Robert ArnesonAmerican (Benicia, California, 1930 - 1992, Benicia, California)
One of Arneson's great obsessions, self-portraiture is the genre in which he achieved his most playful and inventive forms. California Artist was completed in 1982 in response to an attack by a New York art critic, who cited the "impoverished sensibility of the provincial cultural life of California" and depicted Arneson's work as the "mark of a mind that is too easily pleased with his own jokes."
The broken-away facade on the corner of the pedestal reveals ceramic bricks mechanically imprinted with the artist's name — a challenge to the idea that clay is for making dinnerware and bricks but not fine art. Marijuana grows against a base littered with beer bottles and cigarette butts, all mockingly emblematic of a degenerate California lifestyle. Finally, the artist has represented himself atop the pedestal as a shirtless, aging hippie, whose sunglasses are actually gaping holes that allow us to peer directly into his empty head.