I read a great quote recently about true artists and their propensity to question whether they are an artist at all. It reminded me a bit of innovative artist Rick Begneaud. The Lafayette native literally grew up spending summers with art giant Robert Rauschenberg, who just happens to be his uncle, and yet spent decades not telling his beloved uncle of his own art pursuits.

While Rauschenberg, whose work was considered the predecessor to the pop art movement, was clearly an influence on Begneaud, he didn't discuss his own art in the way one would expect with his uncle. In fact, Begneaud spent three decades dabbling before he told the art legend that he was pursuing art. And now Begneaud's art certainly stands on its own — head down to AcA for his show and see for yourself.

A reflection of a life spent in a way best described as eclectic — decades in California and trips around the world, chef for the Grateful Dead, assistant to an art legend. The pieces displayed in downtown Lafayette are a kind of homecoming for Begneaud, who has clearly spent years exploring the world. His works, as he describes them, are a revisit of many old memories and experience.

"There are photographs from travels and I'm printing them on big sheets of plastic then taking the paper and laying it flat and putting vodka on the paper and laying the plastic image on it and I rub the image off onto the paper. Those are really fun to do," Begneaud says.


At the risk of making light of his work, there is a certain element of fun when you behold most of his pieces. Begneaud's work is proof that depth and a sort of light-heartedness can exist in one place at one time. He uses found items and fabrics, photographs, paint. It's a collage in more than the visual, but in thought as well. It's a compilation of his life experience and the sort of things he encounters in travels as far flung as Africa. But, it's clear Begneaud's roots are strong. His parents, Janet and Byron, still lives here and he's in town for Festival as his show comes to a close.

While a telling of his life story makes it clear a life in art isn't an unlikely course, Begneaud himself wasn't even quite sure what he was doing when he headed out of Lafayette so many years ago.

"I left there [Lafayette] going on 30 years ago and came to California and said I was making art but not seriously it was more of a hobby. Nobody knew what I was coming to California to do exactly including myself and over a period of time I decided what appeared to me ... this is the right thing to do," Begneaud says. "So there are still a lot of folks in Lafayette that don't know what I do. It does feel good to say this is what I've been doing in California for the last several years. I see people when I come back and they ask 'So what do you do in California? This is what I do.'"

And he's doing it in a way that's truly his own.

Don't miss Begneaud's work at AcA through April 30.




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