Art Entrepreneur Slips Absurdities Under the Bar

Randy Shull is equal parts collector and creator.
Portrait by Clark Hodgin

With his partner, Hedy Fischer, Randy Shull steers Pink Dog Creative, a vividly painted complex of art studios and retail spaces in the River Arts District they founded in 2009. For three decades, Shull has explored the relationships between architecture, painting, landscape design, and furniture making. He and Fischer are well known as contemporary-art collectors, especially work from Latin America; Shull’s own pieces are numbered in prominent collections, including New York’s Brooklyn Museum, Atlanta’s High Museum, and the Renwick Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C. 

Rigid Ozone

You’ve contributed so much to the arts community since moving here in 1991.

I’m just trying to raise the bar. Hedy and I travel enough that we see other great places, and you can’t live in all of them. So we bring some of what we learn back here. What we brought first was the color from Mexico, where we live part of the year. 

Tell me about your current exhibit.

One of the cool things I’m doing is, instead of a catalogue, I’m doing a fan deck, like you see at a paint store. It has 80 cards, representing an image and three details of each piece. Some of the pieces have photos of my eyes embedded in them. The viewer is looking at the painting and it’s looking back at you, so it’s cyclical. This is my first foray into hybrid photography and painting. I like the idea of these collisions of different mediums. Even after 30 years, I’m still figuring out what I want to do next. It’s exploration: travel through the reality of your own work. You keep asking “What if?” — and it keeps moving you forward to the next place. 

Chairman 

How does creative inspiration relate to geographical travel?

You bring back the color palette. And travel turns everything upside down. We just came from Ethiopia. They were digging sand in a dry spring bed and getting water and then hauling it on a donkey. They reuse things. I’m now recycling a lot of my old paintings, cutting them up and reassembling them into different stuff. 

Black & White Siesta

Did I see recycled hammock material in some of your new paintings?

Yeah. A hammock is the physical embodiment of the need for reflection. In Mexico we take siestas in hammocks that the indigenous people there weave. The hammocks last about a season. I have a piece of old hammock in my hand right now. You can’t even recognize it when it’s painted. And it takes a lot of paint.

Green Reflection

Soaks it up?

Yeah, the absurdity of painting a hammock! I had an art teacher who said if it’s not absurd, it’s not art. Remember the toilets in the window of the plumbing store downtown? [Rogers Plumbing was at 52 Biltmore Ave. until the early 2000s.]

I loved those! A storefront window of pastel toilets on full display. 

That was more interesting than any of the stuff that was in galleries. Everyone says the artists are the pioneers here. I think it’s the plumbers and electricians. 

Shull’s large-scale works, including this installation, reflect vivid tropical palettes from his world travels.
Photo by Clark Hodgin

Randy Shull, Asheville (randyshull.com). Pink Dog Creative (pinkdog-creative.com) is located at 342-348 Depot Street in the River Arts District. Shull’s exhibit “Sight Lines” shows at Tracey Morgan Gallery (188 Coxe Ave., Asheville, traceymorgangallery.com) through Saturday, Aug. 24. 

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