An Interview with Artist Richard Kane
From Rubbish to Art
Influenced by the Dada movement and many other modernist artists, Richard Kane, one of our very own poets here at Hubpages, takes recycled and found objects (he calls them "interesting objects") and creates them into works of art.
His robotic face creatures captivate your attention, and his work has been shown publicly numerous times. Long dedicated to creating his faces and masks, Richard won honorable mention in the 4th annual Oakland Trash to Treasures show in 1996. He continues to find objects and create artwork on a daily basis. Richard Kane signs his artwork R. Kane.
I recently sat down with Richard over a delicious brunch he cooked up for me and talked with him about his artwork, life, and the artist's life. Richard has training in art from Laney College in Oakland, the Academy of Art College (now University), and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN. To my palate's delight, he also has a certificate of Culinary Arts from San Francisco Community College culinary classes at An Educated Palate restaurant in San Francisco (it later became associated with City College of San Francisco). I hope you find this interview as enlightening and entertaining as I found my time with Richard.
An Interview on a Sunny Day
It was a sunny day in Oakland as I walked with Richard to his apartment for our brunch interview. He regaled me with stories about the neighborhood and talked about his Housekeeping as Art business. Every so often, mid-sentence, Richard would park his bike, bend over, and pick up a scrap of something or other off the ground. "This could be a nose" he'd say, or "I've been looking for some eyes like these." And I could see what he meant as I learned to see a nose out of a bottle cap or eyes out of round plastic pieces.
Upon reaching his appartment, it became apparent to me that Richard gets his artwork pieces from all over ~ in his daily life a part of him is ever ready to nab an item that he thinks will work for his art. I asked him about this and he told me with a laugh, pointing at the recycle bin at his apartment complex ~ "That's where I get most of my art pieces." He also gets them from rubbish items he finds when cleaning houses, Richard's unsual "day job."
Imagine a tidy apartment full of created artwork on every wall and trays of knick-knacks and artwork items tucked away in drawers and behind lamps. If you look at a piece of Richard's artwork you'll see a creative whole made from pieces of modern life that you'll be able to recognize ~ a bit of a plastic jug there, a sink drain covering here, some kind of metal bottle cap there, and so on. These items fill Richard's home but his place still feels tidy and clean. It's easy to see Richard has a passion for his unusual brand of sculpture.
The Interview Discussion
Have you had other kinds of training besides culinary ~ in art?
Art. Every so often I go back to school and take something I'm interested in. The last thing was welding. I wanted to know how to weld.
That sounds fun. Something you could use in your art.
I haven't actually used it yet, I have nowhere to weld, but I just wanted to know how to weld so I took a bunch of welding classes. I've taken writing classes. I mean, I've got a bunch of college credit but it wouldn't collect into a degree. It's kind of random.
Stuff that you're interested in?
Yeah, just stuff that I'm interested in. "Oh, I want to learn about that."
Another thing I was wondering is if you have stories for the artwork, for the characters ~ do you make up names or -- ?
I started making up names. I don't really have stories for them. But they tell me how they go together.
They certainly have their own personalities.
Mm-hmm. Like sometimes, I have like, "This is what I'm going to make," and then it tells me, "Nope, nope, nope, this is how I'm supposed to be." I mean, they don't verbally ~
I hope not (laughter)
~ but they tell me how they're supposed to go together. And I've slowed way down on most of them. I used to just kind of rush through it. And they're so much better now.
Happier with them?
Yeah, I'm getting better at it.
I really like what I'm doing. This is turning out to be a very productive period. I've learned that art and writing and all that kind of comes and goes sometimes. But I've also learned that even when I'm not doing [art] there's some part of me that I think is just kind of working on it because when it comes back it's evolved some, it's changed.
Yeah, it's like when you write. I'm part of a screenwriting group. And then there's this writer -- he's got a patch over his eye so he can't type out really fast or anything. So he writes pretty slow but his stuff is really good. So I asked him, like how often does he write, he says he writes once a week. But he's like thinking about it, but not really thinking hard about it. So the next time he comes to write, he knows exactly what he wants to say.
I had that happen with my poetry. I mean, I have things going through my head. I mean, some things, some things are very spur of the moment. But some of them ~ it keeps bouncing around and then I'm like, "I gotta write that down." And it doesn't go away until I write it down. It keeps pestering me almost.
Yeah, I have to write when I'm inspired.
In 2000, it just poured out of me, the writing.
I just found a stack of stuff. I'm looking through it and I'm going, "Oh, I kind of remember writing that!" It was in this ~ stuffed under there ~ and I have a whole bunch of stuff to sort through.
How are you doing with Hubpages? Are you still writing, putting stuff up there?
Well, I kind of was fervent for a couple weeks, and I've kind of backed off, and I'm working on my artwork and that sort of thing. I haven't focused on it but I think I should get back to it. I have like 33 pieces on there.
That's fast! My God! It took me like 19 months, no 16 months... [Editor's note: At the time of this interview, Richard had only just started on Hubpages.]
Yeah, but a lot of it is old stuff. I mean, it's not like I wrote [immediately] 33 pieces to put on there.
Yeah, just found it.
Yeah. I have ten followers. One guy's written like a dozen books. He's following me, OK.
Wow. That's good. So I have another question. What inspires you when you're making art? Because I noticed, you're walking around, you see something interesting on the street, decide, hey, I can see something out of that?
Yeah! Well, I see parts of faces in just about everything I look at. My pattern recognition is really highly tuned to that. Like "Oh! That could be that!" or, "Oo, that's a nose!" And there was a long period there where I was just dragging crap home and putting it away. Thinking, "Well, why am I dragging this all home. I'm not doing anything with it?" But now I am. So it's there for me. You know, I was assembling it what I needed, I just wasn't needing it at that moment. And yesterday I said, "OK, I'm running out of kind of the frame works to put it on." So that's why I went out on my bike ride last night. Found a couple of things. That front of that computer, that one could be really interesting.
Yeah, there's a lot of character in it.
And that weird one from that washer, oh, that's got possibilities. That's going to be a more alien sort of thing.
I hope you have another show. I think it'd be really cool.
Oh, I wanna do it.
Just gotta find the right place.
Yeah, right, places.
Well I applied to that Magnate. It's in the Castro, it's on 18th. It's really nice. They have rotating shows. And I was thinking "I wonder how you get things put up." So I went to their website and applied. So we'll see.
You should try cafes too.
I've always been kind of afraid of fame to some extent. I think I've gotten over that to some extent. It's like, "OK. I think I can deal with it."
What was your fear about fame? That you'd lose your privacy or something?
Well. Loss of anonymity.
People can be very demanding of you. People you don't know feel they own you. I'm not saying I'm ever going to get that famous, but it's still there, there was always that kind of fear there. There's also the fear of being rejected. I'm trying, so I worked through a lot of things and decided "OK, I'm ready." If it's going to happen, now's the time to do it.
You were asking what inspires me. I don't know. I look at things and I just see things in them. And sometimes it's like play. I start just putting things together. "Oh that's kind of fun, but maybe this is more fun, you know." I mean, you can see that in these photos, that I'm putting all these different things together.
So your radar's always open and on for things?
I mean, I noticed when we were walking you picked up two things.
Yeah. Well, I see things that I'll see when I'm zooming by and I think, "Well, do I want to drag that home or don't I?" And I make a choice. Like I found this Habitrail sort of thing that someone had put out. And there were a couple of really interesting pieces. But then I'm thinking. You know, I really don't want to break up that because somebody might want the whole thing. I didn't want it enough that I wanted to split it up.
What was it?
Like Habitrails like for rodents, it has tubes and all that, so they can run so you can do the elaborate thing in your house. So not just a little cage, they have these tubes so they can run through the tubes around.
Oh, those little hamsters-kind of things.
Yeah. And there were a couple of interesting pieces. But I thought, "They might be integral." And I was on my way to shopping and I thought, "Oh, I don't really want to take the space up." Maybe I'll get a [bag] for my bike one of these days but I haven't yet.
Yeah, that was nice. Leave it be ~ maybe there's a hamster out there that could use it.
Yeah. We had gerbils when I was a kid. They're hyper little things. Real active. Well, I guess I was allergic to cats and dogs when I was little. So we had gerbils, turtles, fish.
Yeah, I was allergic to cats but we still had cats. And now I'm not allergic to them. I out grew it.
I did too. Apparently when I was three they got a dog. And apparently it really bothered me and they got rid of the dog.
Yeah, I like little pets.
Then I had rabbits when I was a older. My little brother was allergic to them. So I had to get rid of my rabbits.
I was training them to do tricks too.
I didn't know rabbits were that smart.
They're not that stupid.
So how long does it take you to finish a piece? Is it an ongoing thing?
Some could happen in an hour and I can work on some for months.
Just, it sits there and I just, I don't have the right piece and suddenly I'll find it and go, "Oh! That's what I needed!"
So do you have any that are in progress right now?
Well, the one I showed you, the main one that's going to go inside that thing. But most of the stuff I was working on I finished this week. Which is why I ran out and found some more stuff to work on. Oh, actually I do have a couple in progress I can show you right here.
[Richard shows me some of this artwork.]
Let me see.
OK, I got him. All I've come up with so far on him are these things for possible eyes and stuff.
Oh yeah, yeah. Wow.
OK, and this one, I kind of just started yesterday. I'm not sure yet, but so far... But I'm not sure yet. I just spotted that and thought, "that's kind of fun!"
So where do you get your materials?
Well a lot of it comes out of the recycler. And some of it from my client's houses.
So where do you see yourself in the future, taking your artwork in the future?
Oh yeah, I want to put it out there. I want to put my poetry out there, I want to put my artwork out there. Like I said, I think I'm ready.
Yeah, that's good.
I think it's time. I want to find my audience. I want some recognition. I want it in my lifetime, I don't want to be like that Dutch guy, what's his name ~
~ Van Gogh
Yeah. I don't want to be like that.
Don't go crazy, but ~
Well, I'm a little strange, but I don't think I'm crazy.
Yeah, well I don't think you're crazy. But some more shows, displays..
More shows. Displays. I've kind of like backed off but I'm going to poke at Etsy some more. There are some pieces that I don't want to put there because I think they're above that. I don't think I could ask what I think they're worth. I don't think people would understand. You know, 'cause that's not what they're looking for there. More like the little ones and that.. I don't know, you know, what's appropriate. Maybe I think too much of myself. I don't know.
I listened to this 60 Minutes podcast one time, and it was about this modern art show. And the stuff that gets sold, it's so high. So expensive. And it's somewhere in Florida I think, every year. I'll try to remember, because it'd be perfect for your kind of thing.
Yeah. Well I have to be "discovered" I guess, but if I don't put it out there, it ain't gonna happen.