2009 Texas Tech Integrated Scholar
Professor, School of Art; College of Arts and Sciences
“The thing that just blows my mind is how each generation is different. Each generation has needs; each generation is different than the prior generation. That is one thing when I started out I did not expect, and you as an instructor have to adapt to their environment as well as they have to adapt to you. That’s why I became a college professor. I want to be learning right with my students. They keep me young; I keep them grounded. I have experience; they have tenacity; they have drive; they have ambition; they have desires to succeed and be in the field."
What is your research objective/interest(s)?
Throughout my career I have simultaneously pursued several paths in my artistic research. These investigations can be divided into the areas of sculptural vessels, hollowware and jewelry. In my technical research I have explored techniques in large format sheet construction and die forming. Most recently my interests have also led me to experiment with the use of powder-coating on metal in a methodology that can be practiced in the artist’s studio. I feel that this triad of investigation assists me in staying current in three primary disciplines within the field of jewelry design and metalsmithing and allows me to be a more effective instructor.
My sculptural vessels have concentrated on the interpretation of the human form and the influence of the Venus archetype as a symbol of magic, creative force and a protective talisman. The Venus is a consistent psychological image that speaks at both emotional and intellectual levels. These interpretations transfigure the meaning of the human form to speak of timeless symbols and concepts, which are deeply rooted in the human psyche. These stylized figures embody fertility, energy and movement to create the suggestion of life giving energy. My investigation of the use of the human form in diverse cultural imagery has enabled me to better interpret my own culture’s images. The metamorphose between prehistory and contemporary influences and form and ornamentation result in vessels that provide rich associations through synergistic combinations of content.
This work is a series of figurative and zoomorphic hollowware that embody energy, movement and stance as their central theme. The resulting forms combine geometric and organic flowing lines in a suggestion of animal and human imagery. These works project both playful and intellectual energies with the stance and movement that is implied becoming critical to their visual life. I have integrated the essential components of a pouring vessel: body, spout, foot and lid into the visual whole of the form. The development of this series has involved the study of many cultures including African, Pre-Columbian, Greek and Cycladic. This series of hollowware is a synthesis of my visual, spiritual and physical experiences relating to the investigation of the functional vessel.
From the earliest times humans strung stones, wood, feathers and bone on strings of hide or fiber and hung them around their necks. They may have done this for the magical curative properties associated with these objects and/or for their sheer beauty. They could also have been used to commemorate an event, a kill, a birth, a death, a success or a moment in time. We still do this today. The neck is where the mind and body, head and heart come together. It is in itself a transitional point from the celestial to the terrestrial as such it is a fitting point to place an object of adornment or magic.
How do you feel your research impacts the globe?
I am very fortunate that many important collections throughout the United States and Europe have collected my work. To be considered an artist of note to 20th century collections of jewelry and metalsmithing is a very humbling experience.
Where do you get your inspiration?
As a postmodernist artist, I draw from all cultures and ideas in hopes of creating a new vision seated in the past and looking toward the future.
What type(s) of service projects do you enjoy doing?
I am currently the director of the Saturday Morning Art Project, a program for talented high school art students from the city of Lubbock and the surrounding area. Since the fall semester of 1980, the project has been co-sponsored by the School of Art at Texas Tech University. For the last 17 years, the project has been co-sponsored by the Helen Jones Foundation.
During the past 24 years, the Saturday Morning Art Project has contributed to the education of talented high school art students. Many former participants of this program have gone on to pursue successful professional art careers. This project also instills a further appreciation and importance of the visual arts in the students and their community.
Through this project talented art students experience numerous traditional and contemporary visual art processes through hands-on workshops in figure drawing, community art appreciation, printmaking, graphic design, jewelry metal casting, clay sculpture and lectures on how to function in the college environment. Potential career possibilities in the field of art are also presented to participants. Students meet with artists and scholars who discuss the nature of visual art from a wide variety of viewpoints. In addition, students may attend exhibitions at the Museum of Texas Tech University, the Buddy Holly Fine Arts Center, the Landmark Arts Galleries, the Underwood Center, the Studio Gallery and the SRO Gallery at the School of Art when appropriate.
What are you currently working on?
I am in the process of working on a new body of jewelry entitled the K9 Series. Some individuals pursue the acquisition of jewelry as a dog pursues a toy. This latest body of work literally addresses this avarice. Thoughtful, dark metaphorical irony and humor are the products of this exploration. Humans have drawn from their natural surroundings to create jewelry from the earliest times. Teaching jewelry at Texas Tech has given me the freedom to challenge the hierarchical assumptions of materials and to assign jewelry new contextual meaning. I have chosen to use mass-produced, visually appealing objects readily available that present the ability to have a new meaning when placed in a new context. This contextual change transcends their original purpose and elevates them into the realm of thoughtful and beautiful objects.
What advice do you have for new faculty members on balancing the components of an integrated scholar into their careers (academics, research and service)?
A quote from Joseph Campbell comes to mind.
You must follow your bliss. Find that thing that makes you want to get up in the morning, and teaching, research and service will come naturally. These three areas are natural spinoffs of someone who is inspired, inquisitive and energized. If you are inspired, you cannot help but teach; if you are inquisitive, you cannot help but to research; and if you are energized, you cannot help but do service. You must find the one thing or question that needs to be answered, then pursue the question.
My hometown is Lawrenceville, Ill., where I attended Lawrenceville Township High School and studied art with Wallace Brown. My high school art classes were where I could achieve, and I experienced a level of success I had not previously had in school. Unbeknownst to me, I was severely dyslexic, and I was not diagnosed until my second year in college. I went from being a 'C' student to being a straight 'A' student. I attended Indiana State University on scholarship where I studied jewelry design and metalsmithing with Robert Montgomery, and then begun graduate school at Indiana University on a full scholarship where I studied with Randy Long. A year after graduate school in 1988, I accepted an adjunct teaching position at Texas Tech. At that time, I had never been west of the Mississippi, and thought that Lubbock, Texas, was Saguaro cactus and dessert. Little did I know, 23 years later I would be part of a vibrant, growing and important institution.