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 Richard Mafong  (1942 - )

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Lived/Active: Georgia / Mexico      Known for: abstract designs, fine metals, sculptures

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Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
Richard Mafong grew up in Mexico, Asia and the United States.  As a young child he became interested in building things and working with his hands, which foreshadowed his love for craft making.  His first official art instruction occurred in high school and from there he pursued the arts at San Diego State College majoring in painting and drawing.  As an undergraduate student he took several courses in jewelry, and an instructor, Arlene Fisch, acquainted him with metal as a viable medium.  With that introduction he entered graduate study at Indiana University, with a concentration in metals under Alma Eikerman.

Upon graduation, Georgia State University employed Mafong to establish a metals program and he became the head of this department with its inception in 1968.  Mafong retired in 2002 from teaching to dedicate more time to his own design work.  Reflecting on his years at the university he stated, “I think that teaching has given me the time to pursue my career as an artist and at the same time has kept me stimulated in many ways. Some of these are the daily interaction with my students, where ideas and design concepts are discussed.  Another is guiding my students on their projects, and teaching them the necessary skills.”(1)

Mafong continues to hone his craft and travels widely, including Italy, Spain, Peru, Bolivia, China, Russia, India, Nepal and Thailand, to learn new techniques.  In addition, he often serves as a consultant and guest lecturer.  Mafong has received commissions for medallions, awards, maces, jewelry, and relief panels from universities, hotels, community organizations and corporations.  He is one of the founding members of the Atlanta International Museum of Art and Design.  His work can be found in the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Mint Museum of Art, Florida Gulf Coast Art Center and the Contemporary Craft Museum in New York, among others.

Defining Mafong’s oeuvre becomes multi-dimensional.  His work cannot be simply categorized as jewelry or metalsmithing.  He combines materials including precious and non-precious metals to create sculpture that transcends “craft” in a pure sense.  As the artist stated, “I have an affinity and admiration towards art works that are well crafted, detailed and inventive in concept, and that show the mastering of a particular skill and technique. This is inclusive of all the areas with no distinction between the fine arts and crafts.”  Mafong’s modern interpretation of the ancient Chinese form manipulates the varied media to strike a balance between innovative shapes, surface beauty, and symbolism, providing an appreciation for the sculpture whose craft re-introduces metals into the fine arts.
Footnotes:
1. Artist’s statements are in response to questions posed by Brigitte Foley, associate curator of art.  The Columbus Museum files, The Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia.
Submitted by the Staff of the Columbus Museum

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