Tony Natsoulas, Sacramento Member Since October 2007 Artist Statement Growing up in the 1960's and 1970's, our family would travel to New York City to visit relatives. One of the great accidental benefits of this for me was being exposed to the incredible art galleries and museums of the big apple. I can remember the impact it had on me while viewing the Pop art that was being shown at the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Guggenheim Museum. The art work of Claes Oldenburg's, and George Segal’s stand out in my mind as the most inspirational.
I grew up in Davis, California. In grade school I went on field trips to the local Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, where I would see David Gilhooly’s ceramic work for the first time. I never forgot the piece that struck a chord with me and whet my appetite for art and all of its endless possibilities. The sculpture was a ceramic casserole dish with a frog goddess of fertility on its lid. The frog was adorned with lots of breasts. After that, I wanted to learn more about art. I started dabbling in clay at the age of 11 in summer school and have not put it down since.
In 1977, I started making large ceramic sculptures at Davis Senior high school. My teacher, Donna Hands, was impressed with the work I was doing and recommended I take concurrent classes at the local college, which was the University of California at Davis. At that time, a man was teaching at UCD who would change my life and gave me the incentive to pursue art as a career. His name was Robert Arneson. After taking two classes with Arneson in high school and having my eyes opened to art, I graduated from Davis Senior High School and went to Sacramento State University where I took ceramic classes from Robert Brady. In 1979, I transferred back to University of California at Davis and got my Bachelor of Arts from there in 1982. I was very fortunate to have been able to study and take classes from the cream of the crop of fine artists, such as Roy de Forrest, Wayne Thiebaud, and Manuel Neri and other prestigious artists. They were not only very successful in their teaching professions, but were working and showing artists as well, which was a great role model for me.
In 1983 I was accepted to Maryland Institute, College of Art, for graduate school. I had wanted to go there for a different perspective on art. I met Eddie Bisese who was a graduate student in painting there who had a profound influence on me. After being there for a year I was homesick for sunny California and the art department at Davis, I came back to University of California at Davis and got my Masters in Fine Arts in 1984. During art school and for many years after, I have been working on large life size figurative ceramic sculptures. I concentrated on form and gesture. I wanted the pieces to stand on the floor on their own two feet, drawing the viewers into them, demanding a presence that would be equal with a real person. I worked out feelings and thoughts in the clay based on social issues, phobias, struggles from within and political satire. When I got out of grad school in 1985, I was asked to be in the Rena Bransten gallery in San Francisco, where I had two successful shows. Since then I have had museum and gallery exhibitions all around the world and have received public and private commissions in clay, bronze, and fiberglass.
Like most artists, I start off my work with an inspiration. Inspiration is a very elusive thing. Absurd television shows, people, toys, cartoons, plays and movies that are nostalgic inspire me the most. I also look at other artists for inspiration such as Robert Arneson, Clayton Bailey, Red Grooms, David Gilhooly, Big Daddy Roth to name a few. Recently, I have been concentrating on larger than life exaggerated ceramic busts of people that have inspired me on many different levels. For example, as a child we watched a television show entitled the Honeymooners. It starred Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden an over wei