"I'd wanted to be a writer for so long, the dream was part of me, like an organ, an extra heart." Dorothy Rice, The Reluctant Artist, Shanti Arts, 2015
I'm Dorothy Rice, author of The Reluctant Artist: Joe Rice, the inspiring story of one man’s singular dedication to art, absent any interest in public recognition or acknowledgement. It is also the story of what it was like to be that man’s daughter, during the psychedelic 60’s and 70’s in the San Francisco Bay Area. Joe Rice immigrated to San Francisco in 1931 from the Philippines with his Chinese mother and sister and became an accomplished and classically trained artist. Though the quality of his work speaks for itself, my father believed in humility as the highest virtue, and that kept him from seeking any attention or reward for his art.
As Allan deSouza, Chair of UC Berkeley's Department of Art Practice has said, "Rice’s intricate weaving of the intimate with the expansive, the familiar with the experimental . . . is what art does best, rewarding those who look closely." My father's signature use of vibrant colors and the sheer size of his paintings (many measuring four to six feet), are impressive. The paintings now hang in my home as extraordinary representations of an iconic and influential period in American modern art.
As a father, he instilled in my sisters and I a deep reverence for the arts, and for the creative impulse. As I researched and wrote "The Reluctant Artist" it became clear to me that my father's experiences as an introverted, mixed-race child, profoundly shaped his fundamental principles of humility, equality and human rights. While I was growing up, he painted every day after teaching art to young adults. His lifelong, stalwart dedication to artistic expression fed my desire for a creative life of my own. And, I admit it, I wanted to make him proud. Then life intervened. As a single mother, I had to push my plans aside to support and raise my children. It wasn't until retirement that I began to write and publish the essays and memories that became my book.
Joe Rice, died in 2011, four years before The Reluctant Artist, a testament to his legacy, was published. Though he spent a lifetime avoiding the limelight, I believe he would be pleased to see his stunning paintings living on in the pages of a book. What I know with absolute certainty is how proud I am to finally be fulfilling the dream of being a writer, of living the creative life that was his ultimate gift to me.