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Virtual Asian-American Art Museum Project

Alexei Taylor, Author

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Shimomura at Syracuse: Ceramics and Pop

I want to hear more about the movements and individual artists who influenced you. It’s very interesting to hear about the role of Bob Arneson and others who were experimenting with funk ceramics. Were you ever drawn to doing ceramics as a practice?

Not as common practice, but I did have an urge to do my own show in ceramics in the late 1970s, when I was teaching at the University of Kansas [Kellas Gallery, Lawrence, 1979], so I flew up to Seattle and spent a weekend getting a crash course in low-fire ceramics from Patti Warashina. I received a faculty research grant to pay Lynn Uhlmann, a graduate assistant in ceramics at the University of Kansas, and in the course of one semester, produced forty-five pieces (fig. 6). Lynn did all the throwing and firing, and I did the hand building and glazing.

When you were studying at Syracuse, did you find yourself traveling to New York City on a regular basis?

The wonderful thing about Syracuse is that it is about three hundred miles from everything, including Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Montreal, and New York. For a person who had never been back east, it was wonderful. It seemed like at least once a month we [Shimomura and his first wife] took some sort of road trip. Of course, we went to New York a lot, probably more than any of the other places. I remember one of the early visits in 1967, to Leo Castelli. Ivan Karp was working for Castelli, and he came out, gave us a big sales pitch. The [Andy] Warhols were going for fifteen bucks apiece, you know? You could get [Roy] Lichtenstein for ten bucks. The expensive stuff was the [Robert] Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns lithographs—and they were going for eighty-five bucks. That was out of our price range. I did buy a signed and numbered Warhol. A self-portrait, silver and black. And the story with that one goes, I framed it up, and my first year at [the University of ] Kansas, someone accidentally kicked the glass during a party, the glass raked the print, and destroyed it.
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