As we took a break from our conversation, Shaw, the Southern gentleman, offered me a glass of lemonade. We then ascended the stairs, where on the next floor I was able to view Shaw's output from the early 1970s. It was from the period when Shaw was active in the Pattern and Decoration movement (P&D), along with Joyce Kozloff, Robert Kushner, and Miriam Schapiro.
The next level up brought us to Shaw's studio. He spoke about the panels he was working on with the help of his assistant, David Vigon. "I want a reaction from the work," he said. "A provocation of feeling. It's about making something alive." While he searched for a specific work in his flat files to illustrate a point, I looked at his painting, Another to Care For, his 2011 version of the Garden of Eden. It featured small, coupled figures of various sexual combinations. "Painting is very mysterious, like life," he pronounced.
One of Shaw's teachers was Ralston Crawford. From him he learned, "You can't fight every battle. Choose your weapon. And most importantly, have convictions and stick with them." Shaw told me that he chose painting as a reaction to Crawford's advice.
Similar to the great jazz musicians of New Orleans that Shaw admires, he went from riff to riff -- on art, life, and politics for hours. It was a jambalaya of stories. He said pensively, "We grow as people. We're such complex personalities. Our culture isn't dying. It's just transforming."
It had grown dark and it was time for me to go. Then, as if to leave me with one more thought to contemplate, he said,
"Art can take me out of my hell -- to heaven. Art is about freedom."
Photo: Courtesy of Kendall Shaw