Michael: 1:43 Rhoda I am so happy to have you on my show. Thank you for being here.
Rhoda: And I thank you for having me. I feel very honored.
The first question that I have for you is. When did you realize that you loved art?
When my father told me I loved art.
How old were you?
He was taking us constantly to the MET, as the youngest children. I think he took us even before we were four. My sister and I were constantly going to the Brooklyn museum because we lived in Brooklyn at the time and it was just walking distance to go to the Brooklyn museum. So my mother who was a Mezzo soprano sang at the Brooklyn museum at the Great Court and she would do German Leader and Opera excerpts. And while she did that, my father would let us go through the different galleries. He took me through the galleries that he loved. Which was basically the dutch rembrandt. He was there for Rembrandt, I was not. Rembrandt is not a little girls love because when you look at Rembrandt's work, as wonderful as it is and as great as the world accepts him. For a child looking at these murky browns and yellows and shadows and you don't know really what is going on, it looks like hard work and people don't look happy and I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could. And I would run to any other place and I found the most happy home for me was the egyptian rooms. Why did I like the egyptian rooms and why I am a sculpture today is there a connection? I think so.
3:11 Me too.
3:13 Yes definitely, because when you go to the egyptian rooms, first of all the rooms are large and open, the work is granite, many granite. Of course there are many other materials but granite was the main one and the work was so large. Large cats with a head of Pharaoh on it. There was Pharos in certain outfits and their headdress looked like bowling balls. That was the headdress of lower Egypt and upper egypt. I didn't know any of the history but the imagery was beautiful. And when I was going to museums in those years. It wasn't like going today, where God forbid you even sneeze, then throw you out of the room. At that time I was able to go over and touch a sculpture. I remember going up to a sculpture and hugging a large cat, an egyptian cat. Putting my arms around it and feeling its volume. Understanding that the coldness of the material, the portions and the scale of the material and the sculpture was so exquisite that without realizing it, I was really introducing myself to the beauty of sculpture. My father would constantly bring us into the painting rooms and I would go back into the sculpture rooms. It was a journey of exploration, materials and also the imagination and the religion of egypt. I didn't know that would a thread that would go through my entire career.
4:43 So then, when you are experiencing this very tactile artist experience, but you are still being brought to the painting rooms. At what point did you realize that you can transfer this tactile experience as a spectator and transfer this physical embracer of this art and then transfer that to creating sculpture?
5:07 I didn't have that opportunity because my father was insistent that I would be a painter. So he took me to see Ekins, he took me to the American wing. I was constantly being introduced and getting the understanding of the love of the Americans or the French or the English and you know when you are young and you keep looking at these things and `are in beaued with it, it becomes a part of you. You don't even realize how it becomes so much of your understanding of what scale is or what proportion is of what aesthetics are. What I was learning about my parents insistence on going to museums. We went to the Frick, we went to the MET, we were going to all the museums and constantly my father was always talking to me and would say to me. He called me Roachgla5:50 (father's nickname not sure of spelling) "Roachgla darling what do you think of this or what do you think of that?" I would talk with him. He would come home with me, he would buy books and he would open books, so my father saw that I was a candidate, more than my sister was who wanted to be a writer. He loved painting so much that he would sit with me and he would explore the books we would purchase from the museums and I never was resistant to it, because I was so fascinated by it. I found that my love of art and aesthetics was growing constantly and I would walk down the street, in Brooklyn, Eastern Parkway, you know that is where the Brooklyn museum is. I would look at people and I would stare and would see the shapes of people and I would understand what they look like from the back, from the front, the shapes of their head. If I saw different ethnicities I would study those. I was doing this as child, because my parents were alert and aware of what they were doing. My father wanted to be an artist desperately. No matter what he did I would say dad, look again, dad look again and he would take me, we would go out, we would go to Bowling Green where the boats are. You know where the statue of liberty is. We would get on boats and we would look and he would say do you like this view? Do you like the water? Do you like when we are coming into the land? He was constantly, he was good father, he was constantly taking his children and really giving us awareness, consciously making us become artists. He felt that we weren't full people if we we didn't read, write books, if we didn't read Epson, Dipeski and he would bring these books home. He was actually engineering what he wanted his children to be like. What he felt that, coming from a working class family he didn't get that opportunity, his mother came from Russia on the boat, his father came later, or vice versa, I don't remember what the story was. The hardship of coming from another country and the hardship of the grandparents and the children trying to make their way and make a livelihood so that their children could do better. I think that my generation had this in common with so many other of my friends, students that we were the children that had to do better and fulfill our parents dream. We were lucky. Some of us resisted it. I was lucky, my sister loved to write, my brother was a photographer and I'm a sculptor. I started out as a painter. I thought that painting was the most beautiful thing on earth and I couldn't do enough of it. My parents always had enough supplies in our house. In my room I had paints, I had everything you could think of. They would go to the stores and they would purchase so that we would have it. We would finish our homework and once our homework was finished we could spread out all over the floor, canvases, paints and we could work. So I don't know when I started. There is going to be an interview that I have to fulfill very shortly, my first 10 years and I was thinking I don't really know what my first 10 years are. Because it started so young. Where do you begin with this? Do you begin with your parent's dream or do you begin with our own dream? I think what I had that was very moving for me is when my parents wanted me to go to Cooper Union and to become a teacher an artist at the same time. I felt that I would be buried if I was sent to Cooper Union. I felt that was not the direction, I loved art because of what they had taught me and shown me during my growing up years, that I wanted to go where the artists were. I wanted to be with them and the only place I knew I could actually be with the artists that I admired and I could go to the museums and see what at the Arts Students League. I said yes to my parents, I will go to Cooper Union, I marched myself with portfolio, never telling them a word into the Arts Student League, threw my portfolio down on this big desk and said I want a scholarship. They opened my portfolio and said we will get back in touch with you. They got back in touch with me, they said you have your scholarship, who do you want to study with? I said Reginald Marsh and William Zorach. Because I saw the work of Reginald Marsh and I thought he had the pace and feeling of the city and of the people of the city for his generation. Which was my parents generation. So if I went to my grandmother's house I could see that generation in the family. Then I wanted William Zorach I was so thrilled because I saw all his work in all the museums. When he saw me the first thing he did was sit me in the center of the room and he said you look like a Zorack. He said you're a Zorach, I am doing your portrait, and then he said you just go to work and he didn't speak to me for the rest of the term. I said what the hell is going on here. They didn't want to interfere because I would get, when I start to work and this is because I was working since a child. I knew how to concentrate. I didn't need someone to say are you doing OK? They didn't have to prod me in any way. I would just get in it and work. No matter what it was, if I was reading poetry or if I was reading something from English, I had to learn. Here, this is the portrait he did of me. Look at year, 1951.
11:24 1951, wow.
`11:26 That's in the middle of the room. Isn't that nice?
11:31I was the baby in the room. As a matter of fact, do you know what they called me in school? They called me Baby.
11:37 Oh Really?
11:37 I didn't know my name was Rhoda for years, because they would say Baby is here.
11:42 Why did they call you Baby?
11:43 Because I was a Baby. I was about 18 at the time, but everyone else in the classroom were elderly people, so when I walked into the classroom and Zorack would say "Oh Baby, come here". Then what he did was he called up the museum of Modern Art and he said I have Rhoda Sherbell and I would like her to teach, you know the Christmas course at MOMA and MOMA took me like that.
12:09 Now at this point where you a sculpture or still a painter?
12:14 At this point when I saw that there was Zorach, I was so impressed with his work, I decided that I wanted to study with him and spend as much time with him, but I also at the same time, studied with Nat Cass, who recently passed away and Fred Farrell. I was moving away from painting, I found that sculpture, I could say more, more quickly my fingers moved very easily with clay, where with paint, I had to mix a palette, I had to mix a palette. I loved it, but I am slop pot, I'm sloppy. I am very sloppy. When I finish painting, everyone knows I painted. I am covered. My face has paint on it, my hands, the brushes, I'm not neat with paint. I'm not good with paint, because I will put it aside, I will pick up something and I will rub it. I will say let me think about that. I don't know what's on my face. I just get involved. With sculpture, it was much cleaner and also my fingers seemed, I like to move 3 dimensionally. Until this day, when I do a painting, and I do paint, I feel that I am always moving three dimensionally around it. I can't do work on paper without feeling like I am creeping around and I know what is happening behind it. I'm definitely a sculptor, and that's what I adore most of all. Ideas can be expressed in multiple ways, you can do many figures, it's really my medium.
13:54 Did you find it just happened or did you develop a skill through learning or through experience? How do you go from the two dimensional work to the three dimensional work so seamlessly.
14:11 Having materials in front of me was partially, well more than partially, it was there for me. I was able to sit down and if you walked in today and saw what was is sitting on my kitchen table. I will work on many things at once.. Many people don't understand this all all, but I like to work on maybe half a dozen, sometimes even a dozen works at the same time. I will set them up, I will lay them out and as I work from one to another, I grow. I can say, I'm working on a figure, and as I am working on that figure, I look up at a head that I started and that head might have a mood that reminds me of some person or some situation that I felt had a lot of import or gravitas (?)14:55 I don't like to be an artist for artists sake. I like to have ideas, express ideas that are meaningful to other people. At the moment, I have had so many exhibitions and exhibitions were on general humanity that I have seen around me. At this particular moment in my life I am thinking that I want to do what women think about and the women's question. Because women do have very different roles to play than men in their lives and as artists they have a double role that is a little bit more difficult. I am not blaming anyone, it's the way our lives are. It's the way the society has structured us to be. So we are parents and we do laundry and we do cooking and we take care of the house and then we go and we teach. We exhibit, we are asked to lecture. I am going to do a lecture when I go to Washington DC in April and probably be given an hour to lecture there, on my first 10 years of my artwork. Which is going to be a fun thing to do, I guess. It's a kind of thing, you are just putting everything together and you want what you have to say to move someone, to educate someone. If someone looks at my work, I want them to say Why? or that reminds me of a situation I had with my family. Or a teacher that I love. If you look over there at my table you will see my teacher Marguerite and Richard Zorach. Now they came to the house and they said to me and this goes back many years. 1967 or 68, he said Rhoda, I want you to do my portrait and Marguerite’s Portrait. I had never done a portrait in my life.
16:43 Oh Really?
16:44 Never. I mean I was doing imaginative work. I wasn't even interested in portraits. I always thought that portraits were beautiful, but they were staid. It was someone asking for something to be done and its a vanity or whatever it might be. That did not interest me. I was interested in other issues. More general, more concrete issues about people's lives, something politically that happens in the world. I grew up when there was the fight between the Nazi's and and the Japanese and I was worried, would my uncle come back from the war. There was many concerns at that time, about what was going on in the world. It was very scary. Especially for a kid growing up and you know what happened to the Jewish people in the ghettos and I would go to the movies and see the newsreels. There was a lot of fear growing up, knowing this was going on. This was a part of my thinking and I think probably everyone my age who grow up. We all thought about these things. So these were the concerns that I had. It was, oh I think I will do a pretty face and someone sitting. That to me, seemed so silly. It seemed to me, why bother. There are real things in the world to be concerned about, not nonsense. Not certainly, the commercial end. I was not interested in any form of commercialism. Nor am I today, which is perhaps a terrible fault of mine. I don't know. I can't answer that, I can' even address it. I am just not interested in that. I am only interested in talking about truth. I am interested in talking about what is happening today, what is going on in the world and what is my comment. Hopefully I have a point of view that has variously and meaningfulness to other people. You know touching upon the real concerns of people. That is basically who I am, in my work. When I kid around, I like to joke around alot but when I work, this is exactly where I am going. Now I am working on the woman's question, is how can we negotiate and continue to be productive and still have to do all the things that women have to perform. Sometimes I say wouldn't it be nice if I got a housekeeper in here and just let the housekeeper do this and then Randy and I look at each other and we say look around this house you would have a nervous breakdown. You have some many artworks around, so many fragile pieces, if something would break, its major. To make anyone of these works of art. You know how costly this is. I have had people come here and things have also disappeared. Little works of art, so we decided, we are not going to deal with that. I will do women's work as well as be an instructor and be a full fledged artist in every way.
19:41 I have a question about the women's work, because you are approaching this woman's question now and in the early 50's it must have been a very different experience as a sculptor to be one of a handful of women who were sculpting at the time.
20:02 It was tough. It really was a chore. As a matter of fact, not just as a working woman, I became an academician very early. That is very unusual, people try to become academicians, Edward (?)20:18 tried a number of times before he became an academician. I don't know how it happened, I became an academician the first time I entered. Same with the Natural Sculptor Society. Maybe because I was always involved in content. I never did. If you look at the work, it is always connected to something. So I think when people looked at it they saw the ideas that i was focusing on. It was difficult because when I was getting the arts and letters, that is a very tough thing, that's Norman Mailer, you name it. It's in music, literature, poetry, painting and sculpture. I got it with Cherney who died unfortunately and Norman Mailer.
21:07 What year was that?
That was 1961, that goes way back.
21:14 Was that when you felt like you really arrived?
21:18 I never felt that I had arrived. Never, you never feel like you arrive. You always feel like there are so many hills to climb. How can you feel like you arrived when you know that there is so much more to learn and do and everytime I take something on, I say well let me see. What do I want out of this? Like I am doing right now in the Kitchen. What do I want out of this female head? I looked at her and Randy says, oh she is sweet looking. But I don't want her to just look sweet. I want her to be searching, so as I see her head looking up, I got to do this. I have got to get this done, I have got to make it work. That is a part of you that always exists. When I was up for Arts and Letters, there was a bit of a fight. They did not want me to get it.
22:08 Who is they?
22:08 Mulder (?) he was a sculptor. I don't remember his first name, but I heard he was a detractor for me. There were many who were fighting for me to be in, because they show your work. But there were many against me because they said, why would you even think if a woman? She is going to be married, she is going to have children she is going to give it up. You are throwing away something very important. You are throwing away an honor that should go to someone who will use that honor. William Zorach said you don't know this woman. He had to be careful, because he always called me Baby. He said you don't know here and we do and he got those who knew me and my work and they fought very hard for me and there was a big battle of yay and nay and yay and nay. Finally the majority voted for me, but that was very tough to get. When I heard I got it, it was in the newspaper, I couldn't believe I received it.
23:04 Is that where you found out, in the newspaper?
23:05 That's where I found out. Yeah they didn't tell me right away. It came right out, it was right there. What I would do is I would bring my daughter and lets say if I went to the foundry and again when I was going to the foundry, it was basically men and I was very hurt, actually I walked out of a foundry crying because I would take my baby with me and the diapers and the formula and I would bring the playpen. I would fold the playpen and put it in the station wagon. I would go to the foundry and I would set up the playpen in the office where it was clean, the air was clean. They had a refrigerator, i put the milk, everything in and I would go work, then Jacque Lipchitz. 23:50 Have you heard of him? I was working with him and I have some nice photos of him. He would pick her up and he would burp her for me and I would work and then I put her close to me so she wouldn't feel like she was being neglected. I would bring her in, it was tough. Here I am feeding a baby, I am working and at one point at the foundry, I would come in at 8am and they would take care of men that came in at 9am. They would drop me and take care of the men. When you are a young women, in the beginning you don't know how to defend yourself. Because you are use to men being polite to you, you are use to home, you are use to a certain, ambience and atmosphere. I didn't know how to negotiate and they were treating me as a second class citizen. I would wait politely, I would hold my baby and I would say, now do this and I would point and I would show them where to chase and do the work and then they would go to the men again and I would be holding my baby. I did this for quite a while and then at one point I snapped. I picked up the bronze that was almost finished and they walked away from me. I picked up the bronze and I threw it across the floor, I said keep it, throw it back melted down, you will never see me here again. I said if you can treat me this way, you have wives, you have children, you know what this is about and you are treating me and taking care of the men first? You are probably charging me more than you are charging the men. I believe that, I really believe that. Because they figured the husband is taking care of her, she is a spoiled women, he is giving into her. That was a lot of the thinking at that time.
25:41 That this was a hobby?
25:41 More or less. That was a foundry I just threw it and I never went back there. They tried to be nice to me afterwards and I said you can't make that up to me. I said put up with that bad behaviour for too long. So then I went to Roman Bronze and at Roman Bronze they were Italians. There was something about the Italian, there like a, I was married in Italy. I was married at the capridollia in Rome. There is something about the Italian makeup of the love of life and people and there is something really nice with working with Italian men, they seem to appreciate more of what I was doing. They knew I worked at Modern Art. Everyone knows what everyone is doing in the art world. they worked with me more closely, carefully and they helped me develope my bronze beautifully. So I had very good experiences with them. then one of their relatives was able to take over the foundry, but he like his drugs more than he like his foundry and that was the end of that foundry. Which was a great pity because it was such a good place, had a wonderful history for many, many moons and that was over. Now I don't like going to foundries at all. I go there, I don't like the screeching sounds of the metal being worked on. So what I do now, is I work basically in clay and in bunted bronze and if someone wants a bronze, I will send that to a foundry and have a bronze made up. That is my approach today. I just finished the museum show at the Butler Museum of American Art. Had a beautiful exhibition there and I found that at this moment of my life, museums, well not just now, museums have been giving me museum exhibitions and I don't even look towards galleries. I am not interested still in commercialism. I want to give my work only to museums. I am not interested in sales, which is weird, because it would help with the finances, but I find that I am able to manage. That I am able to do the work and have the people that I know do the work at reasonable prices, it works out well. I am building second body of work now that I'm, I am not sure what museum it will be, but I assure it will be at the next museum show. It will be about easily 8 to a dozen, maybe more, new artworks. Daniel Burke called me up. He wanted me to do a big project for him.
28:32 Who is Daniel Burke?
Daniel Burke is the head of the, I think it was seven, you know it was news. and he called me up and he said I know your Casey Stengel. I want you to do some work for me and he wanted me to do a large project for his stadium. That is the baseball family group. He said come in and see me. Know I don't know what he expected me to look like, but when I go out I wear a suit and I get my hair done by the beauty shop, like all women you know. I am as vain as any other women. I walked in and he didn't believe what walked through the door. He expected, I don't know purple hair or something. He didn't expect a feminine woman to come in. A lot of men expect if you are a sculptor that you have to have a different appearance.
29:20 When was this?
This was a few years ago.
Oh so it was pretty recently.
Pretty recently. He walked in and he was surprised to see me and then he told me I want you to do this baseball family and i said what do you expect of me. He said I know your Casey Stengel and I know what that looks like. So whatever you want to do is good and then he told me exactly what I had to do. He said I want a family, I want the husband with his arm raised up telling his family they have to go to their seats to sit down. I want the mother to have a baby in her arms, I want his son to say ok dad I am following. I thought where is my creativity in this. He laid the whole thing out for me and of course I wasn't going to turn down a big job. Of course I will do it. I have had the good luck of when people say my work of giving me carte blanche, to do what I wanted, because if they didn't I would walk out, because what the heck am I going to do? I can't really, I could basically do what he exactly wanted, I did that family group as you see it, as it's his idea, but I forgot his idea, what I did, was I said, let me go to the stadium and see what it is like. And for all darn things I will tell you what happened when went to the stadium.
30:44 Which stadium?
The Red Sox's, in Portland Maine. He owned the club there. I am watching the game and I turned away and they hit the ball, the ball hit the back of the place where they look out with the cameras, bounced back and right into my neck. Foul ball went in my neck, but it went in, I don't know how many miles an hour. I screamed out, everything stopped. The team stopped and looked at me. I thought someone had shot me. It was the most painful thing. Having a ball in your neck, was the most painful thing I ever had. Then the guy who was sitting a few seats away from me, grabbed the ball and everyone stood up and said give her back that ball, she earned it. She earned it.
31:36 Oh, no, who knew doing research could be so painful.
I mean it just i was shocked. To this day my neck still hurts, it just hit me in a way that it gets me in shoulder still and I get cramps to this day. It was amazing, I truly thought someone hit me with a bullet.
31:58 I bet, now let's go back to when you are now learning from Wayne Zorach. Were you working alone? With a group of like minded artists?
I was at the Art Students League.
So you were, but you were.
32:20 In a big classroom, in a huge classroom. In the basement.
Was it supportive?
Everyone is so independent in an art class. Everyone is so involved in doing their own thing and is so engaged and in love with what they are making. Again he left me alone, let me just tell you wherever I went, no matter who it was they never bothered me. There is a kind of camaraderie that exists in a classroom. People help each other. Someone is in trouble they jump in and if something is falling they will pick it up and if something breaks they will all put their hands together. It is kind of an atmosphere where it's all like minded people. Who want everyone else to succeed. Jealousy was not something you're really ran across in the art schools. Zorach, took me everywhere with him. Him and Margarite. I stayed with him in Maine. I went to a lobster bake, I was part of his family, but at all times he said, that's when, another time he did a portrait of suzy and me in book. He was dying at this point, he had gone to Staten Island to work on a big project, I had helped in the studio. It was called the Spirit of the Dance and he would say Baby come over, I want you to help me finish this sculpture. I would go in and he worked very large, it was beyond me, but I worked. My hands are so big and his hands were twice the size of mine and he said do the baby, do this leg. So I would help finish a leg and I loved to help him and he would always take me to Chinatown and Little Italy, with his wife Marguerite as well and sometimes with other students. he stayed here when I did the portrait, he said you are going to do this portrait, I started. I said I don't know how to do a portrait. He says you are going to do a portrait. Margarite and I are going to come to the house and they decided to come they stayed in the guest room, they were here for a whole week. I was in the little room that I showed you, the little breakfast room, they took turns sitting for and I was saying to myself oh dear God, Rhoda try and do a portrait, you don't do portraits. But when you care for someone, very much and when you are put to the test, you better meet the test. I said God darn it I am going to do this if it kills me. I am going to do it so it looks like them and you know something? He came over and he looked at what I did and as I said he had hands twice the size and 35:23 he did work, you saw the size of that face. It's tiny. What is it? The size of the inside of your palm? How do you get your tool in there. I say you get use to it. You see he didn't use tools he liked to use his thumbs and his fingers. I said Bill you get use to using tools and I said they are very advantageous, because every tool you learn does a certain thing for you. I learned that every tool, one is an eye tool, one is a tool for ears, you get to know the shapes and if it has a curve, if something is really curved. I will take a pencil with a fresh eraser and I will put that in because it's a perfect circle. I will use anything that works, if I have to use a spoon or a fork from the kitchen. I will do that or if I have to use a bobby pin, I will use a bobby pin. If it works use it. The main thing is to get what you want and to get the truth of what you are after.
36:18 When you had them sitting for you did you?
Did you take photographs, did you sketch?
No, no, I just said sit in front of me.
and you were actually sculpting?
Just them, as said.
You see I never sketch. I tell you why. I am so unique in this way I think because most artists sketch before they do a portrait or before they do anything. If I am sketching the sketch is the work of art. I don't want to now do a second work of art. I'm not built that way. I have to do everything fresh, finished, done go to the next.
36:52 You never considered taking photographs?
Oh I wouldn't dare. I wouldn't think of that.
36:59 What is it about doing that, that has you recoil like that?
First off photographs are flat.
But if you took them from different angles that wouldn't?
First of all, that has the hand of someone else in it. I don't want someone else's art. The photograph also has certain lighting, certain time of day, that it records accurately. I don't work that way. If I am looking at daylight and the day changes as I am working. I am inspired by the change of the day.. That's why I always like plain air, they like to go outside, because the wind in their face, the sun, just the change of cloud going over. A cloud can go over and create a patch that is dark to a patch that is light. That can be so exciting to an artist because what it is, it's a pattern, your patterns are changing and when you have these changing patterns and changing values and your concept of whatever you are doing whether is a landscape or a seascape whatever it may be. You are having such a good time with that and then this additional thing comes in. Then you can take an eraser if you are doing a black and white and you can do a "pull" what I call a "pull by erasing out. You can pull out the light values again. You can give it a feeling of inspiration or of exhilaration or moodiness.
38:24 Are you talking about in a sketch?
In a sketch. You can go in so many directions. That is the beauty of art is that it lives with you, with the day. It's not a static thing. Art moves with you as you work it, it could be something you are working on, say in your imagination on a paper. As you are working on that, when you do a lot of work you're not always concentrating exactly into the art work. Your mind drifts into maybe, Oh I had a conversation this morning with that person whoever you might think and maybe I shouldn't have said this to that person and your hand is still working. Because your eyes are doing and there is a memory in the fingers, there is memory touch in your muscles. But your mind now is working on other things and I find that I could deal with many other things while i am working. I could think of, oh I have to teach maybe I will go in this direction and my hand is still working on the work of art. I am no longer... its multiple. How that happens, why it happens, does it happen to everyone? I haven't interviewed people so I don't know if it happens with everyone. It happens with me and it happens when I work on many things at the same time. You saw in the kitchen. I have 6 different works going on at the same time. As I am working on the head and I look up and I see the birds and the cat and the fight, the dynamics between, everything likes to eat everything else. There is a little bird protecting her eggs because they can eat that too. But the big birds I think they are, I'm not sure what they are, they are not Eagles, the birds out here on Long Island. Ospreys. Oh they are big. I remember when I would... Do you know Shoe Swamp out here? That is a place to go. For you with your ideas and sounds, and recordings and visual things. Go to Shoe Swamp, it is a swamp, but you have the most amazing bird life in that swamp. Everything you can think of comes into that swamp. Its right off of Jones beach. I forget what exit it is to get off at Jones Beach, but Shoe Swamp is in there.
40:47 I will have to check that out.
You will have to check that out and go to see it. I saw it year ago. I went with, there was a place in Montauk there was this place that would take you out to these different places to bird watch. I bought the binoculars for bird watching I got everything that you need for bird watching. I buy everything I need right away and I went out recorded it and it was just a wonderful experience. That was years ago and now I am doing a sculpture of what I saw years ago.
41:20 And you still have it in your mind.
Oh you never forget anything, ever. I sculpt in the dark too, almost in the dark it's very I told you about the change of light during the day. My studio upstairs overlooks old Westbury, so I can see trees and some meadows. Here I just see other houses, but up there I can look out across some distance. What I have is a change of day and what I like depending on the time of year of course, short days and longer days.. I can look out and the light has almost disappearing and when the light almost disappears there are values that emerge, but you have to be eye smart. If that makes any sense to you. You need to know how to look and see. In other words someone else would say oh I pulled the blinds down and go into another room. I don't do that, I am able to see now what is happening to the trees as the light is diminishing and as that light diminishes those leaves take on such a different look. The values of the land, takes on a different look. It becomes more lush, becomes more mysterious, more moody. It becomes a 42:39 Titcomb, a musical titcomb and to not appreciate that and not use the I am taking every bit, of the last of the light and I am exploiting the last of the light. This is definitely artist something. This is a kind of drive that artists have. You are greedy with everything visual. Anything visual is like a gift, it is something that you learning from every moment and when you think you can't learn another thing from it, there is always something to get out of it.
43:11 It's funny because I just recently interviewed the youngest cinematographer to be admitted into the American Society of Cinematographers. Shes 37 or 38 years old and she is only one of 13 woman in the entire organization and she posts these pictures on Instagram, which are these beautiful pictures that hardly have any light. I asked her about them.
Does is sound familiar?
Yes, it's really interesting, because they are almost always of her children. At first you don't even see much and then you see all the tender gradations. Its really astonishing to look at. I asked her about that and she said that when she directed her first feature a couple of years ago, she said that she almost played it safe, that she did push, she always pushed, but she was given too much light and so I find this really remarkable that
44:25 This is an artistic thrust that artists really appreciate every moment.
When you do this and you work in the dark, you work with the gradations of light have your tools essentially become an extension of you?
Jee, I never thought of that.
Because they are not natural to you but you find considerable use in it compared to your mentor who uses his.
I find my tools are part of my fingers, yes, I really have to say that. I love my tools.
45:03 Which tools do you like to use.
I live everyone of them. I love every one of my tools. I mentioned this earlier. Everyone of my tools has a use. I know it intimately, I know what they can do and I know if I am going to do an eye. A tool that has, not a round edge but a curve linear edge with a slight point, you get into this part of the eye, the pink part, that's where the point is, where the flesh is.
The little curly cue.
Yeah, where the white ends and the skin begins. The orbit of the eye most people will push the eye in, I always make a ball and push the eye out and I say now work it out and sculpt it and as you sculpt it, it falls into place. You have to know you anatomy and really love anatomy.
`45:55 Where did you learn anatomy?
By myself, by looking. I didn't sit down like a physician and learn every bone and muscle and tendon. I know quite a bit, I am not interested in names I am interested in two major muscles. I like the sterno mastoid and the I like the stentorious. It's a muscle that goes like this and a muscle that goes like this. They are both curvilinear. so you always playing the unity of opposites in art. This is true in anything you do. If you are dealing with mystery you have do something very happy otherwise you are not going to have the mystery or it's not going to mean much to you. If you are going to deal with happiness, you are going to have a lot to say about sorrow or that happiness is not going to be so happy. Right? The same things is true in your lines and your volume in art. You have to know how to just oppose one area next to another and that has to do with anatomy, so when I look at the model. I don't look at the model anymore. As a matter of fact, how should I say this. The model doesn't bore me, but the model takes my inspiration away when I look at the model. It's wonderful for my students. It's wonderful for everyone and my fellow artists love the model. I like to work from my vision in my head. I like an idea and that idea in my head is very strong. When I am starting here, that piece on my kitchen table with be this big, it will be as big as Casey Stengel once finished. That is how big that piece is going to be. Just by working at it, and I didn't plan it fully, but I have a head doing this. The head is looking up at you. The hands are up. I am going to have that entire figure in a gesture that so speaks to someone else. Anyone who looks at it but they are going to take her. I want them to take her hand and say I got it. They don't know what they got nor does she. But they are going to say "I Got it". That's what I want out of this. The gesture is there. You have to have an idea how do you want someone to relate. I like to capture people. I am greedy that way. How do I know. When I have an exhibition, or when I go to an exhibition at the MET, which is my favorite museum on earth. I look at. Let's say I go to see the Baldus(?) show. Like the baldus show 48:41 or whoever you want to see. When I go to these shows. What I do, is I walk in the room and I look at the work and I look at how many people are in the room. I see the ages of the different folk that are in that room and as they walk from painting to painting. I see how long they stand in front of each painting and what or whose painting it is. Who are they overlooking and who are the majority of the folk fascinated by. Now this I think psychologically is an important issue for an artist to deal with, because we have deal with the public, with an audience. We are no different than someone who is an actor on stage and has to recite lines and connect with the audience. If you don't do that with art then why are you doing it? Are you doing it because it is some kind of exercise to make you feel better. Not for me, it's work`for me, it's a job for me. What I want is absolutely to know that I am connecting to that human being. What do people connect to. What do they not connect to. When you go to the museum, if you look at something that is very decorative let's say and you go up to the second floor and you look at Rodan. A lot of people walk by it and stop at certain Rodan's. One of my favorite artists in the world is (not sure)50:14 I look at this work for many reasons. He works very large. His color, his palette is tertairy He uses shadow and he use silhouette very cleverly. He will do things in silhouette which make you feel like you are going great distances in the background and you're moving in space and then he will do figures in front. Again with a very soft tertaiy palette. So he is no jarring you. He's not Goya, he is not hitting you hard with color. You look at and you go, uh and you can't move away. Or you are looking at Los Aminos which is one of the finest paintings on earth. That is one of the most important painting on this earth. Next to the Mona Lisa, which is beautiful, but this I think is the painting that is considered perhaps, it's so valuable there is no money that you could put on. When you see it and understand what, I don't have a good reproduction, when you see it in the Prato. I walked into the room and I started crying. I couldn't believe it. Of course the whole top is in darkness, the actual painting at the top, you can see the painting. The composition in this reproduction is very bad but I like it so much I had to frame it anyway. Look, you see the king and queen in the mirror in the background, there is the great master at the easel. Look at the dog in front. The (?) 51:50 in the background there. Two of them. It's just a magnificent work of art. Having seen it always in reproduction is to look at painting. it's all reproductions that's what not good about photographs and reproduction. Which answers your question better than I did before. When you see a reproduction, it's flat. You don't know what the brush stroke is, you don't know what the manner of the bravoral of the hand work is. When I went and saw this the faces were painted in the most traditional way. You know, blended. But the rest of of it was in ImPosto, do you know what imPosto is? When you use paint that is very heavy on the brush. You take almost with the brush or palette knife off the palette and you put it on so its thick. it's so thick that is takes months for the paint to dry. The rest of the painting was very smoothly blended and worked in that manner. That's what los menounos had. I didn't know that, so when I first walked into the room and I saw it I couldn't believe a painting I had loved my whole life was now, in 3D, it was right there. I had seen other painting go up the hallway of his as I was going there, but then when I went up to the painting itself, I was stunned. I had no idea he worked imposto and he worked blending. He worked, working the face as though it was almost a photograph. so he worked in two different manners which I did not know. So then I thought wait a minute Rho, at this time in history they also had (?)53:40 and they had a lot of people apprentices that came in and worked. He would do the major touring and the apprentices would come in and they would lay out the paints and he would come in and he would finish it. There is a two and fro and up and back, constantly going on. You don't always know the hand of the artist and the hand of the apprentices and there were many apprentices. You can tell which was his hand and when I saw that I was so appreciative to at last be in the presence of the great master, the great educator. There was no one like him. Any valasquez (?)54:20 you would go up to or I would tell my students, You want to study art? Go study Velázquez first. Go to Europe, go to Spain. Goya is wonderful, yesVelázquez is finer. Any painting you look at, any master you look at, I don't care Flemish or Italian could be Divinci, it could be Lenardo paintings or his sculpture. They are beautiful, but they are not him. He is the one to study and the one to revere. I think that when I speak now, not just to young artists, when I speak now who are of my period they all feel the same way. Because we have gone through many moons of work, of trial and error, of being judged by critics. I can show you critiques I've had on and on and on. I have never to my knowledge, had a bad critique. Now watch I will have one now. It will happen to me now. When you have this experience it's invaluable. Do you agree?
55:28 I do, but I've never had any work in a museum, so I am very curious for you, when you realize this was the path you were going down, when you were going to be a museum artist.
I didn't know I was going to be a museum artist.
NO you don't know you are going to be anything, when you do this, you just work and you say, I always had Zorach, 55:53
I was the most blessed of all artists on earth because Zorach really took me in his hands, he was the one who brought my work to the people he saw to it that I got everything I got and I would then learn about it afterwards. He didn't even tell me I was competing. He would say Baby, gimme this, gimme that and I would in class and I would be in his home and Margarite would say, Bill wants you to do this and I would say ok, i will give you this. She would say Baby come in here i want you to help me do this, I say ok I will be here. The most difficult thing for me was to lose this friend. To have him go and do this spirit of the dance. I look at that piece today. We just saw it, we were walking near one of auction houses. The Museum of modern art by Black Rock, you know Black Rock.
Its right across from the Museum of Modern Art. Its called Black Rock, its a black building.
I have been to the Museum of Modern Art many times but never Black Rock.
Across the street is called Black Rock. So we would be walking by Black Rock and I would think of the one time we saw that and we saw in front of Black Rock the spirit of dance. I don't know why it was, why was it on the, I guess the auction house wanted to sell it and they were trying to bring people in, by showing this piece. When I saw it I thought holy mackeral, I worked on that. That was the piece that also killed him and that he had to go up to Maine and try to recover in Maine and when we went up there, Margarite said you know Rho, he was in bed and depressed he put on a shirt and tie you know when you were coming here and now we are going to go out and we are going to be a in clam bake. Suddenly it reminded me of so many of the operas that I have seen. While there is great music outside the (?)57:48 is dying in the room. When you think of Linlathen, she was dying and there is a party and dancing again. You know that's that unity of opposites again that artists love to. Sorrow, happiness, sorrow, happiness. Hitting each one smack against the other. That was in life for me at that time happiness and sorrow hidden hard. For me to lose a friend like him was to this day, he is my friend bill Zorach and Marguerite Zorach
58:18 Did he tell you the first time you were going to be in a museum?
Yeah, he did. He said Baby you're in Colby College Museum now. I said what is Colby College? He said well you're in there and then I looked it up and my work, as a matter of fact, the acrobats, this what is in Colby college Museum and he made sure it got in there.
What did it feel like when you found out you were going to finally be in a museum?
Astonished, really astonished. Not even knowing how to thank him. Really? How did I get there. He just, he believed in me. He pushed me in every way he could. I think that today, artists need William Zorach in their life. If I find a student that I felt was really exceptional, I would do the same thing. I would see to it that they were getting into a gallery or they would get into a show. But you have to find someone who has the tenacity and the desire and the hunger. There has to be a hunger for art. I think for anyone to succeed in anything they want you have to have a hunger. You have to say I love it so much and there really is a love of what you do. There is a kind of an attachment when you work on something, you actually want it to live, you want it to breath. I argue with my sculptures sometimes. I say your not breathing yet. I say ok I know how to make you breath. Darn you. I curse out my sculptures sometimes. I know how to make you breath.
60:10 What is that? Is it a certain curvature of the line?
It's such a mystery, I cannot answer it. I wish there was an answer to knowing how to make something breath, it has to do maybe. I am fishing here, because I don't really know what it has to do with. It has to do with that finger touch again, that finger intelligence. You're annoyed at yourself, I am always annoyed at myself. I look at something and I say damn you come to life, come to life, and I touch it, there is something..Give me your hand. Something like this. I push and stop, push and stop and then you say that push was just enough. You pull away and it just did the right thing. It's just maybe the cheek bone should be a little higher, but it's too high, so you just give it a little touch, so it looks like it's ouch. but what you are doing again you're playing in the same face in the same figure the unity of opposites always at work. What your doing is you're saying, make it nice, and make it not nice. Make it annoying and make it pleasant. So what you are doing, those are human emotions that are always at work so no matter what you do make the piece, live by giving it these different touches that are both annoying and pleasant. I have so many annoying things in that face, I can't tell you. I won't touch them so I am confusing the viewer and by confusing the viewer I am making them also look longer. As I told you when I went to the museum and I saw how long someone was looking at a painting I said why are they looking at that painting so much longer and walking by so many others You will find that if you go to the museum and I know you do, you walk by and it's a friend to you. I walk by Copachio. I always say hello friend, I don't say it to the painting, I say it to my head. I say hello friend how you are today and I look at the painting and I always enjoy his genius. Because what he has done in that painting is give you the main subject and what they do, is of course they give you a curtain, sometimes. so you focus on a piece like it is sitting in a throne chair, but it's just a curtain. On both sides of that curtain, when you go to the museum you will notice this more closely. On both sides of that curtain, they give you where that person comes from. If its northern Italy, Tuscany, Southern Italy, whatever it might be. Its clearly there. What they do to show you that is they give you a certain landscape, behind the curtain and they will show a mule walking up a hill. they will show two priests walking down a hill, there is a whole world of what they know and that they are familiar and comfortable with and when they do that, that is their comfort zone. When they are doing what they have been commissioned to do, they have to meet the commission, they have to do the commision so they can get their money, they will be paid, but something in there has to be familiar to them. Something in that painting that every artist has belong to them. It has to be something that they say this is my land, now I am in your land, but now I am going back to my land too. that is very important when you look at the art work and if you give yourself the opportunity to be in front of a painting long enough the artist will speak to you. He will tell you what is on his mind. but you have to give yourself the chance for that artist to speak to you. You will see what he loves and what he gives great tenderness to and where his apprentice might come in and do the work. Remember there is always an apprentice with this time. You see that change and there really are changes, but you get your eyes to be accustomed to what is real and what is the commercial end in every piece.. It is always at work. That is the fun of going to museum and studying a work of art. I will go by painting and say ok buddy let me take another look and see this. But it's so familiar that it just gives me the comfort zone that I again visited. It's like going to family and seeing uncle so and so giving them a hug and then moving along, but you feel good that you have given the family a hug. That is the way I look at art work I give a hug to the painting I know well and say it was good to see you again.
65:08 It was good to see you again and I will go on to the rooms that have the contemporaries and I say are you kidding, why are you bothering me with this?
I would like to know what it felt like to have your work with masters?
You don't believe it, you just never believe it.
Does it ever sink in?
It doesn't ever sink in. Because remember you are never satisfied with what you do and you say am I worthy. I'm confident, I know I can, I get up and speak in front of 700 to 800 people. I do this every year when I brought to the society, wherever I have to go. I have confidence, I know what I am talking about, but there is always the question that, how much better can you be? You know there are levels you can reach that you have not reached.
66:03 What was the first exhibit you were just blown away by the position of your artwork with the other pieces.
I would say not that first, I would say my first exhibit was at the ACA Gallery on 57th street. Every artist you could think of, came to that exhibition. Then when you have a show everyone comes up to you and keeps praising you and praising you, and they.. Except once, I'll tell you, I was having a show at the Huntington Hartford Museum behind the Art Students League. It's now called the Museum of ARt and Design, but it was called the Huntington Hartford, everyone was praising me and Huntington Hartford was there (she whispers, I think she said with his girlfriend). A woman came up to me and everyone was it's so wonderful to meet you. She had champagne in her hand and she took it and she poured it right over my new dress, my silk dress. She was going to take me down. I don't know who she was, never met her in my life, but she couldn't bare people praising me.
67:18 Wow. Lewis A Zona director of Butler Museum of American Art wrote, "Rhoda Sherbell work celebrates and extends the rich tradition of American Sculpture. Utilizing traditional materials and methods, she exhibits skills are anything but conventional or predictable, her work is innovative, highly personal and remarkable in its visual and conceptual strength. She handles the human form with surety and then through knowledge of the classical approach. This is not to say that the work ignores modernistic principles, it does not. Her sculpture reveals that personal expressiveness that we naturally associate with the great Rodan and his descendants . But Sherbell is American and that generation that gave birth to abstract expressionism. Her work though not abstract exhibits that energy and that highly interpretive nature that we associate with the work of Dunconey, Kline an Gorkie. The Butler is pleased and honored to present the sculptural vision and unique skills of Rhoda Sherbell." How did you feel when you heard that?
68:26 Wow, could you imagine. I read it a few times to make sure I was reading it right.
That's wonderful. So here you are, you are getting all these plots(?) but of course you have the natural self doubt. I would imagine that when you are sculpting, there is that question in your mind when do I stop?
You know exactly when to stop?
Oh yes, I will tell you why. The piece tells you enough is enough. There is a Jewish word knung, and it says knung to you. There is a point where every inch of that work has been resolved in a sculpture or a painting, you complete it. In other words I always do the head first. The reason I do the head first is because of the personality and it sets the mood of the character and I set it to perfection. If you look at that in there it is almost complete, it's not complete yet. Then when that is complete, that is my standard for the rest of body and the figure. I then do the torso, to meet the standard of the head. then I decide what kind of human being is this? What do I want? Do I want to appeal to youth, middle age to old age whatever it might be. Then my next step is put the legs on and then I like long legs, the reason why I like long legs, it's an aberration, it's not correct, but no one ever notices it. If you look at my figure as you came in she has long legs they don't fit her body, but no one has ever noticed it. It's been in many museum shows no one has even criticized it. I look and I say how come they don't see that the legs are too long.
70:24 Because no one cares about the fact.
They don't care.
Physiology they want the feeling. You are well know for Corpleon Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra, for known people. What was it like to be sculpting, legendary figures in culture.
First of all when I was doing Yogi, he was great guy, he was full of fun, embarrassed.
He sat for you?
What was that like?
Fun, it was a good time, I went to his home, I met Carmen, very protective. Oh was she protective of him She would say to him, Larry, Larry, she interfered too much with him. You know how that came about, his portrait?
Stangel was having his birthday party at Shea Stadium, Joan Pacin was the owner of METS and we would always get tickets and get good seats there because I was close to Joan Pacin, she owned the country art gallery, which was my gallery. We went to the stadium and we watched the game and then when the game was over and we went down to see Yogi, my late husband heard Yogi saying he loved the Casey Stangel and I wish Sherbell would do my portrait. I never heard, I was in front walking with other people, from the organization and my husband leaned to me and he said Rhoda, Yogi wants a portrait like Casey. So I said are you serious and he said yeah he said he wished he had a Sherbell portrait. So we had lunch every week, we played tennis, you now the Yuri's corporation? Yuris brothers they built all of New York, they were big builders and they were my patrons. That is why I could walk out of a gallery. She said we don't want you to be in a gallery, my husband and I, Percy and I want you to be our artist. How do you like that it's like the Meta Chiefs. You do everything and we will buy everything you make. How many people get that in their life. Like as usual, I was just very calm and I went OK. Inside I was going what, what. But you have to be cool. That is how that came about. So I said I we have lunches and dinners with them and she wanted us to actually live on her estate. She wanted me to sell this house and she had a big house on the estate, then I figured they were very old and if something happened and if all my work was on her estate and she passed on what she did and Percy passed on, all my work would belong to them. It's on their estate, nothing would be mine, so I thanked them dearly for the invitation and I said we will just have our friendship the way it always is and we went there, we were there 4 or 5 times a week, eating dinners and lunches and she would have guests from the Metropolitan from Carnegie Hall. We would meet people from the head of museums. Dean Whitney would come. We would be having lunch with the head of the Witney. With the MET. You have no idea, my life was so engaged in the workings of the art world having through having patrons like them. It was a renaissance for us and when it died. It cut off, it didn't cut off completely, but a lot of it was cut off. It was for many a year, it was quite, them we would go to Palm Beach and we had the same thing happening in Palm Beach. I learned how to play backgammon and a lot of stuff like that. I was up to here with Backgammon you know. The tennis was fun and the pool, but there was dressing for breakfast, then there was dressing for lunch and then there was a swim after lunch then there was getting dressed to go into Worth Avenue. Then coming back and dressing for dinner. There was so much clothing. You were changing all the time you know. I had to wear long gowns. It was very formal. I spend many years like that. I've had quite an experience.
75:11 Yes, yes, you have. So what was Erin Copeland like?
We went into work on Erin Copeland and he was in Peekskill and we up, my husband and I went up there we were working and we also had channel 21 wanted to do a whole story of Copeland and me. so they sent up their photographer. Every minute we were working the photographer, was working, I didn't even see them we didn't even know. Erin and I would sit down and he would pose for me at his table. he had a good sense of humor, we would kid around, we would laugh.. Then I would say, ok let's you got to be still now, lets. work, lets just work. He would pose and he would get tired. He was an older guy and he said let me go change chairs and he was in slippers. I am working on the table that he always writes his music and here's exact portrait over there on the table where he is working. The door opens and a beautiful beige Great Dane comes in, gorgeous animal and she runs right up the sculpture and gives her master a kiss and licks off the nose. He jumps out of his chair and he says stupid I'm over here and he is pulling her by her haunches. I saw Erin the best compliment I ever had in my life. It took me a second to put the nose back together.
76:46 That's amazing, you fooled the dog.
The dog she came up and kissed him.
I mean isn't that a compliment of compliments?
My masters voice and my master's face.
Right and obviously his essence.
For her to do that. I said I got him, I really got him down. I knew I had him down and I liked his ears were important and I like his music. I always liked his music. I was thinking of Appalachian Spring and all the things. But he spoke about other things. People that he helped, students he helped and I went to MAcDowell Colony. Have you ever heard of it? There are colonies out there Yardo, McDowell and other colonies, not too many about 4 or 5 across the US. that house artists. If they feel that you are someone who is known they will take you in for up to three months and feed you, give you lodging. You have to get all these awards, in order to be invited to a colony. You can't apply. If you go to the colony, you are going to be rubbing shoulders with the best known artists, composers. Leonard Bernstein was up there. You name them, there in these colonies and they are given a bungalow. The bungalow has a heater and I would get up at 5am and walk down to Peterborough is in New Hampshire. The village is Peterborough. I would get up before everyone else cause I'm very social and if I'm in a room and if there is a table, guaranteed at the end of the week that table is full and all the colonists are going to be sitting with me.. That is how I am. So I became known in the colony and everyone would sit with Rhoda. They would come at lunchtime, the come to Rhoda's bungalow. You couldn't' even get in my bungalow. Everyone was there to eat with me. There was a lot of laugher and there was some real camaraderie. It was just beautiful and this is all different artists doing different work. Artists that would write music and come to the library and listen to my latest piece. I just wrote this.. These are well known artists, so it was a wonderful place, but because I was so social, I would get up at 5am. To go to Peterborough you have to go down a hill. It was the steepest hill I ever seen in my life. it was nice to walk down, but I learned that I had Asthma coming up because I would start to have breathing problems coming up. I didn't realize, I found out at that point that I was asthmatic. I go into town, I would walk around it was beautiful, it was quiet. Come back and I would be able to go into the kitchen, make a pot of coffee, sit down by myself, and have coffee before the whole place filled up. Then when it filled up, guess where they would sit, with Rhoda. There was one woman Shirley and that Shirley is right there. She wouldn't sit with us. She sat by herself. We would all be kidding around and she and I said to the others, why is she over there why is she by herself? They said you don't want to start with her. I said why not, what's wrong? They said she has issues, don't start with her. The next morning, I got up at 5am and I went right to her table and I sat next to her and she loved to eat`sunny side up eggs. They were so loose and slimy. I would look over and I would be eating my dry scrambled eggs and about a week and half went by and i finally said to her, Shirley how can you eat those eggs you look like you are eating snot. The whole room fell apart. She said, she hits me in the arm, she says girl you are something girl. I said am I. I said look at what you are eating and you are calling me something? I said why don't you have them cooked a little more and she said I like them like that. Well we started to kid around, she had such a sense of humor. We started to joke and now everyone is leaving the old table and coming to sit with me and Shirley. The dynamics just turned around and she became a part of everybody else. Which I was very aware of and was focused on making sure that would happen. Then when we were talking, I said Shirley why don't you pose for me? Why don't you sit for me. She said I will do that.
81:32 Was Shirley a fine artist as well?
She was a sculptor too, also a sculptor. At that time, it was snowing every day and it was beautiful, the grounds were covered in white and there was acres and acres of MAcDowell colony and beautiful little huts and houses scattered around. To just walk through the place was heaven. It was made to be ideal by McDowell the composer, Edward MAcDowell? It was his property and he gave it the country and to the area to be a home for artists, all artists. We had him to thank for that. So anyway, I had breakfast I came up I worked, Shirley came in, I said come to my studio. She posed for me. Everyone I said when I was finished, you guys want to see what Shirley looks like? They came in and that was the end of my stay. Everyone wanted their portrait. I did not come up there to do portraits. I came up there to do anything I wanted to do, to be free. I had to have my radio my music, my fine music and what a place up there to have fine music. To listen to anything I wanted concert, opera, anything. It's always fine music though, I am not a, I don't listen to commercial junk. Excuse me if you like it, I'm in trouble. Maybe you probably love it and i shouldn't even say it. I just like concert music and operas`. At any
rate, she posed and now everyone else said.
83:09 behind me that is Iris Owens, she's a writer and behind that is a composer, Philip Ramey who is the annotator for William Copeland. Now everyone is, and behind that is Kathleen St. John. composer and suddenly they are all lining up and that now looks to me like heavy duty work. The whole colony is lining up for me to do them and I have three months to do what I want and they are wanting portraits. One portrait after another.
83:41 And you did it?
I called up my husband and I said get me out of here. I can't even go to the breakfast room or to eat dinner without everyone saying when am I next? That put so much pressure on me that it took all the joy out of being in the colony.
83:59 Of course, I would think so.
I felt like I am doing all this for nothing. I didn't want to do that.
You were there for yourself.
I was there to do what I wanted to do, to playing around with ideas, so I said to my husband just come get me. I said to them, we were playing ping pong, like we did every night. Oh I was a good ping pong player. I would sit so far back from the table we would really slice with each other. I said I am going home tomorrow and they they said what? I said yeah I am going home because I have to work I can't keep doing portraits, I have to go home and do my work. You know what they did? They tied me to the pole. The got rope, they all held me down, because there were big poles to hold up the barn. That is what we worked in barns. They tied me to the pole. They said are you going to call your husband and tell him you're not going? Cause we aren't going to untie you unless you say I am staying. I said now look, I didn't come here to do what you guys wanted me to do. I said you have got to leave me alone. Of course they were very anxious to be done, each one to have their portrait made. I felt suddenly like I was being choked to death. I did call my husband and I said I am packed, get me in the morning, because I am leaving. The next day there was a rural bureaus (?) in the sky 85:28 you know what that is?
I had missed. They said Rhoda you went a day too soon. There was the most exquisite auraburlous the next day. I was so angry that I missed that, but I came home and I was very glad to come home because Friend's Academy sent mice home for my daughter to see how biology works, not knowing that we had cats and horses. When I came home, because there was so many mice in the house, white mice. Some of them got under the rugs and were flat dead under the rugs. Flat as a pancake under the rugs. I came home and I said OMG I am so glad I am home. I had to clean out all of the mice and the mice that were now in tanks they sent tanks of mice. I took all the tanks and put them in the car, my station wagon and I went back to Friend's Academy and I said take your mice back, please. I can' have all of this in my home. I came back and I went back into my studio which was upstairs. I didn't work in my kitchen. I worked upstairs in my studio and I went back to work. I just went back into my routine. But I really found that being at MAcDowell colony was a really joyous moment in my life. Working with everyone of the composers, listening to their music, what they composed and then asking everyone for critiquing, what we felt. Everyone was kind, very kind and honest. They said well this movement here, could you shorten it or maybe there is too much this or that, whatever they felt. I would be the error in the work and everyone seemed to, because when you work so closely with everyone you pick up their language. You share languages. You pick up what their needs are. I was very sad to come home. Actually I would love to go back to McDowell, but I won't do that because it's a different time.
87:38 Well speaking of a different time, what do you think is the future of sculpture and if somebody wanted to become a sculptor, maybe they are in Jr. High School or even elementary school or maybe high school or even college. Or anytime in their life. What kind of advice would you give what would be your expectations of what the future holds for a fine art, museum art, the influence of technology on art today.
I think it has to take its course, like everything in life. You have to respect what is happening at the moment Take what is available, learn how to adjust it to your own personal needs, your own desires and to your own sensibilities. Its very important, again to be an artist you have to know who you are. You don't just sit down and work. You have to know what you are about and say ok what do I teach. I don't make a lot of money teaching. What is important about teaching is that I can influence large groups. I have hundreds of thousands of students all these years. Some of them have become known. Not too many, just a handful have become known or in the academy today. Just a handful out of so many.
What academy was that.
National Academy. It one of the most prestigious of all the. It's like the academy of award in a way.` To get in you have to be voted in by a large majority of the population. It took me 6 times to try and get in. Can you imagine. They have to do this. The advice I would give to any person, is first you need encouragement. That's important you can 't be in a vacuum unless you are so self motivated and someone is supporting you and giving you enough money to eat and just let you work. Which is unrealistic. There might be people who have that but I don't know who they are. What I would say to any young person is get to the best school.. The reason you go to the best school is you are going to meet the best artists.
90:01 And when you say the best schools, would that be the Rhode Island School of Design, Cooper Union, Parsons?
No, I would say, is what I would said to you in the very beginning, always go to the best of the best, never except 2nd anything. It's the top or hold back and wait until next year. Did I tell you the story, when I didn't get into the PA academy?
The PA academy and the detroit institute of art are very major institutions for artists to show in. It's hard to get into, the top artists are in there. MY husband applied and I applied to get into the Pennsylvania academy and the Detroit, they are two different units. Different institutions. He got in and I was rejected and he said oh sweetheart, I feel so bad. I said oh cut it out. I said people get in things and people are rejected. Its a matter of taste. It's all taste I said if they like this type art and I'm not doing it, of course they are going to reject me. that doesn't me that I am no good. It means I am different than what they want. I am not worried about. I put a stop to it immediately. That means nothing to me to be rejected or accepted because I know what the art world is and I know who I am. I know what I am and I do trust Rhoda, very much. I know what I can do. 91:54 (she whispers something here) So I didn't get in and Mervin was upset and I said ok it's alright and I went on and did my work and I produced another body of work. I always produce. That's the one thing about me I have my 5 year plans and I am always planning my next group. Like right now I am in my next group. I know it's going to go somewhere. I remember this today and i will remember this about 3 years from today when I'm in a big museum show. Cause I know it's going to happen because I am planning it. So it's going to happen because I am going to make my work good enough to be in there. Anyway I said to him not to worry about. The next year it came up again. I said I am putting the same piece in. This one right here.
92:51 The acrobats?
The flying acrobats. He said what are you doing. He said Rhoda you were rejected, don't you dare do that. I said it's a different group people. I said I believe in the work. Why would I not do it. I got one of the top prizes, I got a lot of money and the museum bought it. The following year.
It just goes to show.
The year before I am rejected and the following year all of that happened to it. Go figure right? Taste. This is what I would tell me students, I tell my students this story too, because it's an important story for them to know. That never worry about being rejected because that group might be abstractionists, that group might be surrealists, that group might be people that have a sour look on life for all you know. They might be people who don't care about things and are very biased. You have to be very careful with biase. When you speak with people you know within an hour or two if they are biased. If you having, not an interview but if you are having one on one conversation you know what you are dealing with and I very often find that if I don't like who I am talking to I go quiet and I listen to what they have to say and I got their whole life story and kids, blah, blah, blah and I say that's really fascinating and I enjoyed thanking them. I thank them for telling me, but they don't know who I am. I cut that off. Because I don't' feel I want them to know who I am. That's not necessary, so it's making judgements all the time and choices and then deciding who are your friends, who do you want to be with, who do you respect. But most of all, you have to say if you are a person of purpose and I think I am a woman of purpose. That you have to say my time is valuable, I am not going to live forever. I know my age. If I am in good health, maybe I will be here, no one will know your timeframe. No one knows that, so understanding this, you learn a lot. I have the friends that I really like and those who are midland (?) I see and I enjoy, but I am not close friends with those. I go by friends we have dinners together but I don't overdue that. We do that maybe once or twice a month. Because I feel my time being valuable, i want to spend it in the studio. I want to make as many statements, as many ideas as I want know and then I am saying I'm dead now. I am looking down at myself.. You ever do that?
Ok, what have you accomplished, have you accomplished everything you wanted to accomplish? What are you forgetting about? What are you missing out on? Are you in place? ARe you putting everything in place, yet not being dogmatic about it.. Don't be foolish about it but at the same time protect the time for creativity, protect the time for friendships, teaching and know you energy level, know your age. I fortunately am.. I better not say it, I'm gonna give myself (?)96:04 . But I am OK, in order to stay there I paste things. I try to paste them intelligently and the main thing I want to do now is the new body of work. Again, I have a title for it, I know what, as I said I want a woman's world. I feel that in way, I am not going to say it sums up my life, because I don't know how long I am going to live but for this time in my life, it's saying that I know what I had to do to get here. Where do I want to go? I don't want to just stay here. I have other plans. I said OK, what's my next step? I can't tell you what the next step is, because it would be unrealistic to tell you what my next step is, so I won't go there. I do have my next step that I am going to really grapple with. See if I can make it happen, but I can only make it happen if I do my next body of work, that says I have the pride to show it. Or I have the sense of security that it's meaningful and I can show it. So I am on the Woman's World, which I feel is maybe the next step.. That might be the next step for the next museum show. Whether my life will go further than that, we don't know. We could be hit by a car, fly on a plane, anything could be or I could live like my father in law, almost to 100. I have a very long living family, so who knows, but this is how I see my life. How does it sound to you?
97:55 Sounds great and I think this is has been a wonderful interview, I really want to thank you so much for taking this time down memory lane.
It has been memory lane.
It has been wonderful to go from the 50's to now and to see the vibrantcy of your life in art. I really appreciate you taking this time.
I enjoyed being with you it's been a pleasure. I don't know how good its been, but at least I hope.
No this has been great.