A Man After His Own Art
Well into the night, long after the last student has left campus, a lone man in the art studio continues to knead and twist slabs of clay until the gray mass finally begins to take shape. The contoured configuration is destined to become the latest sculpture in a collection of work being created by Ricardo Farias, Heritage’s first year-long Artist in Residence.
No stranger to the University, Farias earned his degree in visual arts from Heritage in 2008. He also was one of Heritage’s early Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows who earned the chance to complete an internship at the Walla Walla Foundry and study studio mold-making in Montana at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts. His painting, Rhythm of Sea and Air, even hangs in Smith Family Hall.
Farias went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts from Central Washington University. While there, he taught undergraduate drawing courses. Coming home to Heritage was, he says, like stepping back in time and a bit surreal. His former professors are now his peers and, suddenly, he is doling out homework instead of taking it home. But what boggled his mind most was the realization that, after years of training, he had crossed the line from being a student to professional artist. He laughs a bit when asked about his transformation.
“I think part of being an artist is that you never really feel like you’ve gotten to the point where you have truly mastered your craft,” Farias said.
As Heritage’s Artist in Residence, Farias gets the time and space to develop his work and build his professional portfolio. In exchange, he shares his knowledge with students through presentations and seminars and by teaching ceramics classes. He claims to see a lot of himself in his students.
“When I started at Heritage, I was a big ball of potential,” he said. “As I look at my work over the years, I can see how I’ve transformed and grown. The process can be uncomfortable. But, as I tell my students, to improve your art, you need to always stay slightly outside of your comfort zone.”
Farias admits to being uncomfortable a lot. He is prolific in his work, moving between painting and ceramics. He sees inspiration everywhere and is constantly searching for other ways to master his mediums. Nowadays, he also tends to work on a grander scale, with his sculptures standing nearly three feet tall and his paintings large enough to cover the wall in a small room.
“I like the physicality of large scale pieces,” he said.
Farias’s latest work is peppered with touches of humor. He blends images from childhood fantasy with bits of the macabre for sculptures that make people want to get closer and see more. Among his works is a large ceramic teddy bear made from layers of individual hearts, yet displaying an exposed skeletal face and feet. There is also his sculpture of a migrant worker wearing Mickey Mouse ears.
“There seems to be this expectation that artists are supposed to be super serious all the time,” he said. “We all could use more humor in our lives.”
Farias is hopeful that the work he is creating today will propel him toward his next goal. Ever the student, he wants to continue to learn and improve and has his sights set on entering a residency program at either Archie Bray or the prestigious Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Colorado. Until then, he will continue to focus on helping Heritage students find and hone their own artistic potential.