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


Mike D. said...

Hey Ryan, sorry to hear this. Never easy losing your dad. And some of us have dads who left some big shoes to fill. Mine passed away about a decade ago.

I remember my dad and his brother building our house when I was a little tyke in the late 70's. As in pretty much the whole house, and it wasn't tiny. He built all kinds of crazy stuff, I remember the "cold-jet" engine he built that he was going to put in an airplane that blew my brother's pants off when he held him behind it while testing it in our driveway. My uncle told me about how my dad built a sports car frame by welding together an old swingset when he was a teenager. But his main thing was building airplanes. Makes me feel wholly inadequate given my far less developed mechanical skills.

I feel like we're losing a generation of builders and makers that weren't daunted by such tasks. Your dad sounds like a talented guy and I'm sure he was proud of the art and craft that you bring to your work. To this day my v.bowls looks stunning to me, beautiful lines, even with all of its ding repairs it's acquired over the years.

Keep the good memories of him close and do your best to live up to the best parts of him. Life is fleeting and we all need to be reminded sometimes of that so that we can make the most of it.

Unknown said...

Your Dad gave you an amazing gift. He was an example of someone who truly realized their potential. That type of person is rare. You are following in those footsteps courageously by what I've seen of your shaping career.
A sudden passing is tough, because you always feel that you would have liked to have made a "closing statement" and express your love and admiration to your Dad, like they do in movies. But it has already been transmitted to him in the quietness of your presence in his life in many, many ways. Your life and your relationship with him are the biggest statements of affirmation of your mutual love.
Celebrate his life by striving to realize your potential, it's the best "Thank You, Dad" that you can live by every day.
George L aka Speedshaper

Madafact said...

sorry for your loss ryan

you are a true inspiration.

thanks to your father for all he did. incredible life story

Unknown said...

I can see now where you got you focus determination and mad skills. You were blessed to get life skills as well from a fantastic human being. So sorry for your loss

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Unknown said...

I have been a good friend of your father for many years, he loved my singing, and we had a creative connection. Yet even though Kent invited me to see his new building project which I did, since I have not heard from him...Now I see why, and only today, looking at the Art Open Studio tour, I didn't see him on it, so I spoke with a friend and now I have discovered why. So sad, I am so sad....and I am so sorry for all of you ~ his family.

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