They came from all over, close to 200 strong, packing the Spokane Falls Community College’s auditorium well beyond capacity. They came from Idaho, from Canada, from all over the Spokane area, teachers and students and nearly every visual artist who could make it. They came to hear the words of three dedicated masters of their crafts: Northwest visual arts icon Harold Balazs, painter Ric Gendron and sculptor Richard Schindler. They came, they heard and they laughed for much of the hour.
The talk, which took place last week, launched the exhibit “Obsessive Behaviors/Wall to Wall,” curated by Spokane Falls Community College’s resident mad genius, Tom O’Day, who thought it would be a good idea to pack hundreds of artworks, many of them massive, into SFCC’s tiny Fine Arts Gallery.
“I chose these three artists,” O’Day told the assembled throng, “because they never stop making art. Never. I admire that.”
The resulting show is almost too much to look at all at once — it’s certainly too much to see. And that was the point for O’Day: to show the results of a lifetime spent making visual art that refuses to be ignored.
“I was a little worried at first that Ric’s work would get lost in the massive scale of some of Harold’s work, and Richard’s, but those paintings carry their own weight, they stand up on their own,” O’Day said. Gendron agreed: “I was a little worried about that too, but hey, I love showing my work with these two guys — it’s cool.”
Gendron, a member of the Confederated Colville Tribes, described his life as “pretty simple, really. Every day, I get up, I go out to my studio and get to work. After a while, I take a break, watch Gunsmoke or Have Gun Will Travel. Then I go back to work. Sometimes I travel, and peddle my wares.”
All three artists pointed to the joy of discovery as a main reason they continue their stubborn artistic practices.
“For me,” Gendron said, “the best part of making art is the surprise.”
Schindler, whose work in the show includes drawings as well as sculpture, finds his inspiration in his materials.
“I’ll go back and forth between the drawings and the sculptures until I’ve exhausted one or the other. Then I can focus in,” he said.
Balazs then stepped in with a few words from his 84 years of experience.
“Richard Schindler is the finest sculptor in this region. I really believe that,” said Balazs. “And when he talks about how he makes his art, I listen.”
Balazs, who has suffered medical setbacks in the last two years, was as hale and focused as ever. He talked about a recent visit to Washington, D.C., his first, and discussed the world at large and how that influences his art.
“I’m more interested in the state of the world than I am in my own art. I’m unashamedly interested in everything life has to offer. The only things that don’t interest me are creamed carrots and the music of Lawrence Welk.”
When Balazs looked out across the packed auditorium, he smiled and allowed that “when I look out and see all these people here I think, ‘Gee, maybe something I did actually made a difference.’”
“Obsessive Behaviors/ Wall to Wall: Balazs, Gendron, Schindler” • Through Feb. 7 • SFCC Fine Arts Gallery • 3410 W. Fort George Wright Dr., Building 6