Roger Swezey, R Allen Swezey, Tideline Salvage, Rats, Bats, Vultures etc.,…Feral Coot
What’s your background?
As with art, when I was very young, I had to contend with my best friend, Jackie Demchak who, although younger, was one step ahead of me…He was able to stay within the lines with a delicate crayon stroke, while I was all over the place with a heavy, always breaking the crayon, hand.
When 9 he left the neighborhood, leaving me to fend for myself…I suppose I did OK, since as years went on, Mrs. McCabe, my eighth grade teacher, felt, with my artistic talent, I should apply to the High School of Music & Art,Upper Manhattan, NYC, ….After being told that attendance at that school would require that their 14 year old son travel 3 hours of bus and subway each day, into the bowels of the scary city, my parents reaction in essence was, “Whatever…it’s Roger’s decision”
Being accepted, off I went, and loved every moment there (except for the french class)…..The diversity of my fellow classmates, rich-poor, uptown- downtown,urban-suburban even rural (from Staten Island) made it an exciting place to be…And since there was no free time, cliques could not be created….All were equal.
And the Art education was far more advanced, than anywhere else….The first day, we all signed a pledge, “I will never copy again”…being coaxed to developed our very own, unfettered, independent artistic EYE…..From that point on, I learned how to SEE, and that made all the difference.
After high school, I spent 2 years majoring in fine art (Queens College,NY)..I found that to excel in art there, I had to please my instructor’s EYE not by employing my own….Disillusioned I left, got a full time job in the art department of a well known advertising firm (Einson-Freeman) and went the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art at night.
I thought that I would bring fine art to advertising….Watching the Art Director going batty, kowtowing to the constantly changing whims of the Ad Department, I concluded,that this ain’t for me…..So, I asked myself, what else can I do, that would be of significance…….ARCHITECTURE Changing my major, I joined the firm of an up and coming architect, I. M. Pei staying there until I was drafted in the army.
I could have had a deferment or gone to Officer Candidate School, but decided to be a 2 year draftee grunt….And I HAD A BALL…..Stationed 40 miles from home (Fort Monmouth, NJ), traveling 45 days as a civilian, throughout Europe, putting on my uniform only if I wanted a free meal at some base somewhere….Hated by those stationed there, being that I was lucky enough to be stationed in the good old USA, and had the gall to spend my precious 45 days in lousy Europe.
I did use my artistic talent in those 2 years, though…..I drew BUGS…A pyramid of bugs, Bugs spelling out “BUGS”, Bugs doing all sorts of things.
The Bugs were for a monthly publication sent to teams stationed in God Awful places surrounding the then Soviet Union…The publication was about dealing with equipment malfunction, and since we were listening in on what was happening in the Soviet Union, I came up with the title “BUGS”.(Bugs in the equipment- Bugging the Soviet Union..Get it?)..A bit of humor …I took perverse pleasure, though, spending hours late into the night, drawing the bugs, always with a top sergeant by my side… Instead of drinking Budweisers at the NCO club he had to sit next to this private, drawing bugs…. All this was Top Secret and I wasn’t allowed to be alone with this very sensitive material, so there he sat.
After those 2 years, back to Architecture, joining the firm, Harrison & Abramovitz. …At the same time, I moved to the city, renting a $35.10 apartment, on the lower east side
Along with friends from Cooper Union, painters, sculptors and architectural students, we literally turned “Alphabet City” into the East Village, hanging out at our very own bar, “Stanleys”, drinking and listening to Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” on the jukebox.and argue about art….Ever so often, we would go west , to the Cedar Tavern, to watch the old guys, Pollack, de Kooning. and Kline plus others, get really drunk and tear up the place…..WHAT A LIFE!! living and thriving in the Center of the Art Universe!!
As time went on, my status at the architectural firm grew..gaining the confidence of Wallace K, Harrison himself, in a way, becoming the son he never had….Working on the design and construction of the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, I was given responsibilities far beyond my experience and education, responsibilities nobody else wanted to take on…..dealing with the acoustics, sight-lines and construction of the box faces in the great hall, disagreeing with all the highly paid so-called expert consultants and GETTING MY WAY in the end….One thing can be said, while most concert halls go through major renovations often in their lifetime, the Opera House has remained as I designed it, untouched after 50 plus years………. One memorable period was the time I worked on the installation of the 2 Chagall murals, working side by side with artist himself…OH! THOSE PIERCING EYES!!
After that, I was responsible for the design and construction of another major edifice, the Cultural Center at the Empire State Mall, Albany, NY…Following Harrison’s concept of sloping walls, I would have nightmares of all the marble cladding come crashing down…..My own personal tour de force was a multi-million dollar sculptured staircase that went up to locked door….It would be used only in an emergency, since it was the last 40 feet of fire stairs…After coming down 6 stories on standard stairs one would open that door and VOILA!!.one finds oneself on a fabulous free form sculpture….Much to the dismay of the structural engineer, that wanted posts supporting this staircase, I insisted it remained free form…And again I got my way….By the way, there were and still are 2 of these stairs at that building.
By this time the question of going out on my own ended with me getting a business partner and devoting my time and “creative skill” on industrial design rather than architecture per-se…Thus came the NEW SHOEBOX, I invented….But that’s another story.
A Shoebox that became the hit of the New York Shoe Show in the early 70’s
A box that was on the cover of Shoe News.
Who would ever think that there could be a radically new Shoe Box?
A box unique enough to be introduced with a brand new highly advertised, line of shoes, “Carburetors”
A problem resulted.. The shoe sucked
Not only that, retailers hated the box.
And not only that, to keep the business afloat a loan was taken out, and my business partner was able to take all the funds to pay his personal debts, and I was stuck paying off the loan years after that… So it goes, so it goes……
If one is interested in what made this box unique,..one must think “diagonal”
And then came the Vulture Sculpture Enterprise.
An endeavor that someone who knew me before, upon seeing me peddling my art under a 10′ x 10′ canopy on the streets of New York made the following remark, that she was amazed that I found something that satisfied my neurosis perfectly:
1. I had to be different
2. I had to be on my own
3. I had to be in control
Even if it’s just a 10’x10′ space.
What made you choose the medium you work with?
In essence, the medium choose me……Way back, one drizzly summer weekend, I was enjoying the subtle beauty of the ocean shoreline, while my friends were all kvetching. Complaining about the fact that they were stuck inside. Paying a fortune, and not getting a tan……..Proving that there were treasures to be found outside….I challenged myself to come back with something…..Having no clue what it would be I walked the tide line……Eventually, I saw a mussel shell, that look to me like vulture wings…”What could I use for a head” I asked myself….And right there was a crab claw…PERFECT!!…….With a bit of rusty snow fence wire ( legs), a hunk of cork ( base) and a glob of beach tar ( to stick it all together) the very first VULTURE SCULPTURE………For the next decade and a half, I might have made 3 or 4 more…For I had in those days, far more important things to do, than to stick crab claws into mussel shells…..Well, that’s what I thought…..Until, re-evaluating what was really important..And then, creating vulture sculptures became the center of my existence….And I never looked back
Does your artwork come from your background?
That might be a stretch……Yet, ever since being a kid, I loved to take stuff and make something else out of it…..And by the fact that I was shown how to have an unfettered EYE, a whole new world and possibilities arose from it
What are you trying to say with your work?
Because of that “Unfettered EYE”, I’m offering the viewer the opportunity to see a part of the world a bit differently
Do you work in a studio?
It’s called a basement……And when the weather is reasonable..Outside
What is the one thing in your studio you just could not be without?
The adhesives…PC-7 Epoxy Resin….Black Silicone Rubber…..If it wasn’t for modern chemistry this “Natural Art” would not be possible.
Who is your biggest influence?
Like many, Picasso
What is your favourite piece of work by yourself?
I found this large rock (3 feet high, 3 feet wide and 1 foot deep) that came to a point ,a perfect mountain!..And.I stuck a tiny vulture (3/8 inches tall) on top
How much time (on average) does it take to complete a work?
Oh, How many times, I’ve heard that asked!!…My snarky answer, “My last piece took me 80 years”…..All I know from the scavenging to the schlepping, it’s more than it should be.
How do you know something is ‘finished’?
When it’s sold
Is it easy to walk away?
It’s much easier when someone else walks away with the piece upon buying it
What project are you working on now?
Cleaning mussel shells, I recently scavenged
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
“If you really want to do this, then do it”
What was the first piece of art you sold?
A simple sculpture on a wood base
Do you find it hard to navigate the artworld?
In the outside, “Face to Face” world, I learned soon the way to get around
It’s this last 10 years dealing with the cyber universe that has this 82 year old coot befuddled
What are you personally doing to advance your work career?
At my age, I’m just trying to keep the Vulture Enterprise chugging along
Do you follow art trends etc
How do you price your work and why do you price it that way?
Right from the beginning, I chose to price my work for those that want my work and not merely for those that can afford my work…That’s why I’ve avoided doing gallery shows and sold directly to the general public…….And that’s made all the difference
Do you use social networking in your day to day life?
Not for marketeering….I know I should
Is there anything that really annoys you about the artworld?
Social Network Marketeering
What advice would you give new artists?
GET OUT THERE AND HUSTLE!!
Have you got hobbies?
I love to dance…When I can get out of the chair
NOW WAIT THERE’S MORE!!!
As the years went on, I added other subjects to the Vulture Enterprise.
Becoming that “RAT,BAT and VULTURE GUY”
Adding even more to my portfolio, such as: Painted Horseshoe Crab Masks…
And for the connoisseur ….Roach paraphernalia (Not What You Think)
BUT WAIT THERE’S STILL MORE.
Within the last 10 years, I’ve been working on creating work to be sold as prints on demand.
Digital work that I call “Pixel Pointillism”….Ink Drawings….
And last, but hopefully not least..A subject I personally know a lot about.
FERAL COOTS!….A series of ink drawings, digitally enhanced, chronicling the daily lives of a bunch of Old Coots that turned Feral….I intend that someday there will be a book sitting on everyone’s coffee table
Where are you based?
Roger Swezey, R Allen Swezey, Tideline Salvage, Rats, Bats, Vultures etc.,…Feral Coot
I live in Manchester, UK and try to promote other artists and writers when I can.I'm so pleased you found our community and I hope to chat to you soon!!Please comment on my posts if you like them 🙂