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Creative Pagosa: Richard Sessions

Photo courtesy Richard Sessions Pagosa sculptor Richard Sessions starts with raw stone, prepares it, find its strengths and weaknesses and, in the process, the color, marbling and shape suggest the subject of the work. Sessions is one of the many members of Pagosa’s creative community now listed on the Pagosa Arts and Culture web registry.

Photo courtesy Richard Sessions
Pagosa sculptor Richard Sessions starts with raw stone, prepares it, find its strengths and weaknesses and, in the process, the color, marbling and shape suggest the subject of the work. Sessions is one of the many members of Pagosa’s creative community now listed on the Pagosa Arts and Culture web registry.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is building a web-based directory of all the creative people and businesses in the community. By creating this website, it will make these MAKERSeasierto find in online search engines and help share the wealth of innovative and talented individuals that call our small town home.

This sort of database is called “cultural mapping” and is being done by communities around the country in order to realize and recognize the value of their creative assets.

The Pagosa Arts & Culture Project is establishing the groundwork for continued collaboration and cooperation and promotional efforts of the combined community. The goal of the project is to establish a solid foundation of cultural and creative individuals and businesses, to create a viable plan for promoting these assets and to promote the Pagosa area as a worthy place of residence for creative people, a productive place for creative business ventures and a desirable destination for arts tourism.

At present, the PACP is also planning an event for fall 2013. The event, the MAKERS Expo and Tour, is set for Oct. 12-13.

To register and be listed in the database, go to http://pagosaacp.org/Register.html.

In order to highlight the MAKERS in Pagosa, the PACP will profile its members, giving readers of The PREVIEW a sense of the depth and breadth of the creative community.

This week’s MAKER is Richard Sessions.

Q: Tell us a little about who you are, where you were born, educated, your family, growing up and how you came to be doing your creative work?

RS: I own land down the Rio Blanco, just up a side road from our famous local sax player and good neighbor Bob Hemenger. I was born in Mission Beach, San Diego, and love the sound of flowing water.

I learned the art of carving from a talented but now deceased, sadly, Tewa Indian from Nambe pueblo named Cloud Eagle, or Bo Mirabel. That place is above Santa Fe and I was his assistant for a while, living in his underground sculpture hold.

I also learned to oil paint from a great teacher named Lela Harty in downtown San Diego. I participated in a cross-border arts group between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, and through that exhibited painting and sculpture in Mexico and Japan. I have exhibited in Sedona, Ariz.. Taos, N.M., and Eureka and Mendocino, Calif.

My family was a divorce situation and as a result, I spent a lot of time in the canyons, avoiding drama. I was an only child. I think that solace in the sights and sounds of nature informed my art. Things my mother did for me were to put me in an art class in preschool and take me to the famous Andy Warhol Cambell’s Soup Can exhibition. I miss Andy’s influence on the art world.

Q: Describe the objects you make or the creative work you do.

RS: I make sculpture out of stone. It is usually tabletop size.

Starting with the raw stone, I prepare it to find the strengths and weaknesses. Somewhere in the midst of that process the color, marbling and resulting shape suggest the subject. Then, the fun starts as my baby is produced.

I like to show some movement, if that makes sense, in the animal, spirit or face I am portraying. The spirit in the stone is probably an ancient way of working and that method assures a communion with nature, I think. I like to add an abstract facet to each piece, also.

Q: What is your favorite tool or material used in making your work? Why?

RS: I use steatite, alabaster and marble. These stones are workable with hand tools and don’t require diamond bits. After the grinding to prepare the stone, the hammer and chisel come out, a point for large cuts and a forked chisel for curves and surfacing. Polishing is accomplished by hand, with a grinder and various sanding surfaces, and finally with a buffer and tin oxide, as shown in my photo.

The pieces are very labor intensive, but satisfying because it is easy to become lost in the work. The polishing may be my favorite part, because the beauty of the stone is revealed.

Q: Do you have a regular routine or schedule?

RS: When the stone is available I will work a six hour day. Probably kind of compulsively.

Q: What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

RS: Just do it!

Q: When you’re not making art, what is your favorite thing to do in Pagosa country?

RS: Pagosa is very interesting, with the overlapping Ute, Apache and Navajo cultures, and the old Spanish families. I love looking at the Mother Hot Spring, hearing the music at the festivals and in town, snowshoeing with the Outdoor Club, and carving lines in the snow at Wolf Creek Ski Area. Thank you, firefighters, for saving it!

Q: What are your goals for the coming year?

RS: To not worry and be happy.

Q: What is your dream project?

RS: I have a small Italian alabaster piece that a friend owns that I would love to see as a large public sculpture. It is shaped like a river wave and I just know the little kids would have a great time climbing and sliding down on it.

This story was posted on July 18, 2013.