Sunday, October 3, 2010

An Hour with Gary Reed

Last week when I interviewed Jeredt Runions, he spoke quite highly of another artist whose work I have enjoyed seeing in various places around the Twin Ports, Gary Reed. (Not to be confused with my cousin Gary Reed the fireman.) I used Jeredt's comments about Gary as a prod to complete what I have been intending to do for some time, which is, to visit Reed Graphics, meet the artist and see his studio. I had already appreciated some of his work at The Venue and when displayed at the Superior Library.

Yesterday I was rewarded with an hour of Gary's time, a tour of not only his studio but also his home which is to some extent an art museum in progress.

The house that Gary and wife Kelly have been renovating was a former Masonic Temple in Superior's East End, just past the Choo Choo Bar off Highway 2. Gary greeted me right out front as if he had been waiting for me (I am glad that I was punctual, this being a Saturday morning) and he led me inside and up a few stairs to the spacious living room, pointing out various changes they'd made since acquiring the place, including moving a fireplace, installing a large set of windows for bringing in the light, and more. He pointed out to me that all the marble around the room was actually pressed wood that he'd painted to appear marble. Artists are masters of illusion, and Gary no different.

Kelly, his wife, is also a creative spirit, which one quickly recognized in the flower garden, painted chairs and overall environment she has had a hand in creating.

We next went down to his office and workspace, the walls serving to display many of his works. As we talked I learned Reed's influences overlapped many of my own. We both made rat rod car models and read Mad magazine and liked monsters, among other things, when we were kids.

Gary attended art classes for two years at UWS, but dropped out when he saw that the other art students that were graduating were not getting jobs in the arts. One doesn't need a degree in art to be creative, only a passion. The screen printing business he eventually built, Reed Graphics, has ultimately made the needed economic contribution to financing that passion for Gary. In addition to the screen printing shop out back they have a large format printer in the basement, all the tools necesssary for mass production.

I'm reminded of Andy Warhol's remark when he learned that Picasso claimed to have produced about 4,000 masterpieces in his life. "I can produce 4,000 masterpieces in a day," said he.

During the tour I heard Gary's side of the story about when the younger Jeredt Runions had lived across the street and how their paths intersected. Runions occasionally wrestled large canvases out into the yard so he could photograph them. Gary went over and befriended the young painter, offering suggestions and practical insights from his own years of experience.

My impressions from our brief time together were of a talented man who is modest about his skills, and enjoys taking the ordinary and giving it his own twist.

Ennyman: When did you first take an interest in art?
Gary Reed: I started drawing things on paper at a very early age ever since I can remember.

Enny: What were your early influences?
GR: Influences...Saturday morning cartoons, monster models, Big Daddy Roth, Peter Max, Salvidor Dali, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Filmore posters, Zap Comics, Frank Frazetta, Rick Griffen, Robert Crumb, Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Mad Magazine, comic books, Maxfield Parrish....and many others..

Enny: You work in a variety of media. Which was your first and what is your favorite?
GR: Color crayons...pencil...colored markers.....I used to spend hours an hours emulating band posters I had seen with bizarre letter styles.... I think my favorite media is acrylics. Oils tend to get muddy. I never had much luck with them. I do like to work with my airbrush, it's great for shading large areas.

Enny: As for me, I like your work whatever medium you are using. Thanks for opening your home and for your time.

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