Learning Library Segments
Randy JewartPrimary Use of Medium: Sculpture
Interviewer: Donna Wetegrove
Interview Location: Randy is interviewed at his North Austin outdoor studio, an outdoor sculpture yard that he shares with a friend and Austin art enthusiast.
Interview Date: 8.12.05
Writer: Lori Henika
“As far as not labeling artists, I don’t think I fit into any label very well. So I just kind of do a bunch of different things.”
Randy tells people that he is a sculptor, and primarily works with stone. Early in his career, he based his work on primitive art from around the world including Egypt, Africa, and oceanic cultures. He found it inspiring that stonework from vastly different cultures had striking similarities. Randy calls his own work “as simple and primitive as it can possibly be.” He also works with other artists in the creation of exhibition opportunities.
How Did You Get Here?
Randy never expected to be an artist. Working in the family business, a gymnastics school, is what much of Randy’s family does, and he began there too. Some lack of complete satisfaction with his work led to his emotional and psychological conciliation to express himself through art. Randy started sculpting in college, a time that served as a transition from drawing and painting into sculpture. He jokes that he’s “never had a real job, really” because his time and vision is the most valuable part of his art, allowing him to “express the creative urge that’s with [him] all the time.”
Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?
The inspiration for his current series of large-scale pieces arose while he was blowing up party balloons for his daughter. It occurred to him that a similar shape would make a really good sculpture, and the joke of having a stone balloon was just an added bonus. Other times, Randy will be invited to do commission work or create something for a call for entries, and the parameters laid by each of those affect the outcome of his work. He describes the rules of the game, creating something beautiful with a certain amount of time and a certain amount of space, with specific available resources. The limitations set by the site or the commission, or any number of other factors can shape the creative process, and therefore, the resulting art.
A sculpture teacher in college would not allow Randy to use power tools like the other students in his class. Randy didn’t mind because he found that he could work more efficiently than the others using only hand tools.
“Stone tells you what to do instead of you telling it what to do.”
A teacher in college was very insistent about Randy’s natural ability to carve stone.
Randy draws parallels between the physicality of 13 years of gymnastics training and sculpting. He extends the physical demands to a kind of endurance test with three days of constantly stacking thousands of coins. This kind of physical and emotional challenge strikes a cord in Randy, the intensity eventually becoming therapeutic.
Does The Material Dictate The Design, Or Does Your Design Idea Dictate How The Material/Medium Is Used?
“The dimensions are set and there’s only so much that stone can do performance-wise and there’s only so many places you can put it when you’re done.” Stone serves as a challenging medium for Randy, forcing him to factor into his designs the limitations of stone. He prefers to work with limestone because it is malleable enough to not hinder the creation of different forms. Other artists may use “fancy colored” alabasters and marbles, but Randy appreciates those materials as they are uncrafted, “Just go find a nice rock and put it somewhere and you’ve accomplished what the material can do.” Limestone allows him more creative freedom, which he has pushed even further with concrete stains that are meant to react with the lime in concrete. Because the makeup of limestone is different, it doesn’t always turn out the way he expects, but that’s part of the fun.
What Brings Your Medium To Life?
Randy is primarily driven by what he feels he needs to make for himself based on his preference for a “sort of tension and dynamism about the way they sit there.” These qualities lend themselves to a sense of activity despite their stability. Again, Randy mentions pushing the material to its limits while making the balloon shapes, so he doesn’t get upset when they break because it allows him to learn more about the capabilities of stone.
The idea of activity arises again when Randy speaks of making art for a given site. He incorporates traffic flow and the surroundings of the site to give the audience a more active perception of his work. Working his art into the environment makes it more challenging and interesting.
What Tools Are Required In Your Process?
Randy has a shed-full of air compressors, saws, pneumatic carving tools, and Italian-made rifflers, yet he does most of his large work at Texas State University’s sculpture department where he is the stone sculptor in residence.
Do You Consider It Functional Art?
“No. I haven’t made anything that has a specific function to it.”
Please Speak About The Connections In Your Work.
Randy describes how people seem to easily relate to stonework. He attributes this to the tactile comfort of familiarity and its simplicity. While people might not understand how some art, like bronze casting, is made, stone is straightforward in Randy’s opinion.
Please Summarize Your Entire Process.
Skipping over the steps of drawing plans or making models, Randy works directly with the material, and seems to engage with it in conversation to produce his art. The interaction between himself and the stone seems integral to his process. The value of Randy’s time and creativity arises again as he tells of deciding to continue making art after his daughter was born. He found that it was more important to keep making his art for himself rather than focusing on selling it. Because of this motivation, Randy has no trouble selling his pieces- he would rather create more art from the myriad ideas he has than be so attached to his work that they pile up around him.
Do You Recommend What You Do As A Career Choice? … Why?
Fundamentally, Randy does not see being an artist as a choice. The artists he knows never consciously decided to choose being an artist over some more financially lucrative career. He sees it as them “doing the best they can with what they are and what they have to be, and it’s a terrible way to make a living.”
What Tips Might You Have For Someone New To The Medium? … How Best To Develop Their Interest?
“It’s just a matter of having a certain idea of a form and then there’s lots of different ways to carve stone. All of them are just as valid as the next as long as when you’re done, the thing looks the way you want it to look.”
Randy feels lucky to have had teachers and professionals to help him learn about stonework, and thinks that mentorship is important for anyone starting out in any area of study, including art. Randy specifically mentions how his teacher in college would not allow him to use power tools when the other students could, and that sense of challenge and perseverance seems vital to the development of skills and abilities.
“Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to make art.”
Please Point Out Any "Green" Aspects Of Your Process And Your Medium.
On the topic of concrete stains, Randy comments: “I wouldn’t want to drink them or touch them or anything like that anytime soon.” Other than chemicals and dust from power tools, most of the stone carving process is relatively harmless.
Many bronze artists will make a model of their piece and send it to the foundry for it to be completed. Randy is not one of those artists. He has made limited edition bronze works, and although they are duplicates, he does each step of the process himself, from the wax to the finishing and patinas. He recognizes that many artists do employ others to help them work, and sees nothing wrong with it- he just prefers a different process.
Where Do You See Your Creativity Evolving?
“I would like probably to be more involved in making public art or bigger art, commercial installations [on a city-scale], and I haven’t done any of that officially yet [in Austin], but I think that would be a fun way for my career to develop.”
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