Sculptor Rik Phillips Portfolio/Gallery

Is Wood The New Black?
The "Fashion Series" Sculptures By Rik Phillips

A petty war rages on in the art world circles and the outcome is harder to predict than next year's hemlines: Can what was once considered "low brow" art -- a common "populist" amusement -- be considered "high brow" fine art -- standing shoulder-to-shoulder with "tradition" -- if the art materials and craftsmanship are "superior quality", the message "a calculated statement of the human condition" that also reflects cultural context AND possesses originality in execution and intent? Isn't it the purported job of an artist to cross media, to question, to challenge, to educate and entertain? AND -- if it's humorous, isn't it better still? Or, in-fighting be damned -- you know "good" art, whatever it's called, when you see it and that's that?

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Rik Phillips, the multi-talented fifty-seven-year-old Palm Springs, California, sculptor, has wryly created a fanciful series of painted wooden sculptures which defy easy labels which he feels, with a cheeky wink, represents the surreal dilemmas modern-day women are consistently faced with. In this extraordinarily-detailed sculpture series, the clever Phillips has carefully constructed a group of women's shoes and as sundry accessories, which he professes are not just about the absurd machinations of the fashion industry but also a wickedly-funny commentary on our society as a whole -- a provocative portrait of wacky, tacky modern life, while still holding true to the guidelines of classic sculpture presented no differently than a Calder or a Michelangelo.

"The shoe/sculpture titled, 'Leopard Stiletto With Training Wheels And Anti-Fall-Back Wheel' was based on a newspaper article I read and re-read," Phillips professes with eager enthusiasm, "Which said in Italy -- where the stiletto-heeled shoes were first designed -- Italian women are now being prohibited from wearing those types of shoes because pregnant women were falling down and having miscarriages. I thought that 'banning' was a peculiar reaction. The story was too good. I felt sad, laughed, and then I HAD to design something..."

Rik's unique way of problem solving a woman's precarious situation with wobbly stiletto shoes was plainly obvious to him as a man: training wheels. From then on, nothing was out of the idea was that far out of reach...and serious collectors responded to the gutsy art with the giddiness of a half-off wedding dress sale as they discovered a smart artist of unquestionable merit and complex works of lasting value.

Another shoe/sculpture titled, "The Anti-Real Alligator Shoe", was a result of another article which reported too many alligators were being killed for women's shoes, handbags and men's wallets. The results from Rik after reading that article: a particularly witty shoe/sculpture, also made entirely of fine wood, flaunting an intricately carved alligator head on the toe and an alligator tail on the heel of a shoe. Scary -- and it's a rage.

The "Fashion Series" collection also includes a smashing larger-than-life 24" tall Cherry Red lipstick, a partially-smoked cigar with ashtray and box of matches, an over-scaled cup of coffee on a saucer with a napkin and doughnut, each with traces of red lipstick -- and all these fantastic pieces are crafted from superiority wood by hand.

To start the "Fashion Series", Rik meticulously drew ten to twenty sketches of every one of sculptures' proposed subjects. While doing the numerous studies, he considered the nature of the materials, as well as "special capabilities" each completed designed piece would have such as a hidden pull-out drawer or compartment -- to utilize practically and not just be an object to look at. Every part of the sculpture design matched a concept gleamed from the "real world" -- translated, emphasized, exaggerated -- as any good story-teller does.

"I love art work that is discovered and re-discovered," Phillips explains diligently. "Art work, in my estimation, must be met in a realistic middle ground between the artist and his audience. Art should be accessible, mentally as concepts and physically as something to live with."

Once finalizing a particular sculpture design, a specific type of wood was chosen for wood grain, shape ability, flexibility, hardness and for good surface finish for the piece. The wood was then cut into thin boards and blocks which were glued together to form what looks like geometric or "cubist" shapes. Rick began the process of carving, taking many hours or days -- sometimes weeks -- for the completion of all the needed steps in the procedure.

When the sculpture was considered realized, the wood was sanded, while keeping a man-made effect to the surface. The sculpture was sprayed with primer in usually six or more coats and then sanded repeatedly until the sculpture's surface was perfectly smooth. The color coats were applied, using the same process until twelve or more shiny finish was built up.

The "Fashion Series" is a part of a forty-year-long career, which includes such celebrity collectors as entertainer Barbra Streisand and financier Armand Hammer, numerous mainstream magazine features and television appearances, plus many well-received exhibitions in several states. Rik Phillips is currently represented by Copal Gallery on El Paseo Avenue in Palm Desert, California, and working on his "Biomutants" fine art sculpture/multi-media series.

Will Rik Phillips succeed in winning the "low-brow/high-brow" art war with his "Fashion Series" sculptures? There's only one way to find out for yourself: Try them on and see what fits. But don't bother reading the labels.


"Portal 2"



"Alligator Shoe"






"Flight 1"

"Flight 27"



"Future 2"


"Lucky 7 #2"




"Redst 2"

"RG - 1"

"RG - 3"

"RG - 5"

"Rik 4184"


"Ro - Gun"

"RPV - 1"

"RPV - 2"

"RPV - 4"

"RPV - 5"

"RPV - 7"

"RPV - 9"

"RPV - 11"

"RPV - 12"

"RPV - 14"

"RPV - 18"

"RPV - 20"


"Tic Tac Toe"

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