Dick Lamoureaux, Artist and Educator
● By Enjoy Magazine
Under the Surface
Story and photos by Jeff Glorfeld
WHEN A SCULPTOR looks at at an untouched lump of clay, block of stone or chunk of wood, his eyes seek out potential – what hidden qualities does the material contain, and what will the artist find under the surface, and be able to reveal, while preserving its inherent nature?
It’s much the same for a teacher surveying a classroom of students.
Teacher and artist Dick Lamoureaux knows about looking beyond surfaces and finding special qualities.
Many North State residents will remember him as the coach who led the Enterprise High School Hornets varsity basketball teams from 1964 to 1971, winning two co-championships and one outright title in seven seasons.
But Lamoureaux also taught art at Enterprise. “My last three years there, I was almost half and half – PE for three classes and my other two were in the art department,” he says.
High school basketball was the biggest game in town in the 1960s, with cross-river and regional rivalries that made every contest a spectacle. Lamoureaux, now 88, is proud of what he achieved at Enterprise but insists there was more to it than scoreboard results.
“Wins and losses are important or they wouldn’t keep score, but I believe the coaching part of it is that you do the best you can teaching fundamentals, and then a program, what it is you’re trying to do as a group?” he says.
“High schoolers are trying to find some kind of identity, identify with something. Not that I have a problem with anyone being a loner, but that’s why we have sports.”
Coaching, he says, “goes so much further – the fact that the community was so involved. I knew reasonably well the parents of every kid who ever played for me.”
You could see the results of his work – focus, passion, attention to detail – when his players took to the floor, and those same qualities are evident today when you admire his wood carvings.
Born in San Francisco in 1931, a coincidence led Lamoureaux to wood carving. It was summer, he was 12 or 13, and he had gone to Oakland to stay with relatives. Across the street was a school that had a free program.
“This older guy – he was maybe 60 – had a class. It was basic wood carving, and I thought, ‘That would be fun.’ All you had to do was have your own pocketknife. I had a pocketknife so I went over there. That’s how I started – it was fun.”
Those weeks over summer vacation planted a seed that took time to germinate.
Years later, after high school, after the Air Force, he returned to carving. “It was always in the back of my mind,” he says. “So I got a chunk of firewood or something. The first couple of things I just did with a pocketknife. And then I thought it would be better if I got out of the whittling. I got a few chisels and little by little I got more hand equipment. I started doing different things.”
Today, long retired from coaching and business ventures, Lamoureaux has a workshop off the side of his south Redding home, packed with tools, rough blocks of wood, works in progress, surfaces covered in sawdust and chips. It’s clearly a woodworker’s space.
“I’ve always felt with wood carving, the wood is the most important thing,” he says. “It’s the look of the wood that impresses me so much. The shape is important but it’s what the wood adds to it, the grain. The wood makes its own decisions – you don’t know what you’re going to get.”
His home is his gallery, beautiful examples of sculpted art displayed throughout. He has never shown his work professionally, but he has sold pieces. “I’ve been commissioned by people who let me do my own design. They just like the stuff I do,” he says. “I’m terrible at marketing.”
Gesturing at his various sculptures, Lamoureaux says there are two things relative to sculpting. “There’s direct and indirect. Direct means, whatever you see in here, there’s only one of those in the whole world. You couldn’t duplicate it.”
As for selling his art, he says, “I get a great amount of pleasure – if someone really likes something – of just giving it to them. There’s a lot more warmth. I like the giving.”
About his style, Lamoureaux says, “I have to admit that a lot of my stuff is like the people I admire most.” He names Benny Bufano from San Francisco and Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi.
“It’s the curves and the lines. You sit and observe, and just enjoy it. Japanese style, in particular, is one of utter simplicity, which is what I like best. There’s a peacefulness about it.
“That permeates what I do.” •