Fred Escher

Fred Escher

Fellow: Awarded 2015
Field of Study: Fine Arts

Competition: US & Canada

I was born in 1940 against my will to a mother I did not know. I was forced to go to school at a gullible age. I was impressionable. I could not read or write for most of my childhood (dyslexia). If left to my own devices I would have put my time to better use, stayed home and learned to read, every day all day long.

In my teens I worked in a pump factory as a welder, and as a stock boy at A&P supermarket. In 1967, I graduated from the University of Wisconsin with an MFA and then taught art for eight years at Milton College in Milton, WI. I hated teaching so I quit and went to New York City to be an artist. I showed my slides to galleries; lived in a loft with girlfriends and a refrigerator; and I exhibited in group and solo shows at galleries and museums. In 1985, I had my last exhibition at Phyllis Kind Gallery in NYC. I found that I was a slave to poverty so I started a stretcher and art services company – Center Valley Inc. In 2010, 25 years later, I retired from CVI.

One day in the summer of 2011, walking from house to barn at our upstate NY farm, I was hit on the head by a meteorite from another universe. I began painting again that day. I could not breathe and as I painted, stuff came out from my head and on to the canvas. It was like I needed to pee and had held it in for 25 years and without warning it all began coming out. What a thing to have happen to you on a summer day.

I paint what I was and what I am. I have always worn khaki pants, boxer shorts, blue shirts and top-siders. I had red hair and big feet and always wished for a friend who looked just like me (but not a twin); a friend that lived parallel to me. Like a mirror (not a shadow). He would be very smart, spell words correctly, add, subtract and speak Latin.

In the past four years I have made about 100 paintings and over 150 drawings and I am now reintroducing myself into the art world. I live in two very different cultures. During the winter, I paint in my studio in Oaxaca, Mexico, and for the rest of the year I live in New York City where I paint at my kitchen table. I like the inspiration of both places which brings together diverse ideas and feelings. I am a New York artist, but I have a genuine love for Mexican culture. I now speak Spanish and have many Mexican artist friends. I’m interested in the art and literature of South America, in particular the writers Roberto Bolaño and Ricardo Piglia. This mix of cultures generates dreams and feelings that push my art into the future.

I don’t paint ideas or dreams or visions. I paint and draw what my parallel directs me to do. He does not talk, he just squirts feelings into my eyes, which then enter my body. Each painting is a squirt of joy that wets the canvas. It drys and dies, and makes room for the next painting. I start again, and as long as my parallel is with me, and we work together, we do not grow old.

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