Artist Tim Shockley stands in his Palm Desert studio, surrounded by his pieces as the fierce desert winds blow. The diverse works around him include a large, gold-plated tumbleweed with a ball and chain, a tall lamp with a green tumbleweed shade, snakes cast in bronze but created from neckties, and two portraits of society women with tattoos on their arms.
Inspired by the Dada surrealists like Marcel Duchamp, his sculptures mirror his inner feelings and the world around him. “It all starts with what I’m going through, what I’m thinking. Then creating my feelings into art by using organic elements of my environment.”
Raised in the desert, Shockley finds inspiration everywhere.
“If there weren’t these beautiful mountains in the desert it would be nothing but flatlands,” he says. “It’s like an island that you can drive away from.”
Shockley is one of 33 artists whose work will be featured this weekend at the Festival of Arts at Rancho Mirage. The event, on Nov. 5 and 6, will feature artists who normally do not participate in the festival scene. He and fellow Coachella Valley artist Kim Manfredi, whose gallery is in Cathedral City, are the event’s featured artists.
“His unique art is beautifully crafted with a great sense of adventure and experimentation, he’s not afraid to take a chance,” says Bill Schinsky, curator and art consultant. “He’s also such a nice man — easy and a delight to work with.”
Shockley doesn’t limit himself to one medium. He has explored wood, metal, and mixed-media assemblage. Every piece is different, and some require significant investment, like the $9,000 he spent on copper, bronze casting, and lighting for his piece “Totem.”
When night falls, that’s when Shockley says the magic happens, when the intangible becomes tangible. “It was just an idea in my head, and after months, I’m now looking at something that is real.”
He recognized his talent with sculpting back in childhood when he was gluing blocks together. Then he progressed to more complex ceramics in high school. “I had a knack for it and got a fellowship to make art at the Walter Mark’s Foundry, which closed in the 90s,” he says. It is now the Walter N Marks Center for the Arts at Palm Desert.
He sold his first piece at 19, and from that moment on he decided he was going to create art for the rest of his life. While relatively young, he wasn’t naïve about the challenges of the life of a full-time artist.
“I liked the mystery of not knowing where it would take me. I never felt insecure or fearful of the future,” he says. “I don’t have a set path, I embrace the mystery of art life, not knowing where I’m going or what I’ll create next.”
His art has broad appeal and has been exhibited everywhere from Palm Springs and New Mexico to New York and Chicago.
Taking stock of the pieces in his studio, he says that his biggest regret is that his mother, Renea Randle, is not here to see it or share in his success.
“Twenty years ago, she died of pancreatic cancer,“ he says. “She gave me the support and encouragement to make the right choices. When I was young, she drove me to art shows and appreciated what I was doing, always telling me that I was talented.”
Most of us give up on our childhood dreams or passions and pick a more practical career, only to regret those choices as retirement looms. Shockley has seen that regret in his own friends, and he’s proud that he chose to stick with his dream.
“I’ll be working until I can’t use my hands anymore,” he says.
Details: The Festival of Arts at Rancho Mirage runs Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. (with an amphitheater event at 5:30 p.m.) and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Rancho Mirage Community Park & Amphitheater, 71560 San Jacinto Dr. Admission is free.