Allen Craig Bishop
Allen Craig Bishop Background

When I was born in Moab, Utah (1953), the town was in its cold war “Uranium Boom”, but is now more well-known for its surrounding red rock and alpine landscapes of Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, the LaSal Mountains and the Colorado River. My family moved north when I was 15 months old and I grew up on the bench of old Lake Bonneville, between the Salt Lake Valley and the Wasatch Mountains in the small town of Granite.

I was a curious sort and asked many questions, such as "I wonder why…….?” That, and the fact that such questions could be irritating, earned me the nick-name "Wonder Wart".

Why were some things soft and others hard? Why were there mountains in some places, but not in others; and what makes mountains, anyway? Why do things fall down when you let go of them; why don't they fall up? What makes colors different from each other and how can artists make things look so real? How could anyone just "think up" something so interesting and complex as music? How can you tell if a baby is a girl or a boy when they have hardly any hair - aren't they all boys? (I had a hard time believing that the long-haired grownup "Jesus" was actually a "boy".) What gets babies started anyway, and why don't men have them too? (I wondered how God could be so unfair; I wanted to have babies just like girls do!)  I was a bit incredulous at the idea that I would grow up to be somehow like my father someday….. he was just too big and smart for me to ever be like him.

I often took the initiative to find out some things for myself….
Once I was determined to figure out how those utility workers could climb those slick poles without branches to hold onto? Perhaps they put glue on the soles of their boots! So I found some mucilage and smeared it onto the soles of my shoes, then laid on my back and tried to walk straight up the bedroom wall; but of course, with very limited success. Perhaps the glue had to dry first; but my patience was too thin to really let it dry. But it did make a mess on the wall paper!

Another crazy question I had was "if fish are in a toilet when it is flushed, will they swim well enough to not be flushed down?" My hypothesis was "Yes, of course they will". I just had to prove it with my own goldfish: Nancy and Sluggo." Oh, woops…. and I really wanted those goldfish back!

I often drew as a kid (dominant themes: dinosaurs, aliens and Halloween), but never really had art instruction until my first year at Jordan High School under Don Olsen, a student of Hans Hoffmann and one of Utah’s three premier "nonobjective" painters. In 1968 I took Don’s class to see what “Modern Art” was all about. The ultraconservative view held that it was part of a plot to weaken America via moral relativism for the impending Communist takeover. But I was sure I would not be corrupted; I was merely curious. Within a matter of weeks of seeing and learning about the avant-garde masterworks of the previous 100 years, I had become a solid convert to the modernism of abstraction, invention and liberated color.

I wavered between art and biology as potential careers. Winning an art scholarship at Dixie College in St. George was the deciding point. After two years there and two more years as a missionary in Argentina for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called “Mormon” or “LDS”), I was accepted into the more rigorous Bachelor of Fine Arts program at the University of Utah for the next three years. There I received a strong foundation in realistic drawing and painting, particularly in working with the human figure; plus a small amount of non-objective painting. I graduated cum laude in 1978 with my BFA in painting and drawing.

For the next two years I worked; first as an artist / designer for a fast food restaurant chain called “Big Al’s Sandwich Joints”. I helped design restaurant interiors and painted mug shots of prohibition era gangsters and FBI agents to hang on the wall as well as painting company designs on the windows. After Big Al’s went out of business I worked at a screen-printing plant named “Spectra-Symbol” where I learned how to prepare and print decals and name plates on a variety of paper, plastic and metal surfaces.

In 1979 I married Alene Clark of Oxnard, California, in the Los Angeles LDS temple; this was the eventual result of a blind date arranged by my mother. Alene has always been a tremendous support in my career and every other aspect of life. We have since been blessed with five great children. Three of them are now married with families of their own, giving us a combined total, so far, of eight grandchildren, with one on the way.

In 1980 I entered the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Denver to study painting, drawing and printmaking. This was a challenging and exciting time with freedom to explore and create. I had entered with an interest in activating otherwise static grid. How do I bring visual energy to these tedious but strongly unifying structures? Color was one answer, but I wanted to explore other possibilities. Chess provided another solution. I began tracing the moves of chess pieces on grids of 64 squares. The bulk of my work at DU dealt with variations on that chess grid theme, including large stretched canvases, small drawings, and a series of lithographs featuring the unique moves and properties of each chess piece. The major work for my thesis exhibit was an acrylic on unstretched canvas 6 feet tall by 84 feet long, designed to be wrapped around the turns and corners of gallery walls. I completed my MFA degree and solo exhibition in May 1982 with a departmental award of excellence.

 In January 1983 we moved to Huntsville, Texas to fulfill a one semester sabbatical replacement assignment at Sam Houston State University. By then I had moved beyond tracing chess moves on grids and began to explore regular geometric shapes as parallel expressions of astronomic, cosmic and spiritual ideas. I was able to exhibit such pieces in another solo exhibit while at SHSU.

My permanent position search was unfruitful, and we moved back to Utah to continue the search and help care for my parents’ small family farm in Granite. It was a wonderful place to raise a family and as a central location, close to both Salt Lake City’s arts scene and the always inviting mountain trails and wilderness areas.
I continued to pursue my art and managed to get my work into Phillips Gallery, one of the more established and prominent art venues in Utah.

In 1986 I began to create works from multiple shaped canvases. These were intended to be re-arrangeable, so that whoever installed them had the option of hanging them in new configurations and thus more actively participate in the creative process. It was this approach that was key in my being awarded the 1987 Visual Arts Fellowship from the Utah Arts Council. My exhibit opportunities increased and I began going into schools throughout the state as an “artist in residence” for the Utah Arts Council. These usually lasted only 2-3 weeks and were designed to allow students close creative contact with professional artists. Most of the time that meant giving students hands on experience in creating murals to be displayed in their schools, often permanently.

In 1993 I received my first major public commission for a new science building at Southern Utah University. This was also my first project created on shaped wood relief panels; the “relief” aspect coming from cut out shapes glued onto the larger foundation shapes, giving it a more physical sculptural quality. I have since been awarded more public art opportunities, usually bringing much needed income to pay off debts and purchase family necessities, such as a new vehicle just as the last one gave up the ghost. The unpredictable income of the self-employed artist is a highly variable and sometimes emotionally difficult roller coaster, often requiring the patience of creditors and the generosity of friends and family; I was able to pay some of our bills by bartering art.

For twenty-four years I continued applying for permanent college teaching positions throughout the country. These would occasionally bring an interview, but until I was hired by Crowder College in 2006, no success. This was the source of repeated frustration, in spite of the fact that I continued to improve my resume and portfolio, even prompting professionals in the field to scratch their heads in bewilderment over the persistent rejection. It wasn’t until the death of both of my parents in 2005, which meant we would finally have to move out of their basement, that the good Lord saw fit to bless us with success in my job search, along with a more predictable income.

At Crowder I enjoyed teaching drawing, painting, two-dimensional design and art appreciation. I also coordinated the mural program, at times working with the Newton County Tourism Council in various ways to increase the number and visibility of large public art to enhance the quality of life in southwest Missouri. Some of these projects involved Crowder art students, such as in painting the large mural on the exterior of the Granby Mining Museum and the murals inside the main entry to Newton Hall. I also completed a project of my own design: Creatio ex Hominis, now installed in the Elsie Plaster Community Center, and recently worked with students on a five panel mural soon to be installed on the commons wall just outside the Lee Library.

Other interests include: hiking, Scrabble, Chess, reading, history, science, etc.

I look forward to focusing on my own art and writing. I am also excited to see the printmaking program take shape at Crowder College.

I have had the privilege of working with many talented students and colleagues, having learned much from them all – particularly from my counterpart instructors in three-dimensional art: Jeff Garrett, Brianne Fulton (now Miller) and Casey TZ Smith (formerly Stueber); and in Graphic Design: Josh Smith.