Creative, Expressive Palul
Story: Beth K. Maxey Photo: DevenCarter.com
RENAISSANCE ARTIST PAUL RIDEOUT
Paul Rideout calls himself a Renaissance man – artist, scientist, teacher, writer, philosopher – and for more than 40 years, he’s intertwined art and science to produce unique ceramic pieces with universal themes.
As an artist, he was first introduced to clay in 1969 and immediately realized it was the perfect medium for him. “Clay was like the thing,” he says. “It took art and science and melded them together. To me, it’s like a 3-D surface to create upon, paint upon. It is still just as creative, an inspiring and wonderful way to express myself.”
His colorful, multi-tiled pyramids, each seven feet high, were installed at the McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Turtle Bay in 2008. He spent a year working on them, designing the 250 tiles per pyramid to depict scenes in his beloved North State.
Some of his raku art pieces are exhibited through Jan. 15 at Redding’s City Hall, 777 Cypress St. He has taught ceramics and raku, an ancient clay-firing technique, for some 25 years through the Shasta College Extended Education program.
Scientist Rideout has worked in medical and research technology labs since 1962, retiring just a few years ago from Mercy Medical Center, where most recently he implemented and managed the laboratory information system.
He grew up in Massachusetts and lived in the country where “my universe was the woods behind me,” he recalls. “It got up my interest in natural history – to learn the names of birds, insects, fish in the brook.” A curious child, he also was fascinated with Indian lore, especially among the Plains Indians, and made headdresses and
Rideout gravitated to a college major in zoology because of his love of the woods, and graduated from the University of Rhode Island. Because of his degree in science, he was offered a job in a hospital laboratory as a medical technologist, which proved to be the foundation of his career.
“But there was something in me that wanted more, something else,” he says. And he began a seven-year journey, mostly among the East Coast, San Francisco and Hawaii, working for six months in medical technology or research labs, and then quitting to discover the world and do art.
“I was writing, drawing, painting, having experiences,” he smiles, remembering. “As soon as you say ‘I AM,’ there is a paradigm shift from wanting to be to being. It took a lot of time striving in that direction, to accept what I am.
“All my (working) life has been walking a line between life and death and balancing that,” he says. “Art helps get through the heavy stuff; the medical gives art balance. If I were just an art person, I wouldn’t have had the experiences I have had.”
During one of his San Francisco stays, he was at the Human Be-In in San Francisco when Timothy Leary delivered his famous “turn on, tune in, drop out” speech, and he eventually wound up in Haight- Ashbury, where one of his roommates was Peter Cohon, now Peter Coyote. But when heavy drugs and crime moved in, he moved back to Hawaii where, as one of the first hippies to live there, he enjoyed near-celebrity status for a while. He and his first wife moved to Redding in 1969 where he began working at what was then Redding Medical Center.
For a time, Rideout lived near Montgomery Creek Falls and says, “It left an imprint on me.” His works include many images of the falls and area rivers.
Rideout tells his students that great, lasting art includes universal ideas like heaven, earth and man that everyone can relate to, no matter what the culture or language.
“Things that are universal are going to speak for a long time – 100 years, 1,000 years from now someone may be feeling the same thing you did,” he says. “Genius is taking the universal and bringing it into the scope of your work.”
Rideout’s art is signed with the name “Palul” these days, a name which began when as a manager he was writing lots of e-mails at work. An extra ‘L’ kept creeping into his signature ‘Paul,” and he finally accepted it as a message from a higher entity rather than merely a misspelling.
“There was more here than meets the eye,” he says, “so I changed my art name from Paul Rideout to Palul. It’s more earthy.” He smiles, and quips, “If you have an old pot signed by Paul Rideout, he’s a dead artist now and it’s very valuable.” Palul’s work can be seen on his Web site, www.palul.com, at Redding City Hall through Jan. 15, and at the 5 Windows Gallery and Main Street Gallery in Weaverville. He has written three books; selections from them are also on the Web site. •