LAST AMENDMENT* (clxxiii)

SELF PORTRAITS: A FATHER AS ARTIST

Self-Portrait, Oil on Canvas, 24" x 48", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1962, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Richard J Van Wagoner, my father, would turn 88 today, March 14, 2020. Rather than discuss the upcoming election, geopolitics, the rapid demise of democracy, the existential crises of the Trump administration, or avoiding viruses like the plague, I dedicate this post to him. For the most part, I let his art work, self-portraits windows into himself) in a real sense, speak for themselves.

Untitled, Oil on Panel, 18" x 24", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1990, Courtesy Marilyn Jones**

Richard’s list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. The Springville Olympic Art Committee selected Richard as among the 100 Living Most Honored Artists of Utah. Within months before his death he expressed his belief that his most important work was ahead of him.

Untitled, Acrylic on Panel, 30" x 29.75", Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Richard had two masters degrees, at the time terminal degrees in his areas of specialization, studio arts and printmaking, from University of Utah and Utah State University respectively. He taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate subjects which included demonstrations from time to time. He often conducted demonstrations in the classrooms at the Art Department, but sometimes he'd escort a group of students to some scenic area, carting along a stool, paints, brushes, a jug or two of water, rags, a board with watercolor paper and an easel. The students would stand in a half circle behind him and, with some incredulity, watch for the next couple of hours as he sketched an outline of the subject matter with pencil and then applied paint. The result of one such demonstration, among my favorites of his watercolors, is below. When I graduated college he asked which painting I wanted as a gift. This is what I chose:

Untitled, Watercolor, 19" x 21", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1980, Courtesy of Helen Bero Van Wagoner and Richard A. Van Wagoner**

Shortly after her nineteenth birthday Renee became the lifelong muse of her husband Richard. She passed on March 10, 2016, just shy of her 83rd birthday, May 7. Glimpses of her beauty, personality and character, and Richard's interpretations of them, are revealed in art for which she was his fascination and a primary subject for over 60 years. She was not shy about sharing her opinions which were many and seldom in doubt. This early portrait of her could not be more descriptive.

Renee, Oil on Canvas, 18" x 24", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1962, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Posted here are a few of Richard’s paintings with Renee as a subject.

Renee in the Park, Oil on Canvas, 49" x 66", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1980, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Untitled, Oil on Masonite, 19.5" x 14", circa 1971, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Untitled, Oil on Masonite, 35" x 46", Richard J Van Wagoner, 2013, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

* *Taking a Trip with Renee, Oil on Masonite, 24" x 32", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1990, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Richard discouraged his children from choosing art as a profession. After I took his basic drawing class, he knew I would heed his advice. That advice, I believe, was informed by at least two underlying themes. First, earning a living for many artists, most artists, is difficult. Second and tied to the first is the more complex struggle between and among intrinsic and extrinsic value and meaning, self-definition and external influences, art for the sake of art, art for public consumption, art to educate, art as political statement, art as a commodity, art as . . . . He never solved the problem except to concede the tension enriches the experience.

Galileo’s Recantation, Watercolor, 42" x 51", Richard J Van Wagoner, 1995, Courtesy of Angela Moore**

Richard explored and interpreted the world with expanding conceptual and visual wisdom. His evolving talent was borne of and sustained with a relentless struggle for meaning, a strong sense of empathy and a fair dose of skepticism which grew as his world turned from black and white to gray.

La Femme Qui Pleure Two-and-a Half, Oil on Masonite, 48" x 20", 1993, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Helen Bero-Van Wagoner and Richard A. Van Wagoner**

His studio was strewn with easels, small tables on rollers, metal tool boxes, surplus military ammo containers and fishing tackle-boxes filled with metal tubes of paint, quart-size wide-mouth bottles jammed with brushes and oily rags, palates with gobs of oozing paints in various stages of mix and hardness, plastic buckets for water, sponges, cans of thinner, stand-alone lights, a wooden box-set of drawers for cataloging his thousands of slides, step ladders, a screen and slide projector, saw horses, power saws and routers. The studio doubled as his work shop for matting and framing paintings, along with general carpentry, rough and otherwise.

Touring Silicon National Park, Oil on Canvas, 48" x 32", 1999, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Family Trust**

Many people knew he was a painter but few knew he also "threw pots."

On a Saturday, I’d watch him prep his watercolor paper by taping its perimeter to discolored, water-warped plywood, quarter-inch, and wash the paper with clear water using a sponge, a real one from the ocean. He would prepare two or three at a time. Once the paper dried, at least overnight, it was ready. Or, I’d watch him begin and complete a painting in one sitting, usually a landscape and usually a wet-wash watercolor. Sometimes he’d prepare a canvas, a more complex task that required a wooden frame he would build and dress with cloth, staples and coats of white Gesso to stretch and seal the canvas.

Untitled, Watercolor, 21.5" x 29", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 1970, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Richard didn’t verbalize much. When he did have something to say, it was usually succinct and poignant. But he became more and more unabashed in communicating and revealing himself and his evolving struggles through realism, impressionism and abstraction. He taught his children through example that most every concept and conflict is worthy of robust examination. Over time his rigidity in a received belief structure loosened, resulting in consideration and internalization of a deeper and more personalized code.

Posted below are paintings in no particular order. Please enjoy and try to imagine what was going on inside his mind and what he might have been trying to convey.

Untitled, Oil on Panel, 24" x 35", Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Moving Silhouettes, Oil on Panel, 24" x 32", Richard J Van Wagoner, 1988, Courtesy Helen Bero-Van Wagoner and Richard A. Van Wagoner**

Untitled, Oil on Canvas, 48" x 72", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 2001, Courtesy Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Untitled, Oil on Canvas, 44" x 52", Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 2001, Courtesy Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Untitled, Watercolor, 21” x 28”, Richard J Van Wagoner, Circa 2005, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Boy with Ball, Oil on Panel, 15.75" x 19.5", Richard J Van Wagoner, 1974, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**

Untitled, Oil on Masonite, 22" x 28", Richard J Van Wagoner, 2010, Courtesy of Stephen C. Clark**

Storm over Timp, Watercolor, 20" x 23", Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy Helen Bero-Van Wagoner and Richard A. Van Wagoner**

*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com

**Richard’s list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father's work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father's art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers

ravchief

Natural US Citizen. Caucasian. Shamed into blogging by DSM-V Cluster B 9/9-led regime, Utah's most embarrassing congressperson, and Newton's Third Law of Motion. The views expressed are mine.

USA, Utah, Salt Lake City

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