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Wayne Thiebaud

SPRINGVILLE — Wayne Thiebaud isn't rude about it.

In fact, the 87-year-old artist is warmly receptive and quite funny with those who question his art in fine detail or who attempt to fit him into a box.

Campbell Gray, Brigham Young University's Museum of Art director, who introduced Thiebaud at the Springville Museum of Art's Conversation with the Artist event, said the argument is over whether Thiebaud is a traditionalist that modernists can like or if he is a modernist even traditionalists can like.

"What is art? I don't know. It occurs to me that probably the great interest and effort (in my work) makes it impossible for me to say anything," Thiebaud said. "Painters are always annoyed by labels. I know no card-carrying pop artists. I guess I should say I don't even like pop art.

"You're really indulging an old teacher, which I am and continue to be. I never did go to art school. I'm here under false pretenses," he said.

"One of the great loves of my life is in trying to reduce a 3D world to a 2D surface in a way that's interactive. Painting is life for me. It is a kind of miracle," he said. "Painting is a very, very great invention. It's a wonderful kind of summation of human consciousness that can contain almost any kind of human emotion."

Thiebaud described his work as something everybody can do and should get to do.

He said the world today — which according to studies only invests an average of three seconds to view a piece of artwork — needs to take more time to make and to study art.

"We're not doing enough of that," he said. "And without the arts, we're a whole other kind of individual."

He said art teachers should help their students be better than they are and deal with the fundamentals.

"Our biggest opportunity as teachers, I think, is to give examples of what people have done. All I am is a collection of all the influences I've had. I've stolen every possible thing I've done," he quipped. "My experience was helped by people in cartooning, in graphic design, even sign painters.

"I like a challenge," Thiebaud said. "In my own case, I don't want to get bored."

Thiebaud consistently avoided the esoteric answer and grounded his responses in simplicity. "I certainly don't think about it (how my work is received). I'm painting so as not to insult the tradition. I just want them to be as good as they can be," he said. "I'm sorry I can't make a better answer."

So, who does this world-renowned capable artist admire most in today's art world?

"My granddaughter, Colette," said Thiebaud.

E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com

If you go...

What: Wayne Thiebaud: 70 Years of Painting

Where: Springville Museum of Art, 126 E. 400 South, Springville

When: Through July 27

Gallery hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.;

Wednesday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.;

Sunday, 3-6 p.m.;

Closed Mondays and holidays

How much: Free

Phone: 489-2727

Web: www.smofa.org