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People Archive Photo
© Brendan Moore

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Mime and Mime Again
Robert Shields became famous as a mime in the 1970s. In the '80s, he moved to Sedona, where he mastered several other art forms and eventually found his way back to the stage.

By David Schwartz

Sedona For the man who made his living as a mime, Robert Shields can't say enough about the special place in Arizona that he calls home. Sedona is his inspiration, his creative spark.

"All around my house, I'm surrounded by sheer formations of magic," says Shields, 58, looking out from his sweeping deck at Snoopy Rock on a recent morning. "I still get excited about this place every single day. There is such an energy here. It can't help but rejuvenate you."

His words come in adrenaline-filled bursts. Even after all these years.

Shields, one half of the well-known Shields and Yarnell comedy team, moved from Los Angeles to the crimson-hued surroundings in the late 1980s. It was a back-to-nature move that grew deep roots. He's been there ever since, channeling his creativity into a career as an artist of many forms.

There are his whimsical cats in paintings and print. Figurines of his trademark coyote. A sterling silver depiction of three wild sisters. And a framed sculpture of a Raku medicine man. There are new pieces to create. New techniques to explore. All done off stage.

"I really don't miss performing like I used to," says Shields, who first drew notice as a street mime performing in San Francisco's Union Square. "I like doing art. It's so much fun working with different colors, textures, form and shapes. Performing is great, but when the show is over, people go home. This is much more lasting."

The pieces, which range in price from $12 for a signed print to $6,000 for an original painting, reflect his many moods and come in muted gem tones. At any given time, a dozen pieces in various stages of completion can be found at his Schnebly Road home studio.

Shields, who divorced from his partner and wife, Lorene Yarnell, in 1986, has retrenched in recent years. At one time, he had 60 employees, operated several retail stores and sold wholesale to another 2,000 stores nationwide. He owned a restaurant and a radio station in Red Rock Country. Then came the economic aftermath of September 11.

He says he's reinvented himself and his company. He now has two employees and sells his wares at art shows and festivals. And he's back on stage with his one-man shows, offering audiences his own physical brand of comedy and entertainment at smaller venues.

His future remains an unfinished work. "I'm living in the moment and have no grand plans," he says. "That's right where I want to be right now."

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