He's Making Art with Teeth in It: Dentist Is Driven by a `Need to Do' Ironic Sculpture

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Washington's Ted Fields has the unusual distinction of being a dentist who is also a artist. Or maybe he is the artist who happens to be a dentist. Either way, there can't be many like him.

"I have a need to do it," he says. I was always an artist, from my teen-age days. In dental school I made jewelry and mobiles. The creative instinct pushes me every day."

"I picked dentistry because I knew I would be an artist and would have circumscribed time in the office, leaving time for my studio in the afternoons or evening."

He keeps the two worlds separate but says both are creative, dependent on a sure touch and an observant eye. The personable professional practices dentistry in a downtown office about 25 hours a week and an uncharted, possibly greater, number of hours in his Adams Morgan studio a healthy few blocks' walk away.

One difference is the degree of humor he manages to inject into sculpture and painting projects. (Forget the old jokes about laughing gas and patients giggling in the dentist's chair.) His latest pieces are called, collectively, "Games" - a mixture of jigsaw puzzle maps and pop art views of Parker Bros.' Monopoly board game - on show through June 30 at Michael Clark's MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Georgetown's Canal Square. A reception takes place tomorrow from 6 to 10 p.m.

In earlier years, Dr. Fields occasionally traded services in exchange for works by local artists of note, which was how he came to know Michael Clark, known simply as "Clark" in art circles.

"He's not your usual artist, at least not in the conventional view of what artists are about," says Clark, whose own reputation has soared since he first met Dr. Fields at a 1967 show at Jewish Community Center. "He was responsible for my selling the first painting I ever sold, so it's only just that I give him a show nearly 30 years later."

Clark, who describes Dr. Fields' work as having "a populist, ironic edge," compares the early pieces to Rene Magritte sculpture. He says his friend is "modest and fairly withdrawn . . . a booster of the art community who had an excellent illusionistic art collection. He was on good terms with people like Frank Stella while helping others. He talked other people up."

Dr. Fields, whose eminent patients included such artists as Sam Gilliam and Gene Davis, says Clark "has a nice open mind about what art is," praising him as someone who "never forgets a work of art he sees or an artist. …