I recently had the pleasure to chat with artist Randall Reid on the occasion of his new show at the William Campbell Contemporary. The show, Resurrected Dreams: Cowboys, Aliens & Espionage, runs through June 6.
Reid is a prolific working artist and a university professor with almost 3 decades experience. His CV records innumerable shows – both regionally and nationally -over that time. Reid’s work for this show includes dozens of small constructions utilizing found graphics, wood, and steel – sometimes painted, sometimes not – all around retro pop culture themes of cowboys, space, and espionage. The show is expertly curated with vignettes of antique toys such as small plastic figurines, models, and books.
With found graphics from vintage tin lithography or the boxes from toys, these constructions are treasures of a collective past. I asked Reid about the theme:
A+C: I'm interested in your theme for the show and in your observations about the influence of pop culture on the art students you teach versus when you were an undergraduate student. Is today’s influence more pronounced?
Reid: I believe the pop culture of today is broader but defines the individual more than when I was an undergraduate student. Pop culture today also seems more fluid and changes quickly. There is a greater struggle with the idea of self and perhaps more self–indulgence.
Students today seem to look at things more externally and, for example, like to surf the web for answers to questions rather than looking inward and trusting instincts. When I was in college, art books and museums were more of a direct experience - today it is the vastness and immediacy of the Internet that appeals to formative minds.
A+C: Describe the relationship between your teaching and your art.
Reid: I have taught foundation courses such as basic design and drawing at Texas State University for 25 years. Many of my students inspire me and keep the teaching spirit alive. I tend to practice what I teach. For instance, if I were to record a line I would want it to be responsive, emotive, full of character and energy - I would want the weight and value of the line to change and to not be considered an outline but an edge. Similarly, this is what I would tell my students.
Working at a university is the best of both worlds for me. I have the opportunity to both give beginning students a strong foundation for their later studies and the time and space to create my artwork.
A+C: How did the theme of this show and body of work come about?
Reid: I tend to focus on memories in this work and relate to the past more strongly than to the current moment. I have idyllic and nostalgic memories of my childhood and in some way, my work is reflective of me trying to understand the past and perhaps working through and into deeper ancestral connections.
The backdrops for my latest exhibition are some deeply resonating themes from childhood: iconic westerns and television series such as Gunsmoke, Rawhide and Wagon Train, combined with classic sci-fi and early James Bond movies and the allure of espionage. All the work for this show has been done in the past six months.
This is my first thematic exhibition – my previous shows have been a combination of non-objective work and work featuring typography. I hope the audience will enjoy the narrative that is hidden within.
A+C: For me, there’s a nostalgia in these pieces that is very comforting.
Reid: I’m a nostalgic person - I like to reflect on my time growing up. I also collect and surround myself with antiques – even objects from before the 1950s – wood and metal objects from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. My brother collects the toys and models we grew up with in the 1950s and 1960s. We both are fans of sci-fi, cowboy and espionage toys, so I guess you could say this collaborative collection has a special connection for us. I think antiques can become art and art can be antiques – the relationship is fascinating to me.
For me, these objects are like magnets to the past and allow me to tie into nostalgic childhood memories.
A+C: I’m interested in the "framing" construction aspect to your work - is this something you always do? How did that come about?
Reid: Framing my work in steel adds to the overall structure, formality, solidity – it binds the work together as a whole and has inherent material relationships. I have cut through approximately 800 feet of 1/8” steel with a hacksaw and used over 10,000 screws to frame this particular body of artwork that has continued to evolve over the past 8 years.
Peripherally, both elevation and boundary changes occur that allows the work to gently and outwardly recede before it’s finally bound together with steel. The patina of blue steel is calming and reminds me of its natural relationship to the earth.
The stepped steel work creates a two-inch thick elevation to each piece that’s sometimes difficult to perceive in photographs.
A+C: Tell me about winning the Texas State University Presidential Seminar Award and your book, Randall Reid: Full Circle. President Dr. Denise Trauth, said the award is, “…an honor given to highlight and recognize superlative research, creative work, or other scholarly efforts undertaken by Texas State faculty members…”
Reid: I’ve received several university awards for outstanding work in my field and, in the past, have given gifts of artwork as a way to say thank you. After receiving the award, I told the University I’d like to give back by creating a book of my work. In February, I gave a Presidential Seminar lecture called “Full Circle.” I’m very proud of the book. I feel that I’m a very blessed and fortunate person.