While studying architecture at Oregon State University, John Richen enrolled in a class on sculpture -- a class that, as it turned out, was to chart the course of his professional life. After discovering that he had a talent for the medium, and that the "hands-on" feeling of sculpting a design he had created held a special appeal for him, Richen decided to study art. The architectural world's loss became the art world's gain.
Working in bronze and steel, Richen creates abstract pieces that are at once strong and graceful. "Metal," he describes, "has such strength that it can be airy and light. You don't necessarily think of metal that way, but I look at the surfaces I'm creating and see that they are soft, gentle, and delicate --they're not hard at all. This strength gives you light, openness, and freedom of motion like no other material does."
Although drawing an idea for a piece of sculpture can sometimes take mere minutes, the work required to make that design a reality often can take months of hard labor. "After the drawings are done," explains Richen, "a piece is laid out and shaped. Most of my work now is done in bronze or steels that produce a glossy polish for that crisp light refraction. Normally, I work with a fabrication technique: I start with a flat sheet, cut it, manipulate it, and put it back together. I use color in all my works- not by painting, but by using different alloys."
Richen goes to great lengths to achieve a high sheen on his pieces, giving each a shimmering quality that resembles the reflective characteristics of water. "What I want is for a piece to stay alive in many different lights," says Richen, "so there is a real changing mood and effect. Basically, the philosophy of all the works I do is that moment in time -- that moment of change."
Richen has exhibited his work in major shows throughout the country, as well as in Amsterdam and Montreal. A partial list of those collections where Richen's works are displayed includes the Weyerhauser Corporation, the Raffles Hotel Corporation, Bowater Computers, the University of Chicago Medical School, and collections in Saudia Arabia and Switzerland. In addition to his large-scale, one-of-a-kind commissioned sculptures and fountains, Richen designs smaller sculptures for both residential and corporate audiences. Many of these latter works are created in a numbered series, not to exceed ten of any one design.
Although Richen believes in giving viewers art that they can understand, he also likes to have fun with his creations. "In all my work," he states, "I like to integrate many things -- not to detract from the immediate image you get, but to add something subtle or with a hidden meaning. Occasionally, I'll put things in that have absolutely no relation to the rest of the piece. I enjoy doing that and introducing a little bit of humor once in a while!"