Reflections on canvas

In 1992 I was managing a retail music store in Omaha’s Oak View Mall. Next door to our retail space was an upscale store that catered to men’s interests, the name of which is lost to my memory. A large portion of their store was dedicated to prints of paintings. Some framed, some were not. It was here that I first encountered the paintings of Terry Redlin, now a favorite of mine. To this day I do not own anything by Redlin because I honestly cannot choose a favorite. I have a prime space reserved for one, too, but am as yet still not sure which to finally purchase and hang from my wall. This one is a favorite. But so is this one. And this one. Heck, just go to this page or to this one and do some browsing on your own. I bet you find a favorite or two.

Redlin and I are both South Dakota boys and I spent the early years of my childhood growing up not far from where he did in Watertown, SD. Kinkaid received the moniker the “painter of light”, but for my money he can’t touch Redlin’s ability to paint a sun on canvas that requires the viewer to wear sunglasses.

As much as I enjoyed perusing Redlin’s work I’ll never forget the day I encountered a print simply called “Reflections.” It was not matted, framed and hung on the wall like the others. It was sitting in the bins that you would flip through when looking at prints. I remember standing over the bin, looking down, and idly flipping through many scenes and styles when I came across this painting for the first time. Time stopped and I slowly took in the entire scene. And then I did something completely unexpected. I started to cry.

Lee Teter’s painting captured something so visceral within and caught me by such surprise that I could do nothing but stare in silence, standing upright, with tears running down my face. My break coming to an end and being due back in my store, I dried my eyes with my tie, made note of the name of the painting and the artist, and left the store.

Every day I would go back to that store and look at that painting. The 30” x 23”print was priced at $30, too expensive for me in those early days, but I knew that I would own it one day. Despite my fear of it being sold before I could purchase it I told everyone about it and even walked them over to look at it. And then one day it was gone. Sold.

I put the print out of my mind as preparations for my entrance into the Catholic church followed six weeks later by my wedding kept me occupied. I still would look for it. But it was never back in stock on the sales floor. It was gone.

Or so I thought.

A few days before our wedding my soon-to-be-bride and I exchanged our gifts to each other. And there it was. She had bought me my painting.

She gave it to me again, seven months later on my birthday. This time it was beautifully matted and framed. It has hung upon the walls of our various homes ever since.

Today it hangs above a large, soft chair at the foot of our stairs, situated by two large bookcases. While I may be found reading in this chair, as often as not I can be found staring into this painting much as I did nineteen years ago. It is still capable of making my cheeks damp on occasion. I’ve caught my oldest son doing the same thing.

To learn more about the artist and how this painting came to be, visit here.

Out of respect for Mr. Teter and the organization that now owns the copyright to his painting, the Vietnam Veterans of America, I have chosen not to cut and paste its image onto this page. But you can click here to view it for yourself. In fact I insist.

Until I finally did some research this evening on Mr. Teter I knew next to nothing about the man who had created my favorite painting. He has retired quietly, to Wyoming, and this summer I may find myself in my car driving west in the hopes that I may shake his hand.

Lee says, “There are two worlds; a real one made by God as a gift to those He loves, and a world of lies and deception made by men. I find wonder in the one and I hide from the other. I don’t know any other way to keep my heart intact.” For an artist who “paints by feel” keeping his own heart is an important thing. In the end the story of the painting is the story of the artist. Quietly, unobtrusively they make their way through the world.

Finally, Mr. Teter’s own thoughts about his painting are wonderfully expressed here.

I love Redlin’s paintings because they reflect the beauty of God’s creation. I love Teter’s painting because it does the same.

©2011 Jeff A Walker. All Rights Reserved.

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