Richard S. Beyer’s most PROLIFIC PERIOD runs between 1964 and 2001. He was nearly 40 years old when he realized that he was an artist – not an economist! Using self-taught experimental techniques, he established his signature medium – cast aluminum. He perfected his craft and become famous in the Pacific Northwest for an “art people love.” During these years Beyer was indeed prolific and turned out over 100 public sculptures. He also produced hundreds (or maybe thousands) of private works, which included: sculptures (large and small), drawings, jewelry, toys and books.
In 2001, Beyer began winding down. It started when he suffered a stoke in the fall of 2001 at age 76, and was intensified by the death of his wife of 54 years, in 2004. Yet in spite of some weaknesses, during the next five years he was able to produce four impressive large public sculptures and several large and some small private pieces. In 2006, Beyer reinvented his life again and moved New York City, remarried, and retired from creating sculpture.
- Business Building1964-77 - Building a Business
This was the period of developing his craft. Beyer experimented with different materials and techniques and created many small works in granite, cedar and cast aluminum, and also developed a technique for carving designs in green brick. He exhibited his sculptures in local art shows in many towns up and down the Washington State coast, getting his work recognized. Several architects were taken with his style and knowledge of materials and they enlisted Rich to do the artwork on many building projects. He worked out of a small studio on a warehouse dock in Seattle’s Lake Union. The first public commission in 1967 was for St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Roseburg, OR, creating designs for the Stations of the Cross as part of the interior architectural brickwork. In 1968 he was able to purchase a larger studio in the Fremont district. In 1974, Rich and Margaret travelled to Egypt and England and visited several Medieval Cathedrals. This trip expanded Beyer’s knowledge of stonework and wood carving, and it had a profound influence on his subsequent work.
Drawing: "Simon Helps Carry the Cross"
Drawing: "Second Fall"
- Has Arrived1978-2001 - He Has Arrived
In 1978, Beyer set up a foundry in his Fremont studio. This allowed him to do larger work in aluminum and bronze, using Styrofoam to make models for the metal casting. The iconic work, “People Waiting for the Interurban,” in Fremont, was the first large-scale work in the new foundry and set the stage for Beyer to become a recognized and established artist. Because of his love of American Indian lore and designs, Beyer was commissioned by the Tribal Headquarters at the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in Khahneeta, OR.
During this period, Beyer created 70 public sculptures, mostly in Washington State, but also in other states and in the then U.S.S.R. At the same time he was making an untold number private pieces. By 1982 Rich’s projects had outgrown the space in the Fremont foundry. Son Charles, and family, lived in Moscow, ID. Having a mining and engineering background, Charles built the Moscow Foundry - from1982-88, he cast 26 of Rich’s public sculptures. Rich’s Styrofoam carved models were shipped to Moscow, where Charlie cast them in aluminum and then returned with the castings to Fremont to help weld the pieces together.
Seattle had a Sister-City in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, U.S.S.R. Rich and Margaret were involved with the Ploughshare Organization that wanted a sculpture for a new Peace Park in Tashkent. The Communist Party was lessening some of its suspicion and paranoia towards the U.S.A. and approved the park as a way to establish peaceful relations. In 1987, Rich and Margaret travelled to the Soviet Union with the Ploughshare Organization. Rich came home and created a 16’ high totem-like sculpture called, “Life, Love, Time, Game,” representing people’s lives, not ideology. When complete, it was shipped to Tashkent free of charge.
By the fall of 1988, Charlie had to close the Moscow Foundry and Rich and Margaret decided it was time to move from Seattle. They moved to the little town of Pateros, WA, near where their daughter Liz, and her husband Jim Miller with their 5 sons lived, in Central Washington. Rich moved the furnace and foundry equipment into a large metal building on the banks of the Columbia River. In this expanded space he was able to turn out ever more work, using many students and casual workers to help him with the strenuous task of casting in aluminum and bronze.
Drawing: "Man on Fire"
"The Big Catch" (1994)
City of Des Moines Park
Des Moines, WA Cast Bronze
"Life, Love, Time, Game" (1998)
Tashkent, Uzbekistan, U.S.S.R
(Totem Design) Cast Aluminum
- Winding Down2001-2006 - Winding Down
In October, 2001, Beyer suffered a serious stroke while delivering a talk to a local improvement committee in Okanagon, WA. After months of rehabilitation, and quitting his iconic pipe smoking, he resumed work. Most of the work was for private commissions, but there were three public cast aluminum projects in this period: "Sighting Whales," on City Waterfront Park, Edmonds, WA, "Bears Running Downhill," at Whitman Grade School, Lewiston, ID, and his last work done in 2006 with the help of son Charlie, "Make Art Not Bombs," at Yakima Community College, Yakima, WA.
In April 2004, Rich’s beloved Margaret died. She had been his artistic promoter and record keeper, as well as his best friend and love. Her loss was devastating and he was terribly lonely. In 2005 he connected with the wife of a friend from the 1960s era in Seattle, Dorothy Scholz, who lives at the north end of Manhattan in New York City. He decided to visit New York and check out the costly new renovation of the Museum of Modern Art. He did that, but spent most of his time with “Dee.”
"Make Art Not Bombs", (2006) final work
"Grandsons Carrying Water" (2003)
"Return to the Wild"
- April 9, 20122006-2012
Rich moved to New York City to be with Dee Scholz in 2006. He sold all his Washington State properties and purchased an apartment across the hall from Dee to provide extra space for boxes of drawings, small artwork and furniture that he brought with him. In August, 2007, Rich and Dee were married in a small church in the Adirondack Mountains of New York (Rich was 82 years old at the time). “After 50 years I returned to New York to reinterpret the world.” Rich was no longer able to work since the strenuous undertakings of his younger years had caught up with his body. Yet he was content reflecting on the enormous body of work he created, and its meaning for the people for whom it was created. In late March, 2012, Rich had another serious stroke and passed away on April 9, with Dee and son Charlie at his side. He was 86. We grieve the loss of this unique artist, but know his spirit will live on in the wonderful sculptures he created and will continue to bring joy to generations to come.
"A Visit with Captain Griggs"
Dorothy and Rich, Enjoying NYC,
Rich in Inwood Park, NYC