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By Mike Sintetos

His instantly recognizable Egghead sculptures dot the campus. But the man behind the art is known for much more than a few bald heads.

Robert Arneson, a UC Davis faculty member for four decades, was also at the forefront of a movement that took ceramic art in a new direction.

When Arneson came to campus in 1962, ceramic art forms were mainly "art" versions of traditional pottery shapes — pots, vases, plates and tiles.

But starting in the 1960s, Arneson and several other California artists abandoned the manufacture of functional wares in favor of using everyday objects to make confrontational — and to some, offensive — statements. The new movement was dubbed "Funk Art," and Arneson is considered the "father of the ceramic Funk movement."

Arneson, who died in 1992 after a long battle with cancer, used toilets, typewriters, soda bottles and other common objects in his work, which included both ceramic sculptures and drawings. Autobiography also played an important role in Arneson's art. He appeared in many of his own pieces — as a chef, a man picking his nose, a jean-jacketed hipster in sunglasses. Even his Eggheads bear a self-resemblance.

Autobiography in clay

"Bob's work was autobiography," said Seymour Howard, an art history professor emeritus who wrote a book on autobiography in art. "That's how he talked, that's how he looked, that's how he was."

久草免费新视频14Arneson's widow, Sandra Shannonhouse, invites people viewing any Arneson work to look beyond what seems to be "edgy, naughty or funny."

"He used humor to draw the viewer into the piece, but there was usually much more going on," she says.

Consider George and Mona in the Baths of Coloma, 1976, an Arneson work now found in the Stedelijk Museum collection in Amsterdam.

"It was made to celebrate the American Bicentennial," Shannonhouse says. "It is a portrait of George Washington as seen on the dollar bill with Mona Lisa and comments on a number of political, social and economic issues."

In collections across the country and world

Arneson's fame is far-reaching, and his works can be found in public and private collections around the world.


Art historian Howard, a professor on campus at the same time as Arneson, described his work as "naughty," and with a "very sharp edge."

"It could be kind of raw," he said.

Arneson was born in 1930 in Benicia, Calif., and grew up in a working-class family. He studied art education at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and received a master's degree from Mills College in 1958. Much of his early inspiration came from fellow California artist Peter Voulkos.

久草免费新视频14When Arneson came to UC Davis in 1962, he was hired as an art teacher, beginning part time in the design program in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and part time in the art department in the fledgling College of Letters and Science.

Also teaching drawing and graduate seminars

In a few years, he became a full-time teacher in the Department of Art, mostly teaching ceramic sculpture but also giving classes in drawing and the graduate seminar on art. He became a full professor in 1973.

Art history professor Ruda, who crossed paths with Arneson occasionally, said the artist was a complex man.

久草免费新视频14"I thought he had two different levels," Ruda said. "On one, he was obviously bluff, frank, outspoken, totally unpretentious. A fairly sociable kind of guy. But I also had the feeling that he kept his mouth shut about deeper things and didn't just say the first thing that came into his head."

久草免费新视频14An endowed chair in ceramic sculpture, created to honor Arneson in 1997, is held by art professor Annabeth Rosen.

This story was written in 2006 by Mike Sintetos, a former University Communications intern, who graduated in June 2006 with a major in psychology. As of spring 2013, Mike was the renewable energy program manager for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Sacramento.