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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Terry Redlin

Cabin by the Lake, Night Sky, Terry Redlin
It's been almost two years ago now. I was visiting our friendly neighborhood hospital. It was while being led through the labyrinth of corridors to a treatment room that I first encountered the paintings of Terry Redlin. I was there to have my brand new pacemaker checked out. Gradually I came to realize that one reason healthcare is so expensive in this country has to do with the art print collections many such facilities have hanging on their walls. And with all those corridors, man do they have a LOT of walls. Actually, being an artist and a patient on Social Security, I don't begrudge them the relatively modest cost of the artwork; but can you imagine how much it must cost to have all those prints matted and framed behind glass? Why, it must add at least two cents to everyone's hospital bill in order to provide patients and staff a pleasant, artistic working environment.

Autumn Afternoon, Terry Redlin
My first reaction in seeing Redlin's work was one of delight. His sunsets or sunrises (sometimes it's hard to tell the difference) were nothing if not spectacular. Moreover his penchant for silhouetting country folk up early in the morning (or late at night) striving to eke out a living in a rural environment was an interesting departure from most sun-setting landscape painters who, at best, usually manage only a fence or two, maybe a barn, and perhaps a few other mundane farm items. I wouldn't go so far as to say I fell "in love" with Redlin's work, but I did find it first. Then I came to realize that Terry Redlin was kind of the rural version of Thomas Kinkade, whose syrupy sweet work I detest. The only difference seemed to be that while Kinkade's cute little well-lit bungalows were sweetened with sugar, Redlin's glaring sunsets were sweetened with molasses.

Redlin, the wildlife artist...
More recently, I've mitigated my opinion of Redlin somewhat as I've noticed that there's more to him than pretty sunsets/sunrises. Redlin was a wildlife painter. That's not to say he didn't veer off into prettified landscapes from time to time, but...what the Kinkade proved again and again and again, that's the kind of art which, with astute marketing, makes them the most popular artists in this, and probably several other countries. Whether urban, suburban, or rural, sentimental nostalgia sells. In fact, in some cases, the average print buyer would be hard-pressed to tell a Redlin print from a Kinkade.

Name the artists.
Terry Redlin
Few artists can rival the standards of excellence achieved by Terry Redlin over the past twenty-five years. Born in 1937, he is truly one of the country's most widely collected painters of wildlife and Americana. For eight consecutive years, 1991 through 1998, Redlin was named America's Most Popular Artist in annual gallery surveys conducted by U.S.ART magazine. His induction into U.S.ART's Hall of Fame in 1992 followed the magazine's poll of 900 galleries nationwide which, that year, placed five of Redlin's limited editions in the top 11 in popularity. Over the life of the poll, 30 of Redlin's prints have been included on that list. His use of earthy colors, blazing sunrises and sunsets and nostalgic themes are often cited as the reasons for his immense popularity. Much the same could be said of Thomas Kinkade.

The Conservationists, 1991, Terry Redlin
In the 1920s wood ducks were close to extinction. Thanks to thousands of concerned outdoorsmen and women, not to mention artists such as Redlin, these beautiful ducks are today one of our most abundant waterfowl. Redlin's The Conservationists (above) salutes one episode in this story. Early on a spring morning, three generations of one family, work together, to assure the next generation of wood ducks a secure nesting site.

Opened in 1997, over 150 of Terry Redlin's original paintings have been seen by more than two-million visitors.
On Friday, September first, of this year (2017), the Redlin Art Center in Watertown, South Dakota (above), will place Terry’s final painting in the gallery. For years, the Redlin family held the painting, unsure of how to explain why it is so different from the rest of Terry’s collection. The colors are different. The level of detail is different. The overall style is different. The painting is a reflection of a very difficult time in Terry Redlin’s life. Quite apart from their similar style and content, Thomas Kinkade and Terry Redlin have one other thing in common. Kinkade died in 2006 of a drug overdose. That same year, at the age of seventy, Terry Redlin was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.

Evening on the Ice, 2007, Terry Redlin (his final painting).
Less than a year later, Terry Redlin announced his retirement. The painting, Evening on the Ice (above), was his last. He lost his ability to paint. He lost his memories as well. He began working on the painting in 2005, but as time passed, it became more and more of a losing struggle. He simply could not finish it. In 2007, Terry’s wife, Helene, and son, Charles, finally convinced him to stop working on the painting and allow it to go to press. After a lifetime as an artist, the disease stripped Terry of something so second nature to him he once remarked, “To me, painting is like breathing.” Terry Redlin struggled with his disease for nine years. Then, on April 24, 2016, he died. In an effort to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s Disease, the Redlin Art Center will display Evening on the Ice for the entire month of September (2017) in an effort to raise awareness of the disease that took the artist's life.

What a difference a day makes.

Hightailing, Terry Redlin


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