. He called a few days later with flight and ticket information and it was set. The truth is I was more than excited about this opportunity. The whole interview thing was a little scary. I had never even flown before and I was about to fly over 1200 miles to interview for the one and only job available for me this year. Scary. . .terrifying! By the time I was scheduled to leave I was a wreck and I had a bad head cold. I boarded that plane determined to do my best. The flight was about a three-hour flight to Atlanta where I had to change planes for the final flight to North Carolina. Remember, this was my first flight and I had no idea what to expect or how difficult it would be to change planes in Atlanta. Well, everything went well except for the head cold. I was so congested that my ears never equalized in the ascent from Oklahoma City and again in the descent into Atlanta. Talk about a headache; in addition to my head about to explode, I lost my hearing. I realized that I couldn’t hear when the plane was on the ground and taxiing to the terminal, I looked over and out the window and saw the lady sitting next to me. She was a middle aged black woman and she was obviously talking to me but I couldn’t hear anything she was saying. In a panic I looked away hoping that she didn’t think I was the biggest bigot in the universe. I got off the plane as quickly as I could and made my way into the airport. I didn’t have a clue as to what I should do so, I just avoided all eye contact and wandered around the Atlanta airport afraid to look at anyone, afraid they would speak to me and I wouldn’t be able to hear them. I found my connecting flight and about the time I was to board my ears finally equalized and I could hear. What a relief but now I was afraid this would happen again and I wouldn’t be able to hear when I reached North Carolina and I would never be able to find or communicate with the person who was sent to pick me up. The second part of the flight was shorter and I started trying to swallow hard the minute we took off to keep my ears clear. It was still painful but I was able to get my ears to pop so I was able to hear. There was more turbulence on this flight so I had other things to worry about, maybe that was a blessing. We landed and I was never happier to be on the ground and to have my first plane ride over. I got my luggage and headed to the gate where I quickly found, or maybe he found me, the Chair of the Art Department. Paul VanZandt was his name and he had a knack for making me feel at ease. I found out why on the 30-minute trip from the airport in Fayetteville to Pembroke and Paul’s house. It turned out that Paul was also from Oklahoma and got his undergrad degree from OSU. Another coincidence, again I don’t think so. I quickly realized that Paul was really trying hard to not only make me feel at home but was also trying to make a good impression. This realization was very odd to me -- didn’t he know that this job was the only job in America. Of course, it was not the only job in America but there sure weren’t enough positions to go around for all the recent graduates. The interview was a quick two-day event so there was a tight schedule to follow. As I mentioned earlier I was staying with Paul and his family in their guest bedroom. So I quickly put my things in the room and laid down for a minute to rest. I was informed that we would be having dinner back in Fayetteville with other faculty members and would be leaving for the restaurant in about an hour. Paul’s family was friendly and continued to make me feel welcome. His house was an older two-story house with great southern charm. So far, this interview was going great and not what I expected.
We left to meet the others at the restaurant, again about a thirty-minute trip. I learned that Paul’s art was ceramics and he was very dedicated and passionate about it. That was a good thing and even though I didn’t know much about ceramics, we shared that passion about our art. We got to the restaurant and I met the rest of the faculty. The restaurant was an upscale steakhouse and we were seated a large round table. As the waiter took drink orders he asked why we were dining with them and Paul replied, “We are trying to convince this young man to accept a teaching position with us at Pembroke State University.” OK, now I am really surprised -- he doesn’t know they have the only job available in America. I was so surprised with this statement it was all I thought about the rest of the trip. The evening went well and we got back at Paul’s house late and I was extremely tired so I went straight to bed to try and get ready for a full day of meetings tomorrow. The next day I toured the Art Building and the rest of the campus. It was small but adequate and what they didn’t seem to know was it was the only job in America. We had more meetings with faculty and administrators and at the end of the day they offered me the job. Crazy, this was not what I expected at all. I really was prepared to wow them with my abilities, skills and dedication but I didn’t have to do that at all. Well, I verbally accepted and they told me the official contract would be mailed to me. Done deal, I had my first full-time teaching job. I was a University instructor. I couldn’t wait to tell Jo but I had to wait a while until I was alone so I could call her. The flight back to Oklahoma was much better than the flight to North Carolina. Maybe it was because I was so excited about the outcome of the interview or maybe it was because I knew what to expect but I didn’t suffer with the ear problems like I did in the previous flight. Back at home, Jo and I were excited to start our new adventure. Neither of us had ever lived out of Oklahoma and we were ready to move and experience new things and meet new friends.
We immediately started planning and preparing for the move. We decided to go with a moving company because of family connections at a local moving company in Altus, Oklahoma. This seemed like the best option because we wouldn’t have to rent a U-Haul truck and tow our car. The moving company was located in Altus, about 100 miles from Norman. This meant we would have to pack everything and contact them to pick it up before we left for North Carolina. We didn’t have a lot of furniture, just a few odds and ends pieces, a bed and a lot of big paintings but it still was a lot of packing. I stayed in contact with Paul back in North Carolina and he started looking for places that we could rent that would be convenient to school. Mid-summer, I went out to my former studio for the first time in a couple of months to check on the paintings and start preparing them for the big move. By this time it was very hot and the building the studio was in was not air-conditioned. When I went into the room the paintings were stored in I noticed a bit of an oil paint smell, which I thought was a little odd because it had been almost three months since they were completed and shown. At the time of my senior show they were completely dry with no oil odor. As I walked across the small room to the wall the paintings were leaning against, I noticed amber colored puddles on the floor under the paintings. At first I thought that it was water from rain and a possible leaky roof. On closer inspection I realized it was thick partially dry oil. Remember my deKooning inspired painting medium. Willem deKooning had said the reason he liked it was that it didn’t dry, I didn’t think he meant ever! The oil had separated completely from the paint and run off the canvases onto the floor. So, if any of you think you might want to try this, you might want to think again or at least get real safflower oil and don’t substitute Wesson oil. Amazingly, the paintings didn’t look bad because the pigment stuck to the canvas and the oil is all that ran off. There were a few streaks where it ran down the front surface but even those disappeared over time as you can see by the pieces in this exhibit from that series.
About this time Paul called and said he had found a great house that would be available for rent when we arrived. He said that it was a little pricey but big and very nice. My first thought was about the cost, so I asked him about that first and he said that it would be $135.00 per month. We were paying more than that for a two-bedroom apartment so that shouldn’t be a problem so I asked him about the size and location. He said it was 3000 square feet, in the country about seven miles from school. 3000 squarefeet, that was about 3 times the size of our current apartment. Jo and I talked about it and decided to take it sight unseen. We were very excited about it and a little scared about the size, how would we ever fill it up and would we get lost rambling around in a house that big.
During that summer in 1973, we experienced the nation’s first oil crisis. Even though it wasn’t that bad in Oklahoma, we saw long gas lines and increased prices all over the country. We knew we had a very long trip coming up to North Carolina and uncertainty on the availability and price of gasoline in North Carolina. We were driving a full size pickup truck at the time that got about 9–10 miles per gallon and I wasn’t sure we would be able to get enough gas to get to North Carolina. So, we started looking for a different vehicle that would be more gas efficient. We decided on a new Ford Pinto wagon. Although the Pinto later would get a lot of bad press with exploding gas tanks and other problems, we had really good luck with ours and later would buy another. It was red with the wood grain side panels that made it look like a cute, small version of the “family truckster” featured in Family Vacation. We finished packing all our worldly goods and called our relatives at the moving company and made arrangements for them to pick them up at our apartment in Norman. They would then take them back to Altus and store them until the next full load was heading for North Carolina, then they would put our stuff on the truck with the full load and bring it to us. They assured us it wouldn’t be long, probably not over a week, because Fort Bragg was in Fayetteville and that was a prime transfer location for Army families. We packed our personal stuff into a few boxes and filled what little luggage we had with our clothes and strapped them on our nifty luggage rack. Almost as an after thought, we thought we should cover the luggage rack just in case it rained, so we bought a cheap plastic tarp and strapped it over everything. The back of the new “family truckster” was completely full up to the front seats. We left just enough room for our dog between the two front seats. We both hopped in and took off for our new and exciting adventure. We got about 30 miles until the plastic tarp ripped to shreds and was dangling about two car lengths behind us. The next town down Interstate 40 was Shawnee, Oklahoma. We stopped at the Wal-Mart, bought another tarp and tried to secure it better in the parking lot. As I remember it lasted about another 100 miles. Jo and I have never been real die-hard drivers. Neither of us can last more than about 100 miles before we have to stop, so every 100 miles we would stop and switch drivers. Late that first night we still managed to make it to our first day destination, somewhere around Jackson, Tennessee. Our dog was a really good-natured dog that we found as a puppy in a McDonalds parking lot. She was about 60 pounds full grown when we made this trip, so she was a pretty big animal. She was much too big to be cooped up in a 1 foot by two foot area for 12 hours. She made it pretty well the first day but she kept crowding closer and closer to the front seat. We were all tired and ready to get out and stretch and not have to get right back in for another 100 miles. We got up the next morning, still tired but ready to get back on the road. We should easily get there by early evening, so we loaded up again and headed out. By the first 100 miles, our dog was already practically in our laps but we pushed her bag to her allotted spot and kept going. This got progressively worse the rest of the day, and by the last 100 miles the dog was done. No more pushing her back and for the first and only time that I can remember she growled at us just to let us know she was done with one foot by two foot space, so she rode the rest of the way in our laps in the front seat. We got to the motel in Red Springs, North Carolina, about midnight. By that time we were all done. I was so happy that the trip was over and we could all get out and rest.
We got up the next morning excited that we were finally here and ready to start the next phase of our lives. We drove around a little so we could see everything in the daylight. Then started looking for Paul’s house. Red Springs, North Carolina, was a very small town, so it didn’t take us long to look around. We found Paul’s house pretty quickly and he was expecting us. If you remember, he had found us a house earlier in the summer to rent and had made arrangements with the owners for us to move in when we arrived. We were anxious to see the house so Paul said he could introduce us to the owner, get us a key and show us where it was when we arrived. Over the phone it sounded too good to be true so we were really looking forward to seeing it. The house was half way between Red Springs and Pembroke in the country. It took about 15 minutes to get there and the drive gave us our first view of the area. Coming from Oklahoma, it was new and very pretty. It was flat like Oklahoma, maybe even flatter but there were huge pine trees. This was definitely different than Oklahoma. Outside the small communities of this area of North Carolina the land was primarily used for farming and tobacco was the primary crop. We were used to farming and farm communities but we had never seen tobacco fields. I was very surprised at how small they were. We past several tobacco fields and they were surrounded by tall pines, and then we came to a small drive barely visible between the pines. Paul said this was it and he turned in the drive. We could not see the house from the road because pine trees surrounded it. The drive turned out to be a circle drive and as we started the circle we got our first glimpse of the house. It was a ranch style house, which was a little unusual for the area, with painted wood siding. It looked great with a large grass yard surrounded by tall pines. Paul parked in front of the door and we hopped out anxious to see the inside. Jo and I were amazed, it was twice as big as anything we had lived in and was really nice. It had hardwood floors throughout, two fireplaces, formal dining room, great kitchen with a breakfast nook, den, huge living room, 3 bedrooms and a screened back porch. Paul kept saying he knew it was expensive but . . . we just kept saying it was great! We took the house immediately, went back into town, picked up our car, checked out of the motel and headed back to the house. All we had was what we had packed in to our tiny Pinto but it was great to unload and start planning what we were going to do with the house. Remember, all our furniture, what little we had, all our pots, pans and dishes, everything was being moved by the moving company, so we wandered around this big house and tried to think how would we ever fill it up? We didn’t have a bed so the first thing we did was go into town and buy a couple of cheap air mattresses. These should be fine; it would only be for a few days until our stuff got here. It was a great adventure, kind of like camping indoors. After the first night we realized, maybe we should have spent a little more than 97 cents on our air mattresses. We had to blow them up twice during the night. Oh well, it would be all right, the moving van would probably be here this weekend. Well, the first week went by and no word from the moving company. Not a problem, we’ll just give them a call, they are probably on the road now and would be here any day. Jo called her cousin at the moving company back in Oklahoma, our stuff hadn’t left Oklahoma yet but they were sure it would go out soon. OK, well we will just hang in and explore the surrounding area during the days and maybe get a little better air mattress for the nights. We had heard that there were great deals on furniture in North Carolina because so much furniture was manufactured there. So, after almost two weeks of rambling around in a 3000 square foot house with nothing, we started looking. We knew we couldn’t buy much but maybe we could find something to sit on. We found a beautiful couch and a very comfortable lounge chair. They were a little out of our price range but they were beautiful and. . .we were desperate. We bought them and now we had our first new furniture, a beautiful contemporary couch and a contemporary lounge chair and ottoman. We spent way more on this new furniture than we had planned so we didn’t replace the 97-cent air mattresses, surely our stuff would arrive soon. Well, to make a long and painful story a little shorter, it never did. My Dad rented a U-Haul truck and hired a friend to help load it and drive to North Carolina to deliver our furniture and the rest of our stuff. Lesson learned, beware of those super good family deals. If they sound too good to be true, they probably are.
One of the first things I do when I move to a new place is assess where my studio will be. This was big and I could have used one of the bedrooms. I have done that before but over the last three years at school I had the luxury of water and a sink in the studio. Since I primarily work with water-based paint, this was convenient for mixing and clean up. The bathroom and kitchen location in this house did not allow for a close water source. This house did have a huge screened porch on the back of the house and the weather is really nice most of the year in North Carolina, so I decided to try and set my studio up there. I bought a galvanized wash sink and stand at a local hardware store. I ran a garden hose from the closest outside water hydrant. I lifted one corner of the screen and ran the hose into the porch, then hooked up a faucet. The sink came with an attached piece of garden hose for a drain, so I just ran it outside through the same corner of the screen mesh. It worked perfectly, simple and cheap. Throughout graduate school one of the things I was always concerned with was the light in the area I painted and the display wall where I hung each piece to view its progress and to photograph the final paintings. It was not just me but all my fellow students spent a lot of time and money rigging up elaborate light bars to try and emulate “museum lighting.” As it turned out the natural light on this “porch studio” was fabulous. It did make it a little difficult to work at night but the daylight was great. I was finally set up and ready to paint.
[caption id="attachment_856" align="aligncenter" width="680"] "Viola's" -7"x8" - zink plate etching In North Carolina my primary teaching duties were printmaking. That plus the local styles greatly influenced my work. These are examples of prints done during my first year at Pembroke. The smaller more intimate scale allowed for more recognisable imagery.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_857" align="aligncenter" width="598"] "A Tisket A Tasket" - 10"x12" - zink plate etching[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_858" align="aligncenter" width="570"] "Double Feature" - 12"x15.75" - zink plate etching and collagraph[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_859" align="aligncenter" width="863"] "Monkey See Monkey Do I" - 12"x18" - zinc plate etching and relief[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_860" align="aligncenter" width="817"] "Monkey See Monkey Do II" - 15"x22" - embossed drawing, graphite and airbrush[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_861" align="aligncenter" width="618"] "Monkey See Monkey Do III" - 17"x24" - etching and airbrush[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_862" align="aligncenter" width="546"] "Byzantine Jody" - 30"x38" - acrylic and silk screen on canvas[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_863" align="aligncenter" width="516"] "Artist's Father" - 20.5"x26.5" - oil pastels and graphite[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_864" align="aligncenter" width="516"] "Artist's Father and Friends" - 20.5"x26.5" - oil pastels and graphite[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_865" align="aligncenter" width="420"] "Studio Transition 1" - 66"x66" - acrylic on canvas[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_866" align="aligncenter" width="558"] "Studio Transition 2" - 66"x66" - acrylic on canvas[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_867" align="aligncenter" width="544"] "Studio Transition 3" - 66"x66" - acrylic on canvas[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_868" align="aligncenter" width="660"] "North Carolina Landscape Study" - 20"x24" - acrylic on watercolor paper hand stitched on canvas. As you have noticed, I usually work on a small scale at the same time I am working on the larger paintings. I use these as working studies for the larger works.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_869" align="aligncenter" width="671"] "North Carolina Landscape Study" - 20"x24" - acrylic on watercolor paper hand stitched on canvas[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_870" align="aligncenter" width="646"] "North Carolina Landscape Study" - 20"x24" - acrylic on watercolor paper hand stitched on canvas[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_871" align="aligncenter" width="657"] "North Carolina Landscape Study" - 20"x24" - acrylic on watercolor paper hand stitched on canvas[/caption]
By this time school had started and I was very busy teaching and getting to know my students and my fellow faculty members. If you remember I was hired to teach printmaking so there was a lot of technique I had to brush up on. The instructor that was there before me primarily taught relief printing and that was my weakest area. The school had a single Dickerson combination press that allowed me to teach intaglio, lithography, and relief techniques and I added some screen printing to round out the curriculum. My printmaking classes were going well and the students seemed eager to learn. I started working on some prints to demonstrate techniques in class but I really hadn’t started painting yet. The painting instructor was a very “Southern” man a little older than me from Memphis. His work was nothing like mine, in fact no one here, student or faculty, worked anything like I did. I was definitely unique here. As an undergraduate and graduate student I was strongly influenced by my teachers and the current trends in contemporary art as seen in national publications like Art In America and Art Forum. I naively thought everyone in America that was interested in contemporary art was doing work similar to what I was doing or what I had seen from my fellow students. Boy, I was wrong! The painting instructor at Pembroke worked in a very controlled surreal style, almost a fantasy style, with landscapes as his primary subject. Most of the students also worked in a surrealistic style. I was very surprised, I thought Surrealism had pretty much died as a popular style and was only being used by Salvador Dali and a few fantasy illustrators. Well let me tell you, Surrealism was alive and well in North Carolina and it wasn’t the cool, funny, and clever Magritte Surrealism, it was the crazy, melty clock Dali Surrealism. This definitely had an impact on me. I didn’t particularly like the work I was seeing but I was the new guy looking for approval. It was much easier to adapt images to my prints and drawings so that is where I started, trying to mix my styles with what I was seeing stylistically here in North Carolina. I quickly moved to a larger scale with my paintings. I painted and struggled for a couple of months until I finally lost it on a large painting that just wouldn’t come together. It was stiff, cold, lacked emotion and energy and most importantly, it wasn’t me! In frustration I put the painting on the floor and in anger started pouring paint over everything I had worked so hard and long on. It felt good and I worked at a frantic pace, threw down my brushes and went inside. I went back out the next day and realized everything that was bad with the painting now was better – much better! I learned another important life lesson. You must be true to yourself, you can’t be someone else. Revitalized with the new approach I started a new series of work that I called “Studio Transformations.” They were loosely based on the North Carolina landscape, particularly the view that surrounded me in my porch studio. Jo and I settled into our new “adult” lives in North Carolina. We both worked on campus so we rode together every day. On the weekends we explored the surrounding area. We made some great new friends and really enjoyed our time there. Our new friends were from the area and showed us around on several trips around the state. We bought some nice 10-speed bikes and rode them around our area. It was very flat where we lived which was great for biking. The state was beautiful with the beach and ocean on one side and mountains on the other side. All and all we loved North Carolina, but Jo and I wanted to start a family and the area we lived in was very rural with a pretty bad secondary education system. We really wanted a little better school system for our future children. Jo got pregnant early in the semester of my second year. We had our first baby, Brenan, in May. He was beautiful and perfect and yes, he changed our lives! About this time, I got a call from my friend Dalton Maroney. Dalton was teaching at a small private college in Sioux City, Iowa called Morningside College. He said they had an opening for a painting and printmaking instructor and wanted me to apply. The idea of working with Dalton again was very appealing and also it included teaching painting. That combined with the possibility of a better school system to help raise our little boy was enough for me to apply. They offered me the position with a rank increase to Assistant Professor. I talked it over with Jo and we agreed that it seemed like a good opportunity so I accepted and started planning the move.
I had now completed half of my required 56 hours for my graduate MFA degree and was in the middle of the spring 1972 semester. Because of my anticipated graduation I started preparation for my Senior Exhibit. The first step was contacting my graduate committee advisors and scheduling the show. My committee consisted of Gene Bavinger, troche George Bogart and Pete Bache. My first contact was George Bogart. When I approached him and told him I wanted to talk about my senior show he said “Why, unhealthy you have a whole year left before graduation.” I immediately knew I was in trouble. I explained what I was trying to do and why and he said the program was a minimum 2 year program and that it was not possible to complete it in only one year. I explained that I had talked to the Director, vcialis 40mg Joe Hobbs, and he had told me there were no restrictions on minimum time spent. George was very concerned and sympathetic but was not very optimistic that I would be allowed to graduate in one year. I again stated that after the current semester I would only have 12 hours remaining and that I had already completed 12 hours during the last summer term and was sure I could repeat that performance. He said that he would talk to the Director and get back with me, but not to get my hopes up. I quickly approached the rest of my committee and got the same shock and disbelief. They also said they didn’t think that this would be possible. When Joe Hobbs was confronted about the situation he simply denied ever having said that and said I must have misunderstood. It was obvious that I was not going to win this battle. A new policy was created that specified there was a minimum of a 2-year residency that was required before completing the MFA degree program. At the time I was devastated. This would mean that I would miss my window of opportunity for the teaching position at Cameron (my dream job) and there would be no guarantees of a teaching job anywhere. In addition, I would have to spread my remaining 12 hours over another year. This just seemed unfair and a waste. Looking back on it now, it wasn’t such a bad thing. The truth is I don’t really know if the casual commitment from Jack Bryan was a real job offer. At the very least, I would have had to apply like everyone else and win the job with my credentials, body of work and personal interview. Sure, I had some things going for me but I was also very, very young. As it turned out I told my friend Dwight Pogue about it and he applied and got the job. I hoped that by the next year there might be another position or that Dwight would not like it there and move on, but I knew the chances were pretty slim.
OK, welcome to my new reality. What do I do now? After 5 years in college, 4 undergraduate years and 1 in grad school, what do I do now? I wasn’t going to quit; there was no logic in that. One thing was certain, I could S L O W down. There was no reason to enroll in summer school, I only had 12 hours left and I had to spread those out over the next year. After taking 16 hours each regular semester taking only 6 was going to take some adjustment. So, I decided to take the summer off, try and relax and wrap my head around finishing and the job search that would follow. I was still working with the bag series and was still pretty excited about the potential there so I enrolled in 6 hours of painting for the fall semester. You know the funny thing about it, this exercise in writing has forced me to remember everything possible about past events that relate to my work and I can’t remember anything about that summer. I guess for the first time my thoughts were not consumed with work and love number two. I guess I relaxed and just enjoyed life for a while. I do remember a lot of spring and summer evenings with fellow grad student friends playing Ping-Pong and drinking beer at our little rent house. Most of our friends at that time were fellow grad students and their wives who were a year ahead of me in the program. Most of them had just graduated and were in the process of looking for a University teaching position. This was something that I knew I now would be consumed with in another year, so watching them go through it really helped me prepare. I had a part-time job as a maintenance man for an apartment complex, which eventually led to us moving to a newer complex where we became assistant managers. This job only lasted about a month. The job paid for half of our rent, which was the equivalent of $75.00 a month, and for that huge amount of money we got to be responsible for the entire complex of about 50 apartments. You know Jo and I have never been real good with money or anything that had to do with finances, but in less than a month we both realized that this was not a good financial decision. I only had about 8 months left until I graduated so we decided to stay and just pay the full amount for rent.
Fall semester started and I continued to work with bags of colored liquid. Each piece became more elaborate in construction and the development of each component. They also became more and more dimensional. The final couple of pieces were free standing structures made with a complex redwood 1”x2” frame that supported the bags. They were large massive pieces and even I would have a difficult time justifying them as paintings. The largest was a grid construction that was 8’ x 8’ x 1’. This piece had 144 bags that were 12” square hanging in each open 12” space of the grid. The weight was unbelievable. I assembled this piece in my studio at the time, which if you remember, was an old bathhouse. My space was the shower area so there were drains in the floor and the floor slanted toward the drains. This slant made the piece lean slightly. People were afraid to come into the room because they were afraid the structure would fall on them. In reality there was no way it could fall because the weight stabilized the piece. In retrospect, I think the reason I continued to build and highly craft these elaborate pieces had to do with me wanting to give or make these pieces more permanent, more like traditional paintings, more like pretty pictures.
Toward the end of the semester I started doing some drawings of the colored bags. They were a little smaller and more personal than the large major pieces. They were still big, particularly for drawings, they were 18”x24” up to 22”x30” in size. I used a variety of media to produce these drawings including graphite pencils, colored pencils, oil pastels and acrylic paint. The paint was primarily used for the backgrounds and was applied with a spray gun and traditional brushes. These were important transitional pieces because they bridged the gap between two distinctively different bodies of work. I had been working with bags and the arranged process for about a year. This is not a particularly long time but it resulted in a large body of work that explored a lot of related but different concepts. I found myself really missing the physical aspects of making more traditional art, “pretty pictures.” These drawings were a way to use my hand skills and produce more traditional art that had a relationship to the current “bag” series. The interest in these drawings led me back to an interest in printmaking, my original undergraduate degree. I decided to enroll in a lithography class my final semester. This was an area of printmaking that I had not explored. At OU at that time graduates did not actually have specific classes. They enrolled in hours under a specific instructor and worked independently. I enrolled in 3 hours under one of the printmaking instructors. As it turned out, Ralph Steeds, the other graduate student that was admitted with me was a printmaker. The graduate studio for printmaking was back on the main campus. Ralph and I were the only students working in this space so we got to know each other pretty well. Ralph was a very disciplined technician and taught me a lot about stone lithography. During this period of time I worked on perfecting my skills in printmaking, particularly in lithography. This skill set eventually proved to be very beneficial and I’ll talk more about that in a future chapter of this book. I produced several small editions of lithographs primarily to learn more about the craft of lithography. The subject matter for these prints came from the drawings of bags I mentioned earlier in this chapter.
[caption id="attachment_839" align="aligncenter" width="728"] "Projection Bags" - plastic bags, wood, food color & fluorescent light[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_840" align="aligncenter" width="481"] "Zip Lock I" - limited edition stone lithograph[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_841" align="aligncenter" width="487"] "Zip Lock II" - airbrush, graphite & stone lithograph[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_842" align="aligncenter" width="636"] "Twelve Baggies on a Bed of Acrylic" - graphite, acrylic, oil pastels on paper[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_843" align="aligncenter" width="554"] "Zip Lock III" - limited edition stone lithograph[/caption]
During the final semester at OU, I split my time working on prints and painting. As I mentioned the concepts and subject matter for the prints came directly from the “bag series” but the paintings were becoming harder to generate new ideas and quite frankly I was becoming less interested in pursuing the visual avant garde direction of the bag series. It had been over a year since I had stretched a canvas and applied paint in a traditional fashion. I missed the craftsmanship. I missed the act of painting. I consistently read about contemporary art and artists in books and magazines. I started this practice as an undergrad student in an effort to learn about and keep up with art trends. In most reference books and magazines like “Art in America” and “Art Forum,” I learned about the conceptual thinking of individual artists but rarely did I learn anything about their techniques or personal methods of painting. Occasionally I would learn what media was used but that was about it. I was particularly fond of the Abstract Expressionists. I often thought how exciting it would be to have lived in New York City in the early ‘50’s with the explosion of Abstract Expressionism and Cool Jazz. Watching artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell mixing with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck and Stan Getz as they developed their unique and new styles of art and music.
On rare occasions I would come across some information about an artist and their experimentation with different non-traditional materials. I was always very interested in the process, something I definitely picked up from Gene Bavinger. While reading about Willem de Kooning, I learned that he experimented with several different types of oil medium. He first departed from the traditional linseed and stand oil and tried poppy-seed oil that gave him a more fluid mixture. He then abandoned the poppy-seed oil for safflower cooking oil. He bragged that he had found a salad oil that he could use in lieu of expensive artists’ oils. This sounded great to me. I had never painted much with oils and I really wanted to try it. I had become very dependent on acrylic paint and polymer additives to produce large volumes of paint inexpensively for my large paintings. This new “salad dressing” formula sounded like a great way to approach large-scale oil paintings. So, I headed to the grocery store to purchase art supplies. At my local Safeway (pre Homeland) store they didn’t have any safflower oil, so, regular old Wesson oil would have to do. I bought a gallon and headed back to the studio. I stretched up a large canvas, primed it with house paint gesso and set it aside to dry. That night I continued to read and research about de Kooning’s techniques. I read that he really like this new medium because of its liquid state. He stated that it “stays wet a long time, it doesn’t dry like linseed oil, I can work longer.” He was definitely right about that. I found out that his brand of choice was Saff-o-life safflower oil. That must have been a New York only brand; I couldn’t find that brand or any other brand of safflower oil in local grocery stores. I also read he often mixed the oil paint, safflower oil, solvent and water together, whipping it into a fluffy consistency. Wow, mixing it with water, I had never heard of such a thing, but it gave me a lot of ideas. The next morning I headed to the studio with a few new tubes of oil paint and a lot of ideas. I took the canvas and placed it on the floor. I took my oil paint and mixed a specific color then added a large amount of the Wesson oil and started mixing it with a 1” brush. Amazing, this stuff was great. Beautiful rich color with that famous buttery smooth consistency. I added a little thinner until I got a very fluid mixture. I went to the canvas and started pouring, spattering, slinging, brushing, all with my newly found energy and passion. I loved what I was accomplishing so this added to the energy and it all showed. I quickly went back to my paint and mixed another color and rushed back to the canvas. Then I got really crazy. I mixed up another color with acrylic paint; let’s break all the rules! Unlike de Kooning, I didn’t whip the oil and water mixture together; I let them repel each other. This rule of opposites is the fundamental reason lithography works as a printing method and I wanted to see what would happen with paint. It created a beautiful marbling effect on the canvas. I continued the entire day barely stopping to eat. I left the painting on the floor and headed home very satisfied with my new approach and very excited to continue this new series. When I returned the next day I was pleasantly surprised to find the painting rich in color and very energetic. The oil paint was dry to touch so the de Kooning / Hefner formula (my part was the substitution of Wesson oil) seemed to work. My semester work-load was very light so I decided to continue this new direction with the possible goal of showing these new pieces in my senior show, which was scheduled at the end of the semester. I started building more stretcher frames immediately. As the paintings progressed, it looked like I was going to have enough to show, so I started asking for more space in the gallery area to accommodate a good selection of the bag paintings and the new oil paintings. The show was scheduled in the new Art building in the light well gallery. The light well gallery was really only one long wall and I felt that it would be adequate for the bag paintings, but would not be well suited for the oils. The honest truth was the two series were so visually different, they did not show well together. The basic concepts had not changed much but the process and application was so different they really didn’t look like the same person produced them. I asked the Chair of the Department if I could have more space and he allowed me to have an entire adjoining room. This room was designed to be an independent classroom, but it worked well as an overflow room for the gallery. I liked it because I could physically separate the work. This room did not have gallery lighting but it was a good space with open walls. I hung the bag pieces in the light well. I hung the oil paintings in the overflow room along with the three-dimensional bag pieces. I was pleased with the show even though it looked like two completely different artists. I decided earlier to focus on painting in my final thesis show rather than mixing in prints and drawings even though I was producing new work in both categories. Now I was ready to defend my work before my committee before receiving my MFA and I was expecting to have quite a debate because of the visual diversity.
It was finally here, the end was in sight, my graduate degree was just days away. The required two years had been finished, the thesis show hung and reviewed and my defense was scheduled. As I mentioned, I was a little concerned about that last step but determined to finish strong. Well, as it turned out, it was no big thing. My committee and I met in the overflow room. After they took one last look at the entire show, we all sat down. They asked a few questions about technique on the most recent oil paintings and then asked if I had any teaching job leads. That was it, all the preparation on concept, rationale and philosophy, all the physical work, all the pain and joy – over in 5 minutes. To this day, I don’t really know how they felt about the work. It was obviously good enough or maybe they felt they had given me all they could and it was just time for me to go. The one thing I do know is I was extremely relieved. Now, for the rest of the story. . .remember I mentioned how important that last semester and the printmaking course was, well as it turned out, I entered every print and drawing show that I could find that semester and was accepted in several. One of the most prestigious was a national competition at Davidson, North Carolina. I didn’t realize at the time how prestigious this show was or how competitive, but it was one of the top print and drawing competitions in the Country at that time. Later, during the summer, in the middle of the massive job hunt, I got a positive response from a small school in North Carolina, Pembroke State University in Pembroke, North Carolina. As it turned out, I sent out over 600 letters of inquires to Colleges and Universities all over the United States and got one interview. That interview turned out to be that small school in North Carolina 30 minutes down the road from Davidson, North Carolina – the same Davidson that hosted the national print and drawing competition where I had recently been accepted. A coincidence, maybe but I doubt it.
[caption id="attachment_845" align="aligncenter" width="733"] After the bag series, I missed the traditional aspect of applying paint to canvas, so I experimented with mixing oil and acrylic in a small but significant group of work. This series of work was inspired by Willem de Kooning. "Under the Big Top" - oil and acrylic on canvas[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_846" align="aligncenter" width="963"] "Thesis Color Study" - oil, acrylic on watercolor paper[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_847" align="aligncenter" width="525"] "New Growth" - oil & acrylic on canvas[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_850" align="aligncenter" width="430"] "Untitled" - oil & acrylic on canvas[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_851" align="aligncenter" width="531"] Thesis Show - Light Well Gallery, University of Oklahoma[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_852" align="aligncenter" width="3080"] Thesis Show - Light Well Gallery, University of Oklahoma[/caption]
The Mid-Way Show was a success and the museum retained one piece for their permanent collection. This was an honor or at least I thought it was at the time. I often wonder what became of that piece or if it was ever shown again. The influence from my fellow grad students was really beginning to affect my thought process and I was slowly starting to experiment with different materials. The entire time I was working with the wrinkle technique I was obviously working with an illusion of depth or space and I was trying to enhance or destroy this illusion with color and texture. I slowly started to play with this deconstruction using alternate materials like Plexiglas suspended in front of the wrinkle to visually prove the flatness. Then I started playing with making the wrinkle permanent with the use of polyester resin to stiffen the canvas. This led to combining the Plexiglas with the resin, then using the resin on lighter weight material i.e. muslin, then tinting the resin with dyes and paint, then casting separate elements of paint to apply or arrange on top of the other materials. Yea, you got it, lots of crazy experimentation but that is what graduate school is for or at least at OU (total freedom.) Now that I look back on it, what a wonderful time and place! All this experimentation and Otis’s influence eventually led to some arranged pieces. These pieces were similar in size and style to Otis’s work but I changed the materials slightly. Honestly, they weren’t very good and certainly lacked the passion and commitment that Otis and Dalton had with their work. It never happened but I think if almost anyone would have come in and told me that my work sucked and I was full of crap for even trying it, I would have agreed with them, stopped immediately and started something else. I truly was not committed to this type of work! I think of this work and this time period as a transitional period but even with my lack of commitment the effort and the exploration led to new developments in concept as well as process. I became acutely aware of the individual materials that I was choosing and their visual impact on the finished pieces. In traditional painting processes the materials are combined together to create a work where the individuality of each element was hidden in the totality of the whole. In these arranged pieces all the elements remained visible and uniquely separate from the whole. Each element had a distinctive visual effect on the finished piece. This was a new concept for me and I started working with this concept and its relationship with traditional painting materials. In particular I became intrigued with the idea of separating the materials completely yet still having them combine visually. This idea led to separating the paint from the canvas and the canvas from the stretcher frames and bringing them back together in a new presentation. About this time I found an old heat seal machine at the government surplus that I mentioned earlier. This machine was a bulky set of steel bars that were configured into a clamp that was hydraulically operated by compressed air. The bars of the clamp were coated with Teflon and heated to a high temperature so you could put two pieces of polyethylene plastic in and clamp it for about 30 seconds and it would melt the two together. I started using this machine to seal 12”x12” clear pieces of polyethylene plastic on three sides, then fill the bag with colored water then close or seal the remaining side. The end result was a clear plastic bag with colored liquid inside. These bags became my solution to separating the paint from the other elements. This led to an entire series of pieces that were visually a little more structured than the arranged work. This work definitely pushed the boundaries of sculpture and painting. I always thought of them as paintings even though some of the pieces were freestanding, floor structures. I thought of them as paintings because conceptually they were conceived from painting concepts. There was an interesting occurrence dealing with this controversial aspect of these pieces. During the fall semester of 1972, the Museum sponsored a painting competition for students. The competition was open to all art students including graduates. It was a juried competition and the juror was not from OU. I entered one of my bag pieces in the competition and installed it early on the deadline date. These pieces were separate components that I had to set up or arrange. The deadline for entries was 5:00 pm and about 4:00 pm the Director of the Museum, Sam Olkinetzky, contacted me and told me my submission was unacceptable. I asked him why and he said that the competition was for painting and my entry was not a painting. I tried briefly to argue with him using the logic that I created it and the concepts were all painting concepts, but I could see that I was getting nowhere so, I left angry. I went directly back to the art building and ran into George Bogart. He could see that I was distraught and asked me what was going on. I told him the whole scenario, he thought for a moment and told me that I should go back over and talk to him again. My immediate reaction was “Why, what’s the point.” George just looked at me and very calmly said, “If you don’t, he wins.” I certainly didn’t want that and I suddenly realized that George was right. I talked with George a little more to plan my strategy. He suggested that I calmly ask Sam what constitutes a painting and what distinguishes a painting from sculpture. I waited a few minutes and went back to the Museum. I found Sam and engaged him in the planned discussion. I asked him what his definition of painting was. At first he was combative, but I worked calmly and tried to convince him that I was trying to understand. He replied that a painting was all about color and that it could not be dimensional. I then asked him if shaped canvases and work like Frank Stella applied. He replied of course not because Stella was a recognized national painter. I then asked if the fame or notoriety of the artist had anything to do with determining weather a work was sculpture or painting. He replied that it did not. He continued to tell me that the work could not be dimensional. We discussed other dimensional painting techniques and other recognized artists and finally I asked him how far from the wall could a work project before it became sculpture. He was hesitant but finally said that a painting could not project from the wall more than 12 inches before it became sculpture. I then asked if I rearranged my work so that it did not project more than 12 inches, would it be acceptable. I had him; he reluctantly said, “I guess so.” I quickly went to where my piece was hanging and rearranged it by shoving all the ladder forms up against the wall so they did not extend more than 12 inches. It looked terrible but at least it was shown to the juror. A temporary victory! The true irony came after the juror reviewed all the work and awarded my piece the best in show award. He did comment that he thought the piece would be even better if the ladders projected further onto the floor. I renamed the piece “Sam’s Grief.” This event taught me a lot about the art of negotiation and how a cool head and rational discussion could be a strong asset. Later in life this lesson became extremely valuable in dealing with Design clients, distraught students and the dreaded “helicopter parent.”
[caption id="attachment_827" align="aligncenter" width="728"] Stacked Arrangement 80"x120"x36"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_828" align="aligncenter" width="741"] Freezer Bags 80"x120"x24"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_829" align="aligncenter" width="739"] Three Stall Holding Station 48"x80"x16"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_830" align="aligncenter" width="492"] Formal Bags 88"x60"x24"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_831" align="aligncenter" width="737"] Artist with bag[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_832" align="aligncenter" width="739"] Wrinkle Bags 72"x96"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_833" align="aligncenter" width="741"] Glad Bags 72"x132"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_834" align="aligncenter" width="739"] Painting on Painting 60"x90"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_835" align="aligncenter" width="586"] Sam's Grief 60"x90"x72"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_836" align="aligncenter" width="411"] Construction Bags 96"x96"x12"[/caption]
Since I thought it would be possible for me to get a MFA degree in one year from OU and was pretty sure I would be accepted into the program, drugs I didn’t bother to apply anywhere else. Both assumptions were very naïve. As it turned out I did get admitted, online barely, into the program. I found out later that the faculty tried a new method of selecting their new graduate students. In previous years each faculty member chose the students for their area, i.e. the painting faculty chose the painting students, sculpture faculty chose sculpture students, etc. This year the entire faculty unanimously voted to accept or deny each student. This proved to be almost disastrous for the program, there were only two graduates accepted for the fall 1972 enrollment. Normally, 12 to 15 students would be accepted. So, I began that summer, enrolling in 12 graduate hours. Armed with my new “wrinkle technique” I started working with a goal of 15 – 20 new pieces during the summer. At that time the graduate curriculum was very loose at OU. They had several graduate level studio classes that you could take multiple times with a maximum of 12 total hours in each class. I enrolled in 4 of the classes for 3 hours each with a different professor for each class. You met with each of your professors once a week for critique and just worked. There were no set assignments or projects unless one of your professors asked you to work on something specific. The idea was that you were a working professional and you would work to produce and improve your craft. A simple process that many students had great difficulty adapting to but I loved it. I started doing smaller color studies on paper. These works were full watercolor paper size (22”x30”) and I primarily worked on color and different paper folds. They were quick and I could easily do one or more a day. I was using an airbrush to apply the paint so I was using a variety of airbrush media. I experimented with colored inks and dyes as well as watercolor and acrylic. Tube paints needed to be thinned to a very thin consistency so even the opaque paints became somewhat transparent. This transparency aided in the color palette by multiplying the color with each application. These paper studies were important in the development of the larger works on canvas. It was a great way to perfect and work out problems with spraying and the application of paint. They also quickly led me to push beyond the natural phenomenon of the wrinkle. I started trying all kinds of fold and wrinkle patterns. Everything from ridged grid patterns to deep complex wrinkles and everything in between. Then I experimented with masked areas and over-painting hard edged elements, this led to pouring thick paint over the flat wrinkle illusion to drastically juxtapose the two textures. That summer was very productive, I finished with about 30 watercolors and about 6 large-scale canvases. It was the first time that I had the time and freedom to just work. It was exciting! That summer the school allowed me to set up a temporary studio in the brand new Fred Jones Memorial Art Center. Even though it was temporary it was great because it was a new state of the art facility with plenty of space and all the necessary technology (compressed air) to explore this new technique of painting. All in all it was a very successful summer and I assumed my professors felt the same way because I received all A’s. The first hurdle of my one-year marathon had been successfully completed.
[caption id="attachment_808" align="aligncenter" width="802"] "Wrinkle, Pour and Magenta Grid" / Acrylic / 57"x84"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_809" align="aligncenter" width="604"] "Yellow Window" / Acrylic / 66"x90"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_810" align="aligncenter" width="415"] "Here It Comes" / Acrylic / 66"x84"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_811" align="aligncenter" width="493"] "Thin Gold Line" / Acrylic / 60"x72"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_812" align="aligncenter" width="602"] "Looking In" / Acrylic / 66"x96"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_816" align="aligncenter" width="450"] "Looking Out" / Acrylic / 72"x72"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_814" align="aligncenter" width="462"] "Arc Wrinkle" / Acrylic / 72"x72"[/caption]
In the fall I had to move my studio. The University had several old buildings on what was called North Base. North Base was an old Naval facility that dated back to the WWII time period. I know what you are wondering, a Naval Base in the middle of land locked Oklahoma? Well, it’s true; the story I was told was that the Navy used it as artillery training for the big guns on ships during the war. The buildings were mostly old frame barracks but there was one concrete building that was the bathhouse for the base swimming pool. There was space available in this building so that is where I moved. The sculptors seemed to be in the old barracks and the painters were in the bathhouse. I had met several of the graduate students a year earlier when I was a senior. I had become friends with a graduate printmaker named Dwight Pogue. He was working with commercial printing techniques and trying to use them in a fine art approach. I became very interested in these techniques and I helped him build a process camera out of found parts that we scrounged from the Government surplus that we had access to in Oklahoma City. We installed this camera in one of the barracks and eventually used it to shoot large-scale negatives and positives for screen-printing. We eventually wrote a book and printed it at Dwight’s dad’s printing company in Missouri but that is another story. Through these efforts I met many of Dwight’s fellow graduate students and friends. One of Dwight’s friends was a painter by the name of Otis Jones. Otis and Dwight had been friends as undergrad students at a small University in Pittsburg, Kansas. Otis also had a studio in the bathhouse and we became friends. Otis was very progressive in his painting. His paintings at the time were large arrangements of a wide variety of materials including thinly painted cheesecloth, natural muslin and raw and painted wood. These materials were assembled in a variety of arrangements on a long wall with some of the wooden elements giving dimensional support to the draped and flowing cloth elements. This visual style was almost radical for me at the time but was very interesting. The better I got to know Otis and the more I watched him work the more I realized how dedicated he was to this new art form. There were a lot of advantages to this method of working. One was cost of materials; one set of materials could be used over and over and over with almost unlimited variation possibilities. Another advantage was storage. Another close graduate friend, Dalton Maroney, recently told me of a time during this period when he helped Otis transport and install an entire show in Otis’s Volkswagen Beetle. The biggest disadvantage was this type of work had no real permanence. Almost none of this type work exists today; it lives by its photographic record. Otis, Dalton, Dwight and all of my graduate friends would become very important in my personal art development. I continued to work with the “wrinkle technique” but watching my fellow grad students work with arranged work in painting and sculpture accelerated my growth and my desire to go beyond the natural beauty of the wrinkle illusion. I worked with the wrinkle technique through my Mid-Way Show. For most of the graduates this show occurred after the first year when the student had finished approximately half of the required 56 hours. Since I was working on the accelerated plan, I scheduled mine after my first fall semester. I had successfully completed 28 hours at this point. The show was at the new Fred Jones Memorial Museum and consisted of eight large stretched canvases.
[caption id="attachment_818" align="aligncenter" width="739"] Grad School Midway Show / 1971 / Fred Jones Jr. Memorial Art Center[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_819" align="aligncenter" width="739"] Grad School Midway Show / 1971 / Fred Jones Jr. Memorial Art Center[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_820" align="aligncenter" width="727"] Grad School Midway Show / 1971 / Fred Jones Jr. Memorial Art Center[/caption]
Eugene Bavinger was the primary painting professor at OU and had been so since 1947. He was a very soft-spoken man with a world of experience behind him. I met him as my professor for an advanced painting course. I quickly realized that there was a lot to learn from him. As I mentioned before Bavinger had been around a long time, thirty plus years. You would probably expect that he would be very set in his ways and a bit “old school.” You would be wrong, he was like a kid and extremely in tune with the latest art movements. He had been a pioneer in the use of acrylic paint and was constantly researching the chemistry of acrylic paint additives. I mentioned earlier that OU pushed you into larger and grander work; Bavinger was a key to making this affordable. He set up an Art Department store for painting supplies. Through this store, the Department would buy bulk 100-foot rolls of raw canvas in 72-inch widths. The students could purchase the canvas by the yard at a fraction of the retail cost. In addition to the canvas, the school would purchase fifty-five gallon drums of polymer medium directly from the manufacturer and sell to the students in gallon quantities. In class we learned the craft of making our own stretcher frames and how to convert inexpensive house paint into museum quality gesso. We also learned how to use the polymer medium and use it as a binder to add inexpensive tinting colors to make our own paint. All of this was done to encourage students to produce large, institutional size paintings because that was the current trend in most of the contemporary art movements of the time. OU and Gene Bavinger were very trend conscious. What ever was happening or even being experimented with in New York City was also being explored at OU. Gene was driven in the classroom and in his own personal work by trends and technology. The better I got to know him the more I understood this. At this particular time, the late sixties and early seventies, one of the hottest trends was in large atmospheric abstract paintings sometimes called “Color Field” or “Lyrical Abstractions.” These paintings were a huge visual change from the dynamic and energetic paintings produced by the “Abstract Impressionist.” They were more about light and space. They had a lyrical almost romantic feel to them. This movement certainly had roots in Abstract Expressionism with artists like Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler and Jules Olitski. All three approached their paintings in very different paint application methods but managed to achieve a similar visual appeal. Rothko used traditional oil paint, Frankenthaler used thinly applied transparent stains and Olitski used commercial spray painting equipment. As I mentioned earlier, I was using canned spray paint as a method of applying color to large drawings and this led to acquiring an air brush in an effort to control the application, so the jump to larger spray equipment was a natural progression which was fueled by Gene Bavinger. Gene’s work at that time was visually similar to Olitski, very large lyrical abstractions that the viewer could literally get lost in the spacial illusion. I began the same way, playing (I want to emphasize the word play, much of what I was doing was experimentation) with the spray to create atmospheric backgrounds that I could draw with paint on top. This experimentation along with my observation of Bavinger’s personal work led me to a natural phenomenon directly related to the spray application. I think anyone that has experimented in spray paint application has witnessed this phenomenon at some point. The phenomenon that I am referring to is commonly called the “Wrinkle Technique.” The technique is simple, spray color on a wrinkled material, i.e. paper or canvas, stretch the material flat and the illusion of the wrinkle remains. I had witnessed this technique earlier in one of Bavinger’s paintings. It was a very small and insignificant part of the concept of the painting but very interesting, so when I discovered it myself, I immediately started working with it. The first few paintings were simple wrinkle illusions sprayed in different colors from different directions. I had some initial success outside the classroom and school. I entered a highly respected state competition sponsored by Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and won a purchase award. Another very nice thing about OU at that time was they had a nice visiting artist program and because it was the largest art program in the state there were always professional artists and professors from other schools dropping in unannounced. During this short period of time we had one “famous” artist (Paul Jenkins) and also two professors from other Universities (Bob Russell from Pittsburg, Kansas, and Bill Wyman from the University of Texas) drop in. They all seemed impressed with the wrinkle technique and were very encouraging. This outside encouragement along with input from Bavinger led me to push beyond the natural phenomenon of the technique and incorporate it with bigger and better concepts. I worked with this technique for about two years trying to make the visual aspect of the technique secondary to the overall concepts of light and space. I don’t think I ever really did that because the natural phenomenon was so powerful visually. Darn it, they were just too pretty! Yep, you guessed it, I was still stuck making big “pretty pictures.”
[caption id="attachment_792" align="aligncenter" width="769"] "Organic Forms" - Acrylic & Shaped Canvas - 60"x60"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_793" align="aligncenter" width="796"] "Organic Landscape" - Acrylic - 42"x60"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_794" align="aligncenter" width="586"] "Light and Space" - Acrylic - 32"x36"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_796" align="aligncenter" width="633"] "Light and Space 2" - Acrylic - 48"x60"[/caption]
About this time, 1970, OU hired a new painting professor, George Bogart. George came to help Gene with the growing painting program. He was an imposing figure; tall, thick dark hair and a big black mustache but he turned out to be a gentle patient man and one of the best teachers I have known. He immediately became another important mentor to my painting development. He was a great compliment to Gene’s technical, process driven approach to painting. George was a little more concept driven and both were prolific, passionate painters that practiced their craft every day. They both pushed me to work through problems and had a huge impact on me to develop a strong work ethic. I remember George telling me numerous times that, “A lot of good soldiers had to die before you can win the battle.” This was his way of telling me to keep working. I was now a senior in the program and realized that I should start thinking about what I was going to do when I graduated. I was majoring in Advertising Design and as I mentioned earlier very frustrated with my classes. It seemed no matter how hard I worked that I just wasn’t getting it. I now realize that my passion was elsewhere and it would take a different time and a different commitment, which I eventually achieved in about six years. I still retained a friendship with Jack Bryan at Cameron University. In a conversation with him, he mentioned that he was hopeful that in about a year he would be looking for a person to teach with him at Cameron. Wow, teach with Jack! How cool would that be? If I remember correctly, I think I stopped him mid-sentence and asked what it took to get that job. He replied, “Get your masters and come on down.” I now know that it would take a little more than that but I took that as a job offer, so I started thinking and actively looking at grad schools that offered a masters in art. I really hadn’t thought about teaching as a career and I sure didn’t know what it took to become one so I started doing a little research. I started asking my professors what kind of degrees they had and where they got their graduate degrees. I quickly found out there were different types of graduate degrees and even different types of masters degrees. I had become friends with some of the grad students at OU and most of them were in the MFA program. I learned that this was considered the highest graduate degree available in studio art and was basically the equivalent of a PhD in other academic areas. I found out that most MFA programs were around 60 hours and usually took at least two years to complete. Darn, this was about a year too long for my projected job offer at Cameron. I continued to look for grad programs that could be completed in one year. I found that in addition to the MFA there existed a MA program that consisted of about 30 hours and was geared more to secondary education teachers seeking to add to their teaching credentials. This degree was considered less professional but only took one year to complete. I also found there were 30-hour masters available in art history but I was definitely not interested in art history, again that came much later when I had to teach it. You know I had always heard that if you truly want to learn anything just teach it, it is definitely true. So, now I knew that I was probably looking for a 30-hour masters program that was heavy on studio work. In my limited research, I found that it was generally frowned on to attend the same school for your undergrad and graduate work. This made a lot of sense to me because you spend a minimum of four years studying with a group of professors then it’s time to get input from other sources to broaden the educational experience. Unfortunately for me, I was under a self-imposed deadline that greatly affected my decisions. My only choices in the state of Oklahoma at the time were to continue at OU and pursue a MA or possibly a MFA or to go to the University of Tulsa where they offered a MA. I could also look at schools outside the state but that didn’t seem possible with my tight deadline. At this point, I took a look at my major and decided that a studio degree would be better for graduate school application. I also thought the higher the GPA in my major area the better my chances would be for acceptance so, I switched my major from Advertising Design to Printmaking. I had enough credits to major in Ad Design, Painting or Printmaking but I had a 4.0 GPA in printmaking so I chose it. As I mentioned OU offered both a MFA and a MA and it appeared that the only difference in the academic requirements was the number of hours necessary for graduation. During my last semester in my undergraduate degree I started trying to calculate the number of hours and the minimum time it would take finish. At that time their MFA program consisted of 56 hours, 4 hours short of the more standard 60-hour programs. Their program consisted entirely of studio hours, no academic classes were required and this was very appealing. I was used to taking summer classes and I thought my one-year deadline could consist of two regular semesters and two summer semesters. After some quick calculations I realized that if I took 12 hours each summer semester and 16 hours each regular semester, voilà, that was the magic 56 hours. I was very young and naive but even I knew it would be a tremendous amount of work but the payoff seemed worth the effort. I made an appointment to talk with the Director of the Art School about the submission process and a few other questions I had about the differences in the MA and MFA programs. The Director at that time was Joe Hobbs. Joe was a tall lanky cowboy want-to-be sculptor. I never had him for any classes so I can’t speak to his ability to teach. He didn’t seem to actively make sculpture or art and the pieces that I had seen were a bit dated, but he was the Director of the program the entire time I was there and quite a few years after I left so he had a lot of administrative experience. When we met, I told him I was interested in applying for grad school. He was very encouraging and asked if I had specific questions. I asked him the difference in the two possible masters programs and he basically told me that the MFA was what I should be interested in. I then asked him if there was a mandatory amount of residency time necessary to fulfill the requirements for graduation and to obtain the degree. He looked at me with a puzzled look and said, “What do you mean?” I restated the question a little more directly and said, “If I can finish the required number of hours early can I graduate in less than two years.” He replied that there was no requirement on time, you must simply complete the required 56-hours and that was it. This was great news for me; he had just confirmed that it was possible to complete the MFA program in one year. I was set, all I had to do now was complete the application process, get accepted and start. This proved to be a bit more of a challenge than I thought. I completed the necessary paperwork during my last undergraduate semester. I finished my last semester and was awarded the Alexander Letzeiser silver metal. This was a surprise and a nice honor; it was the second highest honor that OU gave for graduating undergraduate art students.
[caption id="attachment_798" align="aligncenter" width="403"] "Wrinkle Study 1" - Acrylic & Watercolor - 22"x30"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_799" align="aligncenter" width="972"] "Wrinkle Study 2" - Acrylic & Watercolor - 22"x30"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_800" align="aligncenter" width="1044"] "Wrinkle Study 3" - Acrylic & Watercolor - 22"x30"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_801" align="aligncenter" width="1044"] "Wrinkle Study 4" - Acrylic & Watercolor - 22"x30"[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_802" align="aligncenter" width="527"] "Ken and Irma's Horse" - Acrylic - 60"x72"[/caption]
I am back at OU but things are a lot different now. There are two big differences this time, story one, sales I am not alone, I have a partner. and two I have a more open mind about what Art is. I came back thinking maybe I should listen and pay attention to what my professors were trying tell me. You know, I was now 20 and out of my teens so I didn’t know everything like I did at 19. Isn’t it funny how much your intellect deteriorates as you age; I am now 64 and know absolutely nothing. I enrolled in a full load of art classes including my first printmaking class. It was an etching (intaglio) class taught by John Hadley. He was another young professor who had a huge impact on my development. I had John previously for a drawing class and would eventually have him for several classes including painting and advanced drawing. Unlike Jack, he was not my buddy, best friend or encourager, he basically came in class everyday and figured out a new way to tell me I sucked. I could never please him. I guess I was a bit of an over achiever and this really frustrated me. After teaching for over 30 years, I now know, this was his unique way of motivating students. It worked on me, the more he would rag me about my work, the harder I would work. I was determined to show him! I really enjoyed the technical aspects of printmaking. I just liked the process. It was hard work but there was no other way to achieve the look of hand inked and printed plates. I later took lithography and screen printing and enjoyed all of them. Each had its unique qualities. I enjoyed the printmaking process so much that I eventually changed my major from painting to printmaking. I never stopped painting, but I did share time with printmaking during my undergraduate studies. I think because there was more emphasis on drawing at that time in printmaking, I started doing more drawing, but the drawing I was doing was really more like painting. I know, very confusing, but OU at that time was very liberal in its approach to Art. They really didn’t like labels so all the classes seemed to merge together. Many would argue that this lack of structure didn’t give the students enough preparation in the fundamentals but it seemed to work for me. These drawings that I was doing were big. OU’s philosophy was very avant-garde; they really pushed you into large-scale work. This is something that has stuck with me. Even when I was forced to work smaller because of lack of space or because of limitations created by a technique, I always felt like my work would have more impact if it were larger. The smaller work always feels like sketches or color studies. Another thing that OU encouraged was the exploration of non-traditional materials. In an effort to go bigger with these drawings I started looking for larger paper. This led me to commercial offset printing paper. Not only was this paper larger, it was much cheaper. This was definitely a positive thing for a student with almost no income. In addition to paper, I was looking for materials to draw with; this led me to aerosol spray paint.
[caption id="attachment_767" align="aligncenter" width="756"] "Kissing Stars" - graphite & airbrush, influenced by John Hadley[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_768" align="aligncenter" width="532"] "Stars & Stripes" - graphite & airbrush, influenced by John Hadley[/caption]
Spray paint was being used in other parts of the country but mostly for graffiti, which had a very negative connotation publicly and generally in the art world. These drawings were mostly ebony pencil and spray paint. They were big, bold and beautiful. . .but definitely not “pretty pictures.” Unfortunately, none of these survived but I do have a few examples of smaller combination drawings where I used printmaking techniques and the airbrush to achieve a similar look and style. These examples are not as bold as the larger works but they are important because they introduced me to the airbrush.
I continued to paint the more traditional still lifes and landscapes in watercolor and acrylic but now they held a different purpose in my Art. Remember, I mentioned earlier that I had established a relationship with a small gallery in Norman. Well, I continued to paint for profit. This gave me a little extra income, which we desperately needed. When we first moved to Oklahoma City, Jo had a secretary job in Oklahoma City and I commuted to Norman for school. After the first few months I realized that it was very difficult for me because I needed more time at night in the classroom/studio to complete my work. So, after talking it over with Jo, she agreed to move to Norman and she would make the commute. Did I mention how lucky I was with all aspects of love number one? Finding an apartment in Norman or any college town is usually not a difficult task. We quickly found one at one of the larger complexes, packed up our stuff and made the move.
[caption id="attachment_770" align="aligncenter" width="343"] Early prints and drawings influenced by John Hadley "Fat Men 3" - etching[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_772" align="aligncenter" width="398"] "Egg Layer" - silk screen[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_774" align="aligncenter" width="370"] "Yesterday" - silk screen[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_775" align="aligncenter" width="573"] "Inner Conflict" - etching[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_776" align="aligncenter" width="808"] "Out Of The Blue Of The Western Sky" - etching[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_777" align="aligncenter" width="613"] "Egg Layer 2" - silk screen[/caption]
This move proved to be very beneficial for me. It allowed me more time to develop my Art skills and concentrate on class projects. At this time my classes were a broad mix of beginning and intermediate Art classes, including beginning classes in 3-D design. I had a young grad assistant named David Holsonback for this foundations course. He was young and energetic and influenced me greatly in the exploration of this new and exciting form of expression. Another strong influence at that time was a professor by the name of James Flury. He was new to OU and had a show of his sculptural work in the museum during the fall semester of ‘69. The exhibit consisted of glass two-way mirror boxes with multi-colored neon inside. The bent neon tubing illuminated the inside of the boxes and the mirrors repeated the shapes infinitely. This exhibit was amazing; I had never seen anything like it before. I immediately started trying to incorporate his ideas into my 3-D Design projects. The final project was a free project that allowed me to use some of these materials. I created some egg-like shapes from wood on the lathe in the wood shop, assembled them together with dowels and glue. I then painted them flat white. I found a small electric motor at a thrift shop that rotated a shaft at a slow speed. I built a shallow box with a small hole in the top to hide the motor and allow the shaft to go through. I attached the painted wood sculpture to the shaft so it would rotate. I covered the entire structure with a ¼ inch smoked glass cube. This piece was the most successful of the two or three pieces of sculpture that I did and eventually won a purchase award. I enjoyed working 3-dimensionally and these instructors had an impact on my thought process and me, but painting was really where my heart was.
[caption id="attachment_779" align="aligncenter" width="683"] Early three dimensional projects influenced by David Holsonback and James Flury "Organic Movement" - glass & wood[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_780" align="aligncenter" width="749"] "Thanks to Jim" - wood & steel[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_781" align="aligncenter" width="760"] "Arrow & Soft Forms" - metal, wood & canvas[/caption]
My major at this time was Advertising Design and it seemed to me my Ad Design classes were my weakest. Ironically, I would eventually end up making my living in Graphic and Advertising Design; spending more than 35 years of my career as a professional designer. It seemed that on every project I would have what I thought was a brilliant idea that involved a massive amount of time, work and process to complete and when we presented our finished work, some of my fellow students would have a better solution that was simple and direct. I now know, I was putting all the emphasis on the process instead of the concept. I was still trying to make “pretty pictures” rather than solve the problem. I was what I now tell my students “a graphic decorator rather than a graphic designer.” By the time I was a senior, I had decided to pursue graduate school, so I changed my major to printmaking, which at that time was called Graphics at OU. I had enough hours to declare my major in Advertising Design, Painting or Printmaking, but I had a 4.0 overall GPA in Printmaking. I thought this would enhance my ability to find a good grad school. If painting was where my heart was, printmaking was where my effort and work ethic was. The technical skill level to master intaglio, lithography and screen-printing took a huge amount of time and work. It did eventually pay off, not in a graduate school but with my first teaching job. After graduating with my MFA in Painting, I got a job in North Carolina as a printmaking instructor.
[caption id="attachment_782" align="aligncenter" width="760"] "3 Fingered Star Puffer" - graphite & airbrush[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_783" align="aligncenter" width="410"] "Climax" - graphite & airbrush[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_784" align="aligncenter" width="530"] "UIntitled" - airbrush & embossing[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_785" align="aligncenter" width="443"] "Visual Social Statement" - ink, graphite & embossing[/caption]