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Richard C. Pickering 1939-2012

Richard C. Pickering

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July 01, 2015
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July 01, 2015
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December 18, 2012
Here's Richard back in the '60's
December 14, 2012
It's so interesting to hear from the students whom Richard influenced. I attended his design class one day when our families were visiting.
I just want to add that he was a wonderful father to his young boys. He and his wife Carolyn spent an hour putting those two to bed, roughhousing, joking and, of course, book reading.
I remember one winter day watching Richard as he walked around the house talking to us with a ball of clay in his in his hand. In the space of 10 minutes, he had formed a neat little dish with decorative additions. I had enough time struggling with clay to think I had seen magic in his fingers. I have a large covered jar Richard made for his graduate show which reminds me every day of how talented he was.
December 12, 2012
i met pickering in the summer of '80 when i arrived at U of O. i was hoping to be admitted despite my failure to do any work in high school that would qualify me for admission to a university.
we became friends almost instantly and he offered me the newly vacant job of "art department janitor" which was mostly about looking after 190 lawrence hall and keeping the tools in some sort of working order. i took his basic design class that first summer and he offered a share of his office in 190 and handed me a key.
we spent alot of the next 5 years hanging out there and i became something of a teaching assistant to dick, helping with his very popular basic design class and assisting other students with the tools and various technical challenges they encountered in fulfilling the class assignments. we kept a bottle of ezra brooks whiskey in the office and a big coffee pot in the main room and sometimes spent the entire day there messing around and experimenting.
he used to start off the design class apologizing that while he was "the teacher", the students collectively had many times his experience and that he was there to learn as much as he was there to teach. this would cause much consternation and nervousness. he would then spend the rest of the term relieving that anxiety, encouraging everyone to take risks, find their creative voice and to keep their eyes open but also draw from the lessons they had already learned.
he'd say some things seemed impossible and that some might laugh if he planned on walking to south america but that if he put one foot in front of the other he would surely arrive there. (he didn't yet know about the darien gap!)
he was consistent and gentle in encouraging his students to trust their instincts and experience and to experiment and take risks. the class reviews were always interesting and a little scary. 1 part art/ 2 parts psychology and people definitely went out on the limb sometimes. he could find something to say about even the most impossibly convoluted and impenetrable work.
one thing he didn't appreciate much was an obvious lack of effort but i never heard him be cruel or condescending in pointing it out.
he took me under his wing and became something of a surrogate father to me. we developed a deep bond but never once spoke of it or our feelings for one another. i loved him but never told him so and when i reflect on that now i think he must have preferred it that way because i would have gladly said this to him.
i became part of the fantastic flock of odd birds that had gathered around the department and i feel so immensely grateful to dick for welcoming me in and giving me a place to be when i knew no one and was so far away from home.

the shop i built out back is my not so unconscious attempt to recreate the feel of 190 lawrence.
i still use the custom pickering backscratcher he sent me and i keep one of the pencils he had made up after his surgeries....
"have a good one!".
it's sitting on top of the chalkboard waiting to be sharpened someday.

i missed saying good bye to him but i take him with me wherever i go.
sending lots of love to his family, especially rebecca and the kids
and to everyone else lucky enough to have known him.
December 10, 2012
Richard was my neighbor for the past eight years; he was always an inspiration to me: riding his bike every day while he could and sharing his upbeat and grateful attitude. Thank you for this tribute to him.
December 10, 2012
Dick: You inspired me as a researcher, an instructor, and as a human being. Your insights on our projects was invaluable. Because of you, many people with cognitive impairments are receiving better services. Your resilience and curiosity is a model to us all. I'm sure you are finding interesting things to do on the other side. So very grateful to have known you.
December 10, 2012
I had the great honor to assist in the care of the good Mr. Pickering, and can say that though I only knew him for the last year, he was one of my favorite patients...every visit he wowed me with things that he had done...some that defied logic, others resplendent. I am truly sorry to hear of his passing.
December 09, 2012
It all happened in 190 Lawrence, at the U of O. There was a time when I thought that wonderful room would be part of my life forever: 20-foot high ceilings with pipes going across it. A bank of tall, high windows facing north. Outside walls of brick covered with ivy that had birds nesting in it. Polished concrete floors. Two huge library tables for working at. Is my memory exaggerating when it tells me you could fit 15 people around one of those tables?

It was all about the work and the stories. There was a wood shop and a kiln area attached to the big room. The wood shop had all the tools in it you needed to do simple woodworking. Dick was inspired by Joseph Cornell, an eccentric bachelor who made 3 dimensional collages in old boxes from bird's eggs, doll heads, old prints, bits of string, etc. The detritus of life intrigued Dick. Things like dryer lint, toilet paper rolls, popsicle sticks, things that there were multiples of, to be found or free. He used a band saw to slice thin pieces from a knarly piece of firewood and then used those to make a fine box with finger-jointed corners. He applied a hundred coats of paste wax to it, which he buffed and buffed by hand, while he told the class a story.

When you walked into one of those Basic Design classes, you never knew what was going to happen. It was exciting. He would get going on a story about the weather that came over the hills, from the Coast Range to his house, facing west on Cantrell Road. After 5 minutes you'd ask yourself what it had to do with Basic Design. At 15 minutes you had pictures in your mind of tumultuous clouds in color and the mountains and the fields and the wind. At 30 minutes you had a bunch of questions brewing in your mind about what the deeper meaning of all this was but you couldn't think about it right then because you didn't want to miss a word he said. At 45 minutes, you felt you had been on a wonderful journey, and witnessed a magic trick, and had someone take your hand and put it on the beating heart at the source of everything. Whew! You didn't know what it meant, but it seemed like you could figure it out if you kept coming to class and tried to do the assignments he gave. These were things like the first assignment, given fall term in September when Halloween was a month away: “Make something to wear on your head that makes the inside of you visible.”
December 09, 2012
My memory is a bit cloudy of exactly which classes I had with Dick as my teacher but I know he was one of the influential personalities in the fine arts program at the U of O that I will never forget.

In those days Bob James would call everyone by their last name:

You need to go talk to Pickering, Wanderman, and if he can't answer that go find O'Connell.

So, my memory is a cloud of last names, many with beards, some with red suspenders, all with great ideas.

Being part of that group and knowing Dick Pickering was one of the most influential experiences of my life, it was a kind of growing up that I will never forget.

My condolences to Dick's family.
December 08, 2012
This is a great tribute to an extraordinary life. Thank you.
December 08, 2012
Richard's enthusiasm for life, kindness to others, inventiveness and sense of humor are what I remember him for. His brother Gary/Guido, our boys and I were close friends with his family in the years of his marriage to Carolyn, but I never saw him after our marriages broke up. My son visited him last year, but Richard had no idea who he was, though he was glad to talk. I guess it's silly to wonder what he would have done with his gifts if he hadn't had the brain tumor.

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