R. Garth – Bronze Sculptures: Interview With The Artist22 Oct 2013, Posted by General in
R. Garth is bronze sculptor living in Arizona and whose work is on view and for sale at the Silver Queen Art Gallery in Park City, Utah. We recently had a chance to sit down with the artist and ask him about his work. This is what he had to say:
If you had to describe your artwork to a stranger in just one or two sentences, how would you describe it?
My art is strong and full of attitude. Immensely time consuming and detailed. The medium I choose is bronze casting. The people who purchase my art enjoy the real life stories which inspired the work. I do the work I want to do, and if at the completion of the clay stage, the piece does not move me, I destroy it even though it may have taken me 1,000+ man hours to complete.
My work for the most part is based upon my personal experiences with rebellious personalities who ride motorcycles – people known as the 1% ers (a name given to them in 1947 when a motorcycle club took over a small California town named Hollister).
Most buyers that collect my work are monied, successful, educated and living sheltered lives. Some are renown individuals – like Bob Parson, founder of GoDaddy. Some are old money like Mr. Pew of the Philadelphia Pew Charitable Trust family and the CEO at SpectiCast Entertainment, a Dartmouth man.
What exactly is your background? And how did you get started in the art world?
I’m from a small Southern Utah town of 1,500 located 5 miles from the Arizona border. I’m a “Down Winder” with a healthy disrespect for the U.S. Government.
I was the bain of most of my teachers and local game wardens existence. I’m a troublemaker with ADHD and I’m streetwise.
I married at 22 in Las Vegas after a two week courtship with $180.00 in savings. I am still married to the same woman after 41 years with 6 children and 12 grandchildren.
I moved to Arizona in 1973 and founded a visual merchandising company (see my 30+ year portfolio at www.rgsdd.com). The company grew to approximately $15 million in annual revenue with over 100 employees and with clients such as Starwood, Ritz Carlton, Del Webb, Four Seasons, Disney, Marriott, Nintendo and more.
At what point did you decide or realize that you wanted to be a professional artist?
I always knew that someday I would be a sculptor. In fact, my father was a sculptor. It just took 40+ years, greedy company bean counters and a massive brake in the business cycle caused by 9-11 to allow me to step back and look at my life and re-direct the remaining 30+ years of it.
I realized I could be successful in sculpting when I ventured on to Park City’s Main Street to ask gallery owners their opinion of my work. It was at the second gallery, The Turquoise Door, where the owner, JoAnne Hall, took my work and hung it on the wall that very day and said she would take any and all of my work. My work was sold at The Turquoise Door for the next 7 years (up until 2009) when the great recession took its toll and The Turquoise Door closed its doors. Today my work is still on display and for sale in Park City – at the Silver Queen Art Gallery on Main Street.
I know motorcycles are a big part of your life. How do motorcycles and motorcycle riding influence your work?
Over the past 35+ years I have visually branded over 1.6 billion dollars of my client’s goods and services. So when I decided in 2002 to trade in the corporation treadmill for two wheels, an old FXR powered by a 95’ stroked S&S motor. I had literally chosen a road less traveled by most sculptors. In fact, this was a very conscious choice because the world is full of great and gifted sculptors doing subjects like lions, tigers, bears, eagles, Indians, etc. (Western Art) like my father sculpted.
My choice of subject is outlaw bikers, their attitudes and the adventures of such. This, I thought, would be a strong barrier to entry created by real physical risks and the stigma of becoming a “known associate”, a term the FBI uses to describe people who come and go freely from groups they consider outlaws.
My first small taste of the outlaw life for me came in the late ‘60’s between high school graduation and college. I had fallen in with Clean Bob & Durty Bob, two bad seeds with a band of hell raisers who rode Harleys in the summer and worked on them all winter.
This was the most exciting time of my young life. I bought myself a chopper, a Dirty Harry 44 magnum pistol and hit the back highways with them. I recall times when we would all shoot at old trucks and cars which had been parked out in the fields for 40+ years all while riding our scooters at a good clip. When a round would hit, we could see 40 years of dust set free from the rusty metal.
However, within a few years, because of marriage and business responsibilities, like an overhead nut that grew to 1.2 million per month, I had long suppressed those memories and the feelings of total freedom and invincibility. Then in 2003 having the shackles of business taken off and the kids out of the house I began to think back on those few days of bliss and an image appeared to me of the only sculpting niche for me that was real.
It occurred to me that the modern biker is a truly unique American invention. Historical in nature and truly an American icon as was the American cowboy exploited by sculptors like Frederick Remington. Some cowboys were outlaws just as are some bikers today, only their horses are steel and eat gas rather than grass. This would be my subject – the 1% er and their attitudes.
Which one of your pieces are you most proud of? And why?
The one work that means the most to me is “TMax Always Packin’”. It took 2,000 hours to complete and is an 800 lb. gun safe because he was always packin’ heat.
During the time it took to wind-down my branding company in Arizona around 2002-2003, I hooked up with an Arizona biker club, some of whom I had known for 30 years when I had first moved to Arizona in 1973. I would ride all night and run to Palm Springs or the White Mountains to do a sweat with the Apaches or to little towns along the Mexican border. We ran security for La Tierra Durra, a cock fighting operation located along the Mexican border. Our task was to watch over and protect the count during the day and at 3am to protect a count of $80,000 to $100,000 in cash every other weekend during the fight season.
This period is when I first met TMax, a biker name. His real name is Ted Schlicker, a 3rd generation biker, his father and grandfather rode motorcycles as well. At 6’8” and 317 lbs, TMax was genetically a perfect biker. He was an ex-Army sniper and The Sargent at Arms for the Club.
“The Enforcer”- TMax had been stabbed several times and shot twice in various bar fights. He had no fear and was also a chick magnet. (Read about TMax and Chuck Zito on my website. Chuck Zito was a past president of the New York Hells Angel Chapter.)
So, during my company’s wind-down, there were some clients that thought it was OK to try to stiff me on the last payment of the contracts. TMax & I would pay a personal visit or two. We always got the money – last payments of $25K to $85K. Fun stuff, great stories!
I had sculpted TMax 3 years prior to his assassination by a coward with a 12 gauge shotgun to the back of his head – he never knew what hit him. He was doing what he always did the first thing after work, opening the fridge and popping the lid off a Bud. TMax and I probably had the best relationship of any of the other club members.
What is it exactly that you are trying to say with your work? Or what is it that you hope people take away from your work?
“Trying to say” is the wrong vernacular. I don’t try to say or sway or wax esoteric about my art. However, I am grateful when the viewer sees the quality of detail and craftsmanship in a work.
I do works that I feel like doing. Sculpting is for me #1 and only #1 is a catharsis, i.e. as the winter weeks and months tick past, I am down in my studio snug as a bug and each hour that passes is a true pleasure and I am thankful for the full life that I enjoy and all of the adventures I have experienced from river running and ultra-lights to dune running to motorcycle runs both dirt and highway and the trips to Europe, etc.
I think of all the players in my life both good and bad players and did I do the right things in certain situations and how would I do things differently now that I am older and wiser?
However, as spring approaches, my pace of sculpting quickens and much like a pregnant mother who is due in two weeks, I am ready to give birth to the new creation and if it moves me, I take it to the foundry for casting.
For me, its not any longer about payroll and cash flow. Rather, its about reflection on past friends and the adventures/experiences we shared. I try to work real experiences, attitude and meaning into my works. If people buy them, then that’s just a bonus.
Where do you see your career going in the future? What will you be doing (artistically) in 10+ years?
My sculpting career will track collector’s awareness and over the next 10 to 20 years, I will become collected by more and more of the affluent Americans, Europeans & Asians simply because of the dramatic up-tick in those who ride and therefore experience the excitement, freedoms and attitudes of being out on the open road. This is the energy they will see in my work.
TV shows like Sons of Anarchy and other reality biker shows sponsored by Harley Davidson (one of the greatest marketers of our time) will ensure awareness. I see my work becoming more attractive to females as they have become 25% of all Harley riders.
Collectors like Leno will want one of 5 limited edition bronzes I will produce when a certain MC club founder passes on. He is now 75 years old. Only then can I visually tell those stories.
I am currently working on a 300 lb. fire-pit ring complete with heroic chain and gear and sprocket, skull and tallens. The next in the series will be an all-female biker nude drumming circle and then either a black-ops, military version or biker version.
Learn more about R. Garth on his website at www.rgarthstudios.com or view his currently available pieces of art at http://silverqueengallery.com/product-category/artists/r-garth/