Student Profile: Richard Black

Today we’re launching a new series of profiles that explore the influences, hopes and works of the many talented students who have joined the Fine Art Sculpture team at Academy of Art University.

Richard Black is currently working on his BFA in Fine Art Sculpture and took home the Best Figurative Sculpture Award at Spring Show 2013:

When did you first discover your interest in sculpture?

RB: Figure Modeling was my first introduction to sculpture. When I originally enrolled at AAU I enrolled in the Fine Art department for painting and drawing and as a part of that degree I was required to take the spread of Foundations classes. I had never even considered sculpture as a profession before coming to school, but a couple weeks into Figure Modeling I knew it was where I belonged. I changed my enrollment to the sculpture department and it’s been a love affair ever since. I really love it.

What type of sculpture interests you most?

Figurative sculpture is where my heart lies. I really love people and I’m endlessly fascinated with the human form. A beautiful body or an elegant line from elbow to finger or an honest gesture caught for a moment are all ideas that I love to see represented in art and sculpture. I hope that I continue to improve in my ability to capture those ideas in my sculptures during my remaining time at AAU.

Have a favorite artist or influence?

I have lots favorite artists and influences, but because I don’t come from a background in art most of my favorites are the ones right around me. Sculpturally I’d say [FASCU instructor] Alicia Ponzio, Gianna Dispenza, and [FASCU student] Edwin Morales are my favorites. I’m finding lately that some strong ideas are coming up to the surface from darker emotional places within me. Some recurring ideas circle around sexuality, fear, violence, power, and helplessness. I’m still struggling to figure out how best to represent my thoughts within my artwork, but I believe that I’m in a good place at AAU and surrounded by amazing people who are constantly pointing me in the right direction. Oh, and Jesus.

Which piece to you consider your best work?

Whichever one I’m working on at any given moment. I’m so new to making art that every day and every sculpture seems like an improvement over the last. I expect that that will continue to stay true for some time to come, at least I hope so. That being said, I don’t know that it was my best, but my favorite was a piece that I called “Resignation.” It was a depiction of Jesus coming off the cross and staring down at his nail kissed hand in disgust. After I finished it and put it up on the wall, it fell off and smashed on the floor, so I picked it all up and repaired it and put it back on the wall. Then it fell off again and smashed on the floor. I like to imagine that the Holy Ghost or whatever it is didn’t like it and kicked it onto the floor to spite me, but I still have all the pieces and one day it might get a proper resurrection.

Which class at AAU has had the greatest influence on your work?

Again, the ones I’m in now are the most influential at the moment, but if I had to pick one from my whole time here I would say Classical Figure sculpture with instructor Earl Enriquez. Even now, when I’m working on sculptures, I still hear Earl’s words. For instance, the first time I ever saw anyone use a rake tool was in that class and I figured I’d try one out and see what it was all about. So I pick up a rake and start raking the hell out of my sculpture sort of wondering what the point of it was. After a minute on this Earl came over and demonstrated how I should be using the rake and told me, “You have to use the tool in a way that compliments the form, like this.” And he demonstrated how to do it. I nodded and said, “Oh, alright, I see. Thank you.” But in my mind I was thinking, “I have no idea what that even means.” Now it’s been a couple years since I took that class and nearly every time I put tool to clay I think of that moment and I try to make sure that I’m using my tools in a way that will complement the form. Thank you Earl.

What do you hope to be doing ten years from now?

You know, I don’t really hope for things to happen, I just make specific plans and work to achieve them. I don’t always end up where I originally thought I would, but I rarely regret the journey.

A current work-in-progress

A current work-in-progress

1960s Cannery Model Discovered on Third Floor

While recently poking around the vacant third floor of FASCU’s new home at the Cannery, we came across a curious relic nestled into one corner of a seldom-used conference room. An architectural model of the Cannery, which we’ve discovered to be the actual model used during the structure’s 1960s renovation, has apparently survived the last 46 years as a quiet resident of the historical building. We actually found two photos placing the model’s creation in 1965 — first, in the photograph above, then-owner of the Cannery Leonard Martin poses with the model in the gutted-out interior of what would eventually become the current Cannery interior. A second photo (below) betrays what actually survives of the original 1907 Cannery structure: its four outer walls!

We think it’s pretty extraordinary that this model has survived over four decades, complete with the miniature Matchbox cars that can be seen in the ’60s photos. Too bad the empty, toll-free curb parking didn’t translate to the modern day…

410 Bush: Then and Now

Circa 1950s to early '60s

Circa 1950s to early ’60s

Present day

Present day

Browsing through some of the image archives we’ve got sitting on our AAU server, I came across these two photos of 410 Bush (second home to FASCU and new home to JEM) — one from the present day, and the other appearing from the 1950s or ’60s. Surprising how little has changed — and one can imagine the round AAU logo fitting very nicely over the original Westinghouse logo (with neon highlights, of course!).