This month's featured artist is
. Rick is a new member, and he is bringing an interesting
new/old art to the CAA. New for CAA, and even for the West, but not so new to the world. A generic English term to describe this art is "Viewing Stones," a neutral term for an ancient art full of symbolism.
This is an art form (known as Gongshi, Suseok or Suiseki if you are Chinese, Korean or Japanese) steeped in Asian traditions more than 1500 years old. Philosophical and religious views influenced the development of the art in the East, but Rick explains that the modern Western take on the art has veered away from the rigid categories and presentation standards of the Eastern art but retains philosophical elements such as a reverence for nature and desire to live in harmony with the natural world. The tradition of viewing stones in the West has only arisen over the past 80 years or so, Rick says, and mostly their introduction has been through major exhibitions at noted art museums in North America and Europe.
Rick's journey into this art began in childhood with a fascination for rocks. His artistic sensibilities were honed via exposure to the Western masters while traveling with his parents through Europe, art history courses in college, and through travel in the far east. During this time he also honed his craft of working with semi-precious stones. As a maker of jasper and agate jewelry, he enjoyed finding his own raw materials, and he discovered that certain stones "talked to him" without alteration. A friend encouraged him to explore these feelings, and thus began his exploration of the art of Suiseki. Rick found that his own aesthetic values resonated most strongly with this ancient, Asian art form.
"Eastern cultures have a stronger
tradition of viewing raw nature as art" Rick says, but he has found a following here in the US." To fully appreciate viewing stones the viewer must also find an attachment to a stone that evokes a response of seeing beyond just the stone itself to a larger view of what is not seen but felt. Shape is critical and probably attracts the viewer's attention first before the more subtle aspects come into focus."
A feeling of movement, balance and color are elements that Rick pays particular attention to.
Some stones are fascinating and enjoyable because of their objective representations. "Stones may have shapes of craggy mountains and at the same time indentations that can be interpreted as lakes, or quartz inclusions that look like waterfalls. I am drawn to stones that resemble an animal, a leaf, or a tree, but upon further study provide the viewer with a season or a weather condition."
But other stones are appreciated in an abstract or non-objective way, more for the feelings they evoke in the viewer rather than for any object they may represent. "The communication between stone and viewer is a very personal response." And often, he says, "those stones that evoke the most different responses are considered the best just because they are so widely appreciated for so many reasons. I am personally drawn to stones that combine not only shape with dramatic motion, but also a serenity that is found in nature ."
Where do these stones come from? These are not your average cobble stones and are not easy to find. He finds that the Western US is a fertile ground, from mountains to deserts and even gravel pits. Desert stones, called
, have become a favorite of his due to the patina caused by natural forces of water, ice, wind, and sand. There is a desert glaze on many of these stones that make them look like they have been polished.
|Picasso's Charles De Gaulle
Finding the stones is just the beginning. He then prepares these stones for viewing by carving a unique wooden base for each stone. He regards the base as a critical part of the presentation of the stone. Only one cut is made for presentation on some stones so that they will stand in a stable position, and the cut is never visible.
A number of Rick's pieces are included in the juried book
Viewing Stones of North America
, by Thomas Elias (editor and past Director of the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington DC). Rick's Viewing Stones have appeared in numerous monthly publications of the
Newsletter of Los Angeles, and in the magazine article
A rock with a view
, (Rock and Gem Magazine, Mar 2014). He has participated in many juried shows, including 6 of the 7 Puget Sound Bonsai Association shows from 2014 to 2016 at the Pacific Bonsai Museum, where he has exhibited 85 different stones which appeared in their annual publications.
You can learn more about this art and see more of Rick's work at his
He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.