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Richard Goulis

Goulis is a multimedia and performance artist who has been a fixture on the local art scene since he first arrived in Providence in 1980 to study at RISD. He has been performing with Big Nazo puppet troupe since 1987, is a founding member of Empire Revue, AS220’s monthly variety show, and contributes to NetWorks, a video art project that documents Rhode Island’s creative community. Despite his prolific artistic output, however, this sculpture is Goulis’ first public installation since 1983. Condemned is more than a decade in the making. Twelve years ago, Goulis planted two trees in his backyard six feet apart. As they grew to a height of about four feet, he began bending them toward each other, tying their branches together with velcro and string. Over the course of a dozen springs and summers, they grew to twelve feet and became entwined in a graceful embrace. That was when Goulis began his next phase of turning trees into art. He bound the leaves with wire and coated the entire surface – leaves, branches, trunk – in a thick coat of polymer resin. After the coating had cured, he cut the two trees at ground level and built stands to make them transportable in their original configuration. The irony of the act is not lost on the artist. “I nurtured these trees for more than a decade and then cut them down and turned them into art,” he exclaims. “It was a difficult thing to do because I loved the process of training them into position each year and seeing them grow. I felt a little sad at first, but I realized that the power did not diminish when I cut them. They transformed, helping me to create a powerful statement about how we control our environment sometimes at the detriment of ourselves.” 

My inspiration comes from absolutely everywhere, and I truly mean everywhere. I probably cannot find a place in the known universe, especially the unknown, in which I don’t find some inkling of interest that might someday or another translate into a piece of artwork, video, or performance. But I don’t dwell on that. Its a force that just “is”. I live mostly in the moment and plan very little of my life much to the chagrin of my wife, who enjoys planning almost as much as she enjoys sleeping late when she can. Me, I can’t plan my way out of a wet paper bag, but I try. 

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