Welcome to the Inter-galactic Art Blog for the Outsider Artist L-15 (Bernard Schatz).
L-15 was working on his last works [The White on White Murals] in late 2014 and applying for a grant for funding to finish two more murals for the set of ten. He wrote a fascinating reflective and introspective narrative in response to a question in the application for that grant. I would like to open this new blog on L-15 and his art with its first post containing that narrative.
Narrative Statement by Bernard Schatz (L-15)
I have been interested in and making art as far back as I can remember. I read the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini at age twelve and have continued making art throughout my life no matter what employment I was involved in ie. as entertainer (Obedia Klowder, Cheyanne Schatz etc.), physical therapist, or author of Chronic Pain: The Overlooked Simplicity. As a Physical Therapist I used my sculptor’s fingers to become acquainted with the tissues of the body. I know this knowledge also helped me in my art process. I have often throughout my life studied the works of artists using books, photos and visits to galleries and museums.
In 1954 following my work at the Institute for Medical Research at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital and supervising the Cardiovascular and Renal Dialysis Department I took courses at UCLA. One [was] on embryology to finish my Pre Med requirements but others [were] in art. I studied ceramics under Laura Andresen and painting under William Brice. Later I studied ceramics and glazing under Martha Longenecker.
I was encouraged by Steve Allen’s recognition of my Schatzelodium as I performed on his show saying “You know I find this seriously attractive…and I think this is art. I’m quite serious. This is art!” At that time, I opened the Cheyanne Schatz Art Store. This attracted the attention of the producers of the KCET public television series “One of a Kind” and found myself among other subjects, artists, writers and musicians: Simon Rodia (Watts Towers), Upton Sinclair, Dizzy Gillespie and cellist Gregor Piatigorski. This store was intended to be short lived, and is preserved in that KCET documentary. It contained my sculpture of a Revolving Tower of Violent Toys [at 11:00 mark] as social commentary on wealthy persons making money on war toys for children during that early portion of the Vietnam War era. During this Los Angeles art period I was an apprentice for eight months with Bernard Zimmerman, a metal sculptor.
I continued with my art though supporting myself with my Physical Therapy profession until my move in 1974 from California to the Virginia / West Virginia mountains. There I receive a small grant as an artist from the State of West Virginia. By 1982 I had emerged from working in seclusion to establish relationships with members of the Art Department of Virginia Tech. A 1983 documentary “Bernard Schatz: Twenty Years…a Sculptor,”[Upper half of page] and exhibition featured a large number of sculptures I had created over the previous twenty years. In 1985 I was included in another film by the Va Tech Art Department [Lower half of page] featuring my art and my “Folk” presentation (comedy a la Cheyanne Schatz) regarding Southern Visionary Folk Art and the Jargon Society [Part 1 & Part 2]. They and other sponsors had included me in an exhibit of Southern Visionary Folk Artists. Here I was mentioned with the likes of Simon Rodia (in Tom Patterson’s introduction in the brochure) and exhibited with art by Rev. Howard Finster, St. EOM, Georgia Blizzard and others.
I was awarded Artist-in-Residence Grant in (1986-1987) at the Roswell, NM Center for Contemporary Arts. There also I developed a technique to raku solid clay bodies, including porcelain. Besides clay, I use a variety of materials for my art such as wax, plaster, resin, paint, fabric and wire. I have worked primarily on my own in a solitary environment, going from one form of art to another and accumulating thousands of pieces. These are predominantly sculptures and a nice over view of this work was represented in the Center’s exhibit (June–August 1987).
It was June of 1986. I had a hospitalization for extensive internal bleeding. Investigating for servers days, the cause was never found. The bleeding stopped and doctors could not explain why. So I imagined and created “Inter-galactic Angels Golk Golk and Tho Tho” as mythical forms and creatures. This is an example of an event that influenced my art.
I would say that I absorb influences from outside myself unconsciously and then express them through the visions that manifesting my art. It was after seeing the 1988 Joseph Campbell interview by Bill Moyers that I understood that synchronic relationship existed between my sculpture and society, its myths, its monsters and its heroes. Maybe this is why all these Biblical, classical and whimsical names and themes were repeatedly appearing in my sculptures. Much later (early 2000s) my daughter Anna read Campbell in college and remarked on the comparison of artists symbolism in my art and his writings.
An article appeared in Art Papers (1986 Jan/Feb) where my sculptures and performance was described by Tom Patterson “I would add that it went beyond comedy. Like the late Lenny Burce’s schtick, L-15’s stage act embodies implicit and explicit criticisms of society while taking the audience on a wild tour through the mind and imagination of a unique and brilliant artist. L-15 showed off the larger, more delicate pieces of his world that decorated the stage.”
As and example of my facetious sense of humor and my view that I really don’t know why I create art, I wrote “The Relationship of Enlarged Basal Ganglia (of the brain) to the Urge to Create Art.” It was published in Art Papers (1989 Vol. 13 No. 1). My sculptures of Brain with Eyeballs on Wires Series were done about the same time.
In 1993 “Self Taught Artists of the South ‘Not By Luck’” was published with photographs of my sculpture and Tom Patterson’s comments on his visit to my home/studio in Charlottesville, Virginia. As a follow up I sent him a video tape of the KCET Documentary of which he wrote: “The most fascinating aspect of the film is seeing, in retrospect, how amazingly consistent this artist has been in his work, he restlessly energetic personality and his presentation of himself.” I invited Tom to my opening of Gallery Neo in Charlottesville later in March 1994. My web site shows that Gallery’s contents some of these sculptures have not survived. Tom gave a eulogy of the mock Memorial to L-15.
It wasn’t until 2004 that I had another opportunity for an exhibit. Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond allowed me to put thousands of my remaining pieces on display from January through March in their Anderson Gallery. Tom guest curated and wrote th copy of the six page brochure. There he captured more details about my sculpture, art in general and other biographical details.
In part he says: “Well-kept secrets have always held a fascination for the most of us, and the remarkable world of Outsider Art and its artists has alway guarded its secrets well. We are intrigued by these artists’ gifts, so often resulting in strange and exotic objects. Free of the ‘look’ of work developed within the canon of ‘formal’ art training, amazing things can and do happen. None epitomize this more than legendary underground artist Bernard Schatz aka Cheyanne Schatz; Obediah Klowder and recently the Great L-15.
I had seen some of L-15’s work some years ago but had never actually met him. Our guest curator Tom Patterson is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on Outsider Art, and when I discussed with him my wish to produce a major exhibition of this nature for the Anderson Gallery of VCU’s School of the Arts, he immediately told me the we had one of th nations’ finest Outsider Artists living right here in Virginia. I asked Tom to prove it and he did”
In 2004 Ken Johnson of the New York Times article, [he] wrote about my art displayed at the American Primitive Gallery in SoHo which contained 57 pieces of sculpture and drawings.
Between 2005 and 2013 I slipped back into that “well-kept secrecy,” but continued to work on my art and completed a book on “Chronic Pain the Overlooked Simplicity” to reveal the core of my knowledge and technique from my Physical Therapy career. The book has not sold well yet. But I am glad that I wrote it because I feel the method I discovered and described may be used in the future to help people with Chronic Pain. After putting finishing touches to the book I felt free to turn my full time attention to my art.
I received a grant from Tree of Life Inc. [TreeOfLifeArtists.org] to allow me to gather all of my stored art, documentation and records of my work to display on a web site. I have a huge number of pieces, mostly sculptures, are and small to unbox, measure a, photograph and catalogue. There are more than 600 web pages currently, with multiple views of sculptures per page. I hope to continue this process and continue producing new sculpts for the L-15.com [L-15.org] web site.
At 83, I believe my current series of sculptures are a culmination of all my art expressions an experiences over my entire life. They are bas reliefs on heavily gessoed torn canvas and appear as if they were taken from the walls of some mysterious ancient civilization. Eight have been completed and more are envisioned.
I am grateful to so many for their support to preserve my art. My thanks to Judith Page and Victor Faccinto with the Tree of Life’s grant that helps me display an catalogue my work on my web site. And my thanks to the writer in the art world like Tom Patterson, Ken Johnson from the New York Times an Roger Manley for his comments in the 1985 Southern Visionary Folk Artists brochure [Pages 3 & 4]which ring so true: “Why do visionaries more often than not create in spite of tremendous adverse pressure––pressue which almost inevitably results in the loss, dispersal or destruction of the products of years of creative activity.”