Clay Artist Thinks Big - Page 5

Once Fresno's best-kept secret, visionary Stan Bitters finds newfound popularity with dazzling grand-scale art he calls 'environmental ceramics'
Bitters' crew rolls out his five-foot-diameter 'Earth Circle' in preparation for an exhibition.

Bitters described his dream—an urban landscape in which streets, plazas, and parks were designed to please people by integrating art and architecture. He said, optimistically, that the two fields were drawing closer together.

But it was not to be, he says today.

By the mid-1980s, he says, the vogue for architectural art had waned. "Nobody was calling about doing any work, and I was getting very depressed," he says. "I had used all my money up, and I was starting to use [Jean's], and I said I can't handle it. Yeah, we've got to split."

Bitters soon lost his home, where he had created a large room made out of clay as a demonstration of what clay could do, and where he had envisioned a sculpture garden.

But maintenance and repairs proved expensive. "So it ended up that I pretty much gave it back to the bank and walked away." A subsequent owner leveled the place.

Moving to rented studio space back at Sumpf, Bitters produced "a lot of filler stuff just to get by"—large pots for Las Vegas casinos, pots and mugs for the crafts market, he says. "It was always feast and famine for a while, 20 years actually.

"I kept thinking, jeez, all I want to do is just work."

Today, financially successful again, Bitters lives with his cat, Ochre, behind a chain-link fence in a large live-work studio, his next-door neighbor Blast Tech, a powder-coating firm.

"I don't have much involvement with people, to the point that when the gate out there closes, we have that razor barbed wire on top, I'm locked in here and this is my life. During the day it's clay, and at night it's a few movies, and that's it."

He does enjoy gambling at casinos, using an often-successful system of his own.

Bitters says he's never been part of the Fresno art scene, or any scene, and has focused on one thing—his art and where it is taking him. "All my life I've not ever been particularly interested outside of what's going on in Fresno, and not even that."

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