Raymond C. Carrington
An artist for forty years, Carrington maintains sculpture studios
in both Fairfield and Mt. Shasta, California.
Holding a Bachelor of
Science degree in Forestry from the University of California at
Berkeley, serving in 1953 for two years as an Intelligence Officer
at Travis Air Force Base, teaching advanced mathematics
for thirty-five years at Vacaville High School in Vacaville, California, operating this own television news agency, flying his camera news aircraft and acting as curator of a 211sculpture collection of his work at the
University of California, College of Natural Resources in Berkeley,
California are some of his many accomplishments.
Carrington shown with the "Home To The Hills" sculpture
which he donated in 1968 to the
Southern Pacific Hospital in San Francisco.
This photo was taken inside the main entrance of that facility where it was installed in 1967.
The sculpture was returned to the artist when the Harkness closed years late rand was later donated to
David Grant Medical Facility located on Travis Air Force Base.
Article shown above ran in the
1966 Fairfield, California Daily Republic newspaper
"The San Francisco Chronicle "
ART FOR ALL
Fairfield man gives away sculptures for public displayThe catch to owning
one of Raymond Carrington's sculptures is there isn't one.
Since starting a nonprofit foundation four years ago dedicated to donating art to public places, the retired schoolteacher and Fairfield resident has doggedly tried to give away his creations whenever and wherever he can.
He has offered benches depicting the mathematical symbol "pi" to local schools, whimsical metal pieces to several cities and winged sculptures to municipal airports.
His conclusion? Donating art isn't as easy as it sounds.
"The majority of the time, you don't know how hard it is to give stuff away, " says Carrington, a 71-year-old, self-trained sculptor whose trademark pieces depicting train workers fashioned from railroad spikes were once sold in San Francisco galleries. One of his sculptures was purchased two years ago for $5, 000 at a Napa Valley show, and he figures that some of his work could fetch much more than that today.
But when it comes to giving his art away, Carrington hasn't found the reception he expected. One school district, he said, fretted that students might hide behind a 10-foot-high sculpture he wanted to donate. Some city officials expressed initial interest that later fizzled. Others simply balked at installation costs.
"I'm always out there hustling," says Carrington, a trim 6-footer with long sideburns and a rapid-fire style of speech. "When you say, 'free,' they start looking for strings attached."
A notable exception is Travis Air Force Base. Though an unlikely venue, the military base has welcomed Carrington's freebies and has become a gallery of sorts for a ranging collection of his work. Other pieces have gone to a handful of schools and other public institutions.
More than 80 of his pieces are on display at Travis' distinguished visitors lounge, headquarters offices, hospital and clinic building. A 5 1/2-ton sculpture featuring a silver plane was installed in the summer near two fighter jets just inside Travis' front gate. Carrington says he hopes that a green space on the edge of the sprawling base will one day be converted into a sculpture garden.
" It's been a good relationship," says Master Sgt. Jerry Hoenicke, the curator of the Travis collection. Base officials met with Carrington in 1999 about getting some pieces for their new visitors lounge, and the donations grew from there.
Base spokesman Capt. Tadd Sholtis says, "In a way, we're kind of like a small city. Art in a lot of ways is part of a healthy community."
Admittedly, though, "it's not the usual kind of thing you'd associate with an Air Force base."
The work exhibited in the lounge just off the base's runway has caught the eye of several military bigwigs making brief stops at Travis while their planes refuel.
A visit by Army Gen. Thomas A. Schwartz, commander of the U.S. forces in Seoul, led to the recent creation of a sculpture called "Peace in Korea." It depicts two figures shaking hands through barbed wire retrieved from Korea's demilitarized zone. In the background is a piece of bullet-riddled steel cut from a train that came under fire during the Korean War. The sculpture was flown to South Korea last month, and Schwartz plans to present it to South Korea President Kim Dae-jung.
"It's a privilege to be just a part of history," says Carrington, who was an intelligence officer at Travis for two years during the Korean War.
A project commemorating the Sept. 11 terror attacks was flown to the Pentagon in November and is awaiting installation, Carrington said.
NO ULTERIOR MOTIVE
BY HIS COUNT, CARRINGTON HAS GIVEN AWAY AROUND 100 SCULPTURES, BUT HAS 300
MORE TO GO. HIS MISSION, HE SAYS, IS DRIVEN BY PRACTICAL AND PHILOSOPHICAL
Because he is retired, single and has no children, he says he has no need to profit from art sales. On a broader scale, he wants to promote the idea of placing sculptures in public places throughout the United States.
Dismayed by a visual landscape that he says is dominated by billboards and fast-food signs, Carrington wants to follow the lead of European communities that routinely install sculptures, fountains and other public art.
"I could adopt the attitude that I can't make a difference, but on the other hand, I think I can," he said.
Noting that skeptics might look for a hidden agenda to his generosity, Carrington responds, "there really isn't."
Carrington, who taught advanced math for 35 years at Vacaville High School, also hopes to inspire young people. His foundation recently donated $2,000 to promote student-created sculptures in Siskiyou County schools and previously gave $500 each for similar projects in Yreka and a high school located, coincidentally enough, in a town called Carrington, N.D.
Carrington has few stipulations for organizations wanting his sculptures. Recipients must be nonprofit or public organizations, pay for shipping costs and be responsible for maintenance.
He also asks that his pieces be publicly displayed. "I don't want it stuck in a warehouse," he says. "I want to know where it's going to go."
While giving a whirlwind tour of his finished pieces at Travis and some nearby works-in-progress, Carrington exhibits a self-deprecating attitude toward his artistic abilities.
"Tell me anyone couldn't do that," he says, pointing to a sculpture featuring four blue frogs fashioned from sewer-pipe clamps. Dubbed "Frogs in the Pond," the piece sits in the circular fountain of an outdoor patio at the David Grant USAF Medical Center.
"You're talking to a guy who would have loved to be an artist but couldn't even carve a piece of soap," Carrington says during the visit.
IDEAS CARRIED OUT
CARRINGTON'S FIRST GLIMMERING OF ARTISTIC TALENT SHOWED UP IN THE MID-1960S
WHEN HE WELDED A SCULPTURE ON A DARE, ENTERED IT IN A LOCAL ART SHOW AND WON
$100. HE SAYS HE REMEMBERS THINKING, "MY GOSH, IF IT'S THAT EASY, HERE I GO."
A huge mine of inspiration and raw materials came from the small town of Hilt near the Oregon border. An erstwhile company town that produced packing boxes for oranges, Hilt was torn down in 1973. Carrington, who grew up in Dunsmuir and was the son of a Southern Pacific railroad man, spent a year rummaging through Hilt for mementos before it was destroyed. He has been creating art from the town's leftover parts ever since.
Many of his pieces depict workers fashioned from railroad spikes retrieved from an old logging railroad.
Some of the figures are portrayed in lighthearted positions, like "Breaktime," which shows a railroad worker cradled inside a cylinder. Others, like the 8-foot-tall "Hilt Signal Tower,'' have a more reverent feel.
He says he hopes that his work will commemorate the rich history of the town as well as honor the legacy of a bygone generation of workers.
"What you're seeing here is all that's left of a city of 350 people," he says.
Carrington estimates that he has created as many as 500 of the heavily lacquered railroad sculptures, which sit on bases made from polished track plates. Bolts, saw blades, gears and even pieces of a junked street sweeper have found places in his sculptures.
"This is a serpent made out of transfer chain," he says, pointing to a 7- foot-tall piece that sits in the lot of a Fairfield welding shop. Some of Carrington's fabrication takes place at the rented space, where he has parked a 40-foot van filled with parts. He also works out of his home and a summerhouse in Mount Shasta.
He frequently scrounges free scrap metal for larger projects. That was the case with "The File," a one-ton sculpture that resembles an opened manila folder and is one of Carrington's successful donations. It was shipped recently to Saginaw, Mich.
Saginaw museum director Sheila K. Redman said she was searching for public art for the community of 60,000 when she came across Carrington's Web site and a photo of the sculpture. She plans to install it in a small park.
"I felt like it was a piece that would be welcome here," she said, noting that the work is designed as both a piece of art and a place to post flyers and to be decorated.
Redman got a donation from another foundation to cover the $950 shipping costs and plans to have a construction company install the piece for free.
"As simple as it is, it's going to have multilayers of meaning," she said. "It's going to change visually."
Another appreciative recipient of Carrington's donations is the Redding Municipal Airport, which accepted an outdoor sculpture of a paper airplane.
"I think most people are very receptive to it and find it attractive," said airport manager Rod Dinger. "It goes with the theme of being at an airport."
Despite other disappointments, Carrington has no intention of abandoning his campaign.
"I plunge into what I do," he says. "When I get on something, I'm like a piranha. I stay with it."
Seeing his pieces on display at Travis reminds him of his ultimate goal.
"I'm pleased it's found a home," he says.
(Photo taken at the Mondavi winery in California's Napa Valley)