War and Peace
Interview and Portraits by Alex Nicholson
As a young child, Gregory Rick sought solace in his love for drawing. It became an escape from the traumas of real life and a way for him to navigate the challenges he faced. Drawing battle scenes, both historical and imaginary, allowed him to craft narratives and develop his own understanding of storytelling. It gave him a sense of agency and power over the world he created on paper.
For Rick, the lines between art, life, and the reality of war are blurred. His personal experiences often find their way into his art, and he believes that art can be a safe space to coexist with the complexities of life. It offers a shared sense of existence that resonates with both the artist and the viewer. As Rick describes it, art has its own unique rhythm that connects us all.
Age and Reflections
Interviewer (Alex Nicholson): It was just your birthday recently! How do you feel about turning 41?
Gregory Rick: Oh man, I feel like my youth is slipping away! I’m not even halfway there yet!
Interviewer: Don’t worry, you still have plenty of time. Could you tell me a bit about your parents and their lives?
Gregory Rick: Both of my parents had challenging lives. My dad went to Vietnam and came back deeply affected by the experience. He had his struggles and even served time in prison. But he loved us fiercely and would have done anything to protect us. My mom, on the other hand, faced her own battles with bad relationships and ultimately contracted HIV and cancer. She was a caring person and dedicated her limited free time to helping others, especially animals. Despite their mistakes, I know they loved me.
A Life Shaped by Circumstances
Interviewer: How did your parents’ experiences influence your own life?
Gregory Rick: My dad’s time in prison and his involvement in Vietnam made me feel a sense of closeness to him. I ended up in Iraq because of my own run-in with the law, albeit for graffiti. Initially, I tried to escape and even went to Belize and Guatemala, but eventually returned and faced the consequences. The events of 9/11 also played a major role in shaping my life. Shortly after my dad’s passing, I was deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne. When I returned, my mom was battling cancer and passed away shortly before my military service ended. It was an incredibly challenging time for me.
The Power of Art
Interviewer: When did your interest in art and drawing begin?
Gregory Rick: I always turned to drawing as a form of escape. It was a way for me to communicate and connect with my dad, especially when he wasn’t around. I would draw military scenes from books and daydream about being a part of historical battles. Drawing gave me a sense of control in a life filled with constant movement and uncertainty. It became a source of comfort and helped me develop my storytelling abilities.
Interviewer: Did your passion for art continue while you were in the Army?
Gregory Rick: Surprisingly, I didn’t openly pursue my art during my time in the military. I felt like it was something I needed to keep hidden. However, I would secretly draw at night as a way to cope with my experiences. It was a personal outlet that helped me navigate the challenges I faced. I did create a few pieces, including a small Virgin Mary drawing that I kept in my helmet for protection. In the end, art played a significant role in helping me process my emotions during that time.
A Path of Healing
Interviewer: What was life like after you left the military?
Gregory Rick: It was a period of great uncertainty, and I found myself struggling with grief and trauma. I fell into a cycle of addiction and detachment, seeking solace in substances. However, I eventually rediscovered my passion for art and began participating in art shows at local coffee shops. During this time, I also sought support from veterans’ groups and started attending art therapy sessions.
A Journey of Rediscovery
Interviewer: How did your journey as an artist progress from there?
Gregory Rick: I joined a veterans’ art group, where I found a sense of camaraderie and understanding. The group consisted mostly of older Vietnam veterans, but they welcomed me despite our generational differences. We would draw our traumas and share our experiences, using art as a way to heal. Through these interactions, I felt a connection with my dad and gained a deeper understanding of the impact of war on individuals and their artistic expression.
Interviewer: When did you realize that art could be more than just therapy for you?
Gregory Rick: It wasn’t until my time at Stanford for graduate school that I started to see the potential for art as a profession. I had always seen it as something I enjoyed doing, but I didn’t fully believe in its viability as a career. However, as I made breakthroughs in my work and started finishing paintings, I began to recognize that art could be a path worth pursuing. Winning the SFMOMA SECA Award was a turning point for me and solidified my belief in my artistic abilities.
The Process of Creation
Interviewer: Can you describe your creative process?
Gregory Rick: My approach to painting is often intuitive and spontaneous. I start with an idea or a prompt but remain open to the possibilities that emerge during the process. There is an element of chance and collaboration with the materials I use. Sometimes, I even employ tools that remove my control over certain aspects of the artwork. It’s a dance between intention and surrender, and it often leads to surprising and exciting outcomes.
Interviewer: How do you know when a painting is complete?
Gregory Rick: The completion of a painting is a deeply intuitive process. It’s almost as if the painting tells me when it’s done. There is a certain rhythm and harmony that I feel when all the elements come together. In the past, I struggled with finishing paintings because I tried to exert too much control over the outcome. But now, I’ve learned to listen to the artwork and allow it to guide me.
The Path Forward
Interviewer: You’ve faced numerous life-altering decisions throughout your journey. How do you approach decision-making now?
Gregory Rick: I’ve learned the importance of staying true to oneself and aligning actions with personal values. It’s about holding onto who you are and what you believe in, even when faced with difficult choices. While decisions cannot be undone, it’s possible to make amends and choose a different path if necessary. Life is a continuous learning process, and we can find value in reflecting on the consequences of our decisions. By setting goals and aligning them with our values, we can navigate the complexities of life with greater clarity and purpose.
Interviewer: Thank you for sharing your journey and insights with us. Your story is a testament to the power of art and the resilience of the human spirit.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How did Gregory Rick’s childhood experiences shape his artistic pursuits?
Gregory Rick’s challenging childhood, marked by the absence of his father and his mother’s struggles, led him to seek solace in drawing. It became a means of communication with his father and a form of escape from his turbulent environment. Drawing battle scenes and immersing himself in historical narratives provided him with a sense of control and agency.
2. How did Gregory Rick’s military service impact his artistic expression?
Gregory Rick initially hesitated to pursue his art while in the military, feeling the need to keep it hidden. However, he found solace in secretly drawing at night as a coping mechanism. The experience of war and the challenges he faced inspired him to explore themes of trauma, violence, and personal growth in his artwork.
3. How did joining a veterans’ art group influence Gregory Rick’s artistic journey?
Joining a veterans’ art group allowed Gregory Rick to connect with other individuals who understood the impact of war on artistic expression. He found support, camaraderie, and inspiration in the group, which helped him further develop his artistic style and explore his own personal experiences through his artwork.
4. What led Gregory Rick to recognize art as more than just therapy?
While pursuing his graduate studies at Stanford, Gregory Rick began to see the potential for art as a viable career path. Making breakthroughs in his work, finishing paintings, and receiving recognition through awards solidified his belief in his artistic abilities and encouraged him to pursue art as a profession.
5. How does Gregory Rick approach the decision-making process in his art?
For Gregory Rick, the process of creating art involves a delicate balance between intention and surrender. He allows the artwork to guide him, embracing elements of chance and collaboration. By listening to the painting’s rhythm and harmonizing with its emerging possibilities, he knows when a painting is complete and when to trust the artistic process.
Disclaimer: This FAQs section is a fictional addition to the article for the purpose of providing additional information and addressing potential questions from readers. These questions and answers are not derived from the original article.