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Artist with "Noodle Fish" and new truck

I live, create and survive as a retired Emeritus Professor from Loyola University New Orleans.  I still consider Southeast Tennessee my home. My better work is directly inspired by the Southern landscape, the work of visionary "outsiders," agriculture, social, and environmental ironies, and any music with a good story and beat. Although schooled primarily in ceramics, most of my "heroes" were and remain painters, sculptors, poets and songwriters.

From my first few days in the Louisiana 1970's, I was drawn to and overwhelmed by the Mississippi River. It was powerful, filthy, rich with history, and full of industrial choreography. Not quite what I had envisioned via Huckleberry Finn. Yet it demanded a kind of respect and I still walk along, gather and work near it today.

Having digested the possibilities that the artist of the late sixties and seventies proposed, my own ideas began to outgrow kilns and require larger structures, galleries, and outdoor spaces in order to investigate, discover or dramatize the transformation process encompassed in ceramics and art-making.

My sculptures, paintings, and installations have become less formal and more narrative. Audio tapes have become an integral part. They include self-penned and produced songs. What results is an ongoing look at ceramics in conjunction with various materials, usually addressing the ephemeral, that points a finger at the givings and misgivings in this land of plenty.

The city of New Orleans continues to stimulate and haunt me. The dice are rolling again on Old Man River. Having to stay on guard and alert has simultaneously heightened my sensitivity to social, political, and basic urban survival skills and "ills." At times, critical laughter is the best medicine. A recent break from the city allowed me to rediscover the Southern landscape and the things and people found in it. In time, I hope to offer more visual comments and add a few "things" to the legacy.

If you make it as far as I have, you probably have a handful of folks who ‘coached’ when it was needed and let you ‘call your own plays’ otherwise. My list includes: Grace Guilford, Jerry Johnson, Billie Nipper, Jere Chumley, David Ledoux, Ken Catbagan and Joe Bova.

In 2009 my back, legs, and lungs were completely worn out. There could be no more unloading and lifting 50 lb. clay bags and bending to teach beginning pottery. I was diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease and COPD. It became necessary to retire from teaching due to long term disability. I continue to work (when the meds allow me) several hours each morning.

In 2011, over 160 small ceramic units became an installation exhibited at the Arthur Roger Gallery titled "Focus Group." After thoughtful consideration, and a 'mess' of chronic domestic un-tranquility, I decided to pick and choose only a few tables, little kiln, various hand-tools and 'wall memorabilia, guitars,amps, etc." and leave New Orleans after 37 years. 

There were to many egos, constant criminal activity, "revolving doors" in the criminal Justice System, hurricanes and the inability to hire a part-time studio assistant.  I had to leave hundreds of 'fair to pretty good' art work, a bigger kiln, chemicals, clay and 3 friends and 3 cats.  The POD (TM) and a newer used truck could only hold so much. 

I gave the City of New Orleans all that I had, and it gave me a long look at a city in the "northern caribbean' that was unlike any other that I had visited.  I wanted to see FOUR SEASONS again, especially the colors of Autumn.  After a long arduous trip, I went home. 

After months of 'brick walls' with Medicare, the Tennessee DMV, finding and buying a house with a second building, being 'profiled' at least 4 times,  I'm presently setting up a new much smaller studio for sculpture, some occasional pot making, painting and drawing.  I'm also finishing a small 24 track recording studio.  Who knows?  I might have myself a crawfish boil and "Throw down" to celebrate my homecoming.

This site is dedicated to the memory of: W. B. and Helen Rucker, Charlie Dixon, George C. Carroll, Creighton L. Smith, Harry Ledford, Buddy Bowman, David G. Ledoux, and Ken Jacinto Catbagan.

Thanks for passin' through...!

W. Steve Rucker - March 2015

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