NORMAN — Rick Fry is a local artist who has, like most other people around 60, transitioned his life to the place he is occupying today.
Rick’s art studio initially was set up in his garage. He painted mostly Oklahoma landscapes. As we talked, he reminisced about his work in graphite and water colors. He always had other jobs to bring home cash, but his passion was in his craft. Part of a painter’s life is the art fair circuit, and Rick has had that experience from the Oklahoma City Arts Festival to galleries in Arizona and Santa Fe, N.M.
Rick’s journey began in Shawnee 63 years ago. His interest in art began in elementary school, where he got in trouble for drawing instead of paying attention to his teachers. In junior high, he concentrated on the sketches of what were important to a lot of boys his age — the work of Big Daddy Roth, hotrods and Ratfink.
Rick’s art teacher at Del City High School sparked his interest in experimenting with various media. Rick attempted OU’s art school. In the 60s and 70s it was a place for abstractors only, realism artists were shown the door. His interest was in nature and landscape work, so he walked out the door they showed him, never looking back, continuing on his quest to unearth and paint the perfect landscape.
So how does this fit into the theme of aging in Norman? The theme is set by what influence aging has had with respect to daily lives. After our interview, I heard that Rick had sold all his artist supplies to a late blooming painter in the same age bracket. Rick failed to mention this in our initial interview and I was surprised to hear it. The interview evolved around how his relationship to being a painter changed his focus in his art as he has matured. I saw him parting with his art supplies as an extremely important life-changing action that received no merit in the first conversation. When we resumed the conversation, he confessed that he had bought it all back ready to recommence his continuum. Point in hand; how do we start over as our lives mature, change our focuses and retool for richer experiences in a new perspective?
As the years have gone by and Rick has had the time to process just what painting means to him, reevaluating his priorities and placing his art in the proper perspective for him at this stage in life. He has learned through partaking in the rigorous commotion of setting up shows, promoting and talking to person after person perusing by numerous times who may or may not buy a piece of his work, did not allow him to fulfill his dream. He was painting for a market that required always asking what people were looking for, not just paint what was in his mind’s eye, his soul, his dreams. He was spending more time thinking about what sold and what he needed to do to sell then painting the landscapes that fed his spirit. As one ages it becomes more important to have a keen awareness of the most imperative dreams and goals of your life. There is a lot of sacrifice that can sideline us from reaching those dreams to accomplish others.
Rick has lived this. As a result he has opted to paint as a passion, yet pursue a new career as a counselor at his church to support this artistic outlet. This will allow him to pursue his heart’s vision to paint the ideal landscape and eradicate the worry of having to sell to make a living. Selling his supplies was a symbolic act of making the transition. Buying them back was an act of honesty in placing his love for art where it needs to be. He was never going to give it up; always a part of who he is and who he will always be. For that I will always be grateful. I am one of those who have looked at his work and admired it, but have yet to buy. Now I don’t have to feel so guilty. It was part of the plan.
Architect David L. Boeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.