Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Kent Lovelace as Sisyphus 1953 - 2017

 I can't sum up the past week, its been a total haze. The passing of my father at the age of 64 came as a complete surprise to everyone around him. No health issues to speak of, no history of heart problems, no warnings, just an early weekday spent working on his house. My father suffered a heart attack while building his new home - and when I say building his new home, I can't stress enough what that means. The small piece of land was his 'last project', the one he would grow old with. He purchased the couple acres of forested land a few years ago and started to pick the trees off of it with chainsaws and tractors. He then spent a year cutting, milling and drying those logs; this is the wood he used to begin building his new home. Walking around in circles this week considering the scope of his project opened windows in mine and my two brothers minds about the scope then, of his whole life, and exactly how much power it took to conquer what he had. That one project was a massive undertaking by anyones imagination - to then remember back farther becomes shocking, almost frightening.

My father considered this project doable, and had no reservations about his ability to do it, because he had done it before. This was roughly his 5th home-buiding project in 40 years. He raised us construction zones, homes which he would remodel, reconfigure, rebuild, or imagine completely. Bringing them to life with his own two hands and the help of the family and friends he could convince to lend their time. I believe that one of these projects alone would have convinced any normal human that they had done enough. I believe that replacing the cabinets alone in one house would be enough for a normal person, he though was not so normal.

He did these things while raising three sons and connecting a world of artists by way of his lithography business, Stone Press Editions. Stone Press was considered the place to be for artists in the pacific northwest, the air seemed thick with imagination and sweat, darts, ink, heavy paper and leather aprons, at least as I remember it. He printed for the masters, Jacob Lawrence, Robert Bateman, Russell Chattham, Dale Chihuly, and dozens more. He was considered a master by anyone's judgement, though mastery of anything never seemed to be the goal. He always seemed then to create more, and more. Prolific, is the word. He did not see laurels to rest upon, only projects to begin.

With Jacob Lawrence at Stone Press, early 1990's

To grow up in this world seemed like nothing, my older brother and I scribbled, whittled, built, whined, helped as we could, and built countless bike jumps out in front of the shop.

Fishing with Aaron on the left, myself under-wing, early 1990s'.

Enter the digital age, when printers would wipe lithography off the artistic map. For decades my father and those around him knew he eventually wanted to be a fine artist in his own right. Constantly creating his own work, but not showing or releasing it - from what I can gather now, he felt he wasn't ready. It is this early work I remember watching him create at home, in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep.

When he closed Stone Press, he let loose on this dream. In just a couple years, landscape painting became everything, and his shows started to sell out across the western half of the US. He developed a technique that had been lost for centuries, by painting with oil on copper plates, his work began to take on a life of it's own. His work is now in private and corporate collections worldwide, museums, galleries and the rest. He found his stride, was remarried, had another son, Nolan, moved north and built a massive dream home, garden, a heard of sheep and ducks, and an art studio that was unrivaled.

With his sheep, around 2010

With Nolan, early 2000's

I realize I'm jumping around a but here, but what I want to make very clear, is the sheer amount of heart, manpower, determination and passion my father led his entire life with. It was rarely all good times, but he took comfort and taught us the importance in getting the know that shadows as well as the light. The whole picture was what he was in love with - he knew well in his later years that he could not love the sunshine without romancing the darkness as well. I am scared and sad, though now I realize how large his footstep are, and how naturally his three sons seem to fill them. In the past years, he found true happiness. It seemed to us that the stress he had carried for years had passed, and his gaze had lowered into a peaceful place - I keep saying to myself that he was up on plane, like a well designed surfboard or boat. Life seemed to stop grabbing at him, perhaps his deepest project was finished. I don't know. I do know he spilled love. He poured his gratitude over those he cared for, and made his feelings and appreciations well known to us all. He said many things in the past number of year that I had never heard him say before. He made us all so proud. My father was superman of the heart, mind and hand. He is unrivaled, and still here.

With recent work.

If you would like to learn more about my father's art and life, Lisa Harris has written a beautiful snap shot of his career here