When Oxford residents drive past Rick Momeyer’s house, they may miss the intricate artwork that lies just beyond the bumpy driveway.
Momeyer, a former professor of philosophy at Miami University, has been building sculptures since he retired in 2012.
Across the yard, Momeyer displays more than 10 pieces. Some come in sets of three, some are interactive and some are intended to allow the viewer to search for meaning in their life.
Because of his educational background and interest in “profound thought,” many of the pieces have a philosophical connotation. One collection of sculptures at the very front of the yard physically embodies the creation of history, the philosophical deconstruction of history and, finally, the reconstruction of history by human civility.
“Human beings aren't happy with the intellectuals' work, telling stories and deconstructing them,” Momeyer said. “So they aspire to more.”
In addition to philosophy, Momeyer is passionate about travel. His love for art blossomed when he and his wife, Sue, visited art museums and sculpture parks across the world. After teaching for 44 years, Momeyer retired and found himself in need of a way to pass the time.
“When I didn’t have [philosophy] to do anymore and didn’t have classes to prepare,” Rick said, “and I’d always admired sculpture, I thought I should give it a go, try my hand at a few things.”
Once the pandemic hit, Momeyer had a lot more free time to work on his art.
“You get locked up, and you can’t travel, you can’t see people … and I’m an energetic enough person that I can’t just sit and read all the time,” Rick said. “So I’ve always liked working with my hands and constructing things.”
For the past 60 years, Rick’s main hobby has been swimming at the Miami Rec Center. In a normal week, he swims anywhere from five to 10 miles. Because of the pandemic, though, both Sue and Rick have stayed inside for months. Sue said Rick’s artwork has been a relief for them both in the wake of COVID-19.
“He’s been so busy and occupied during this pandemic,” Sue said. “It’s been a lifesaver, actually.”
Though they’ve been married for more than 55 years, Sue said she was blindsided by this part of Rick.
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“I’m a little astonished because I never saw this in Rick,” Sue said. “I never saw him as somebody who would be doing this sort of thing.”
For more than 30 years, Sue worked at Planned Parenthood and recently retired as CEO of its regional chapter.
When Rick takes on a commission, he asks for the cost of materials and a charitable donation. Customers have the option to donate to either Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, Oxford Community Arts Center or Miami Oxford Organic Network (MOON co-op).
Tad Liechty, a 1973 Miami graduate and longtime Oxford resident, purchased one of Rick’s pieces in December.
As Liechty and her husband drove through town over the years, they frequently found the Momeyers’ yard a topic of discussion.
One day, the Liechtys noticed a box at the end of Momeyer’s driveway with flyers in it explaining the art. After touring Momeyer’s mini-sculpture park and talking with him, Liechty discovered she knew Rick from her time as a student at Miami.
“He was kind of one of the young, socially-active, radical professors at the time,” Liechty said.
As a supporter of Planned Parenthood, Liechty appreciated the charitable donation aspect of Rick’s business plan.
“[Planned Parenthood] is an organization I support, and I’ll be quite honest, I was looking for a place to donate the stimulus money that I’d gotten because I wanted to put that money back into the community,” Liechty said. “So I thought this would be a great place for it.”
Liechty purchased a piece for her husband’s 70th birthday. The colorful piece contains six concentric cubes nestled inside one another and sits mounted on a stump in the Liechtys’ yard.
“It’s just kind of a fun, whimsical, happy thing to see,” Liechty said.
While he has moved about half a dozen pieces off the property, and he’s enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame from Facebook, Rick still holds his title of “former philosopher, aspiring artist.”
“I don't make much claim to be an artist,” Rick said. “What I like is building things, and these are things that I can build that I can foist off on other people too sometimes.”
Despite his artistic denial, Momeyer acknowledges that his artwork can be a bright spot for the town.
“I’m glad to share them, add a little color to the drab season that this winter was,” Rick said.