A Man for All Seasons
All his life, Cazenovia artist Jim Ridlon hated snow - until he taught himself to like it.
Determined to come to terms with Old Man Winter, Ridlon took up his brushes and started painting. The resulting collection, "Changing Seasons," is on display through Nov. 11 at the Earlville Opera House Art Gallery in Earlville.
"Changing Seasons" depicts the seasonal shifts of Central New York through 80 small, under glazed acrylic paintings. Under glazing means the painting is composed of several layers of paint and enamel, rather than completed all at once. Adding glazes between the layers of paint (usually a pattern) lends a feeling of depth and brings out the colors more, Ridlon said.
As he studied the season's first snow through sketches and photos, Ridlon discovered patterns of dark and light within the subdued palette of sepia and ochre tones. From these beginnings, he created nearly 150 small paintings.
"I really liked the pattern in them and what you could do with composition. That started (this series) . . . so I just continued. I did the first part of spring, the first part of summer, so I had this series of seasonal changes. You can't beat the colors here this time of year. It's spectacular."
Ridlon, 72, lives in Cazenovia with his wife, Katherine Rushworth, art critic for Stars magazine. He has a bachelor's and master of fine arts degrees in sculpture from Syracuse University.
Originally from Nyack, Rockland County, Ridlon attended SU on a football scholarship. He went on to play in the NFL from 1957 to 1964, first for the San Francisco 49ers and later The Dallas Cowboys.
Ridlon continued his studies in the football off-season, pursuing his master's in sculpture first at Stanford University and then at San Francisco State College. He put school on hold when he was traded to Dallas, but saw an opportunity to finish his degree if he returned to SU as a part-time football coach, lecturer and graduate student. He stayed at SU for 36 years as a football coach and professor of sculpture in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
"I think I was working probably 110 hours a week at one point," Ridlon said. "But once I got my degree, once I got into teaching, it's been the greatest life imaginable. It was really worth it."
Sculpture and assemblage (think collage in 3-D), have been Ridlon's primary media throughout his career, at least in terms of commissioned work.
He has also completed major commissions for corporations like Disney and ABC. Composed of hundreds of pieces of famous sports memorabilia such as Peggy Fleming's ice skates, Muhammad Ali's robe, and a soccer ball from Pele, the assemblage he created to commemorate the 25th anniversary of ABC's "Wide World of Sports" is slated to join the Smithsonian Institution as part of an interactive exhibit.
But Ridlon estimated that sports-related art, most often the product of a commission, comprises a mere 5 percent of his artistic output. These days, painting trumps sculpture as his preferred means of expression, and he finds inspiration in landscapes, flowers and gardens.
"Nature turns me on," Ridlon said, "not so much bodies bouncing off each other."
The "Changing Seasons" exhibit originated as a small-scale study for a series of larger, museum-sized paintings, which he is currently working on in his new studio space, a renovated barn outside Cazenovia.
Although he recently displayed some paintings at the Handweaving Museum & Art Center in Clayton, he has no plans for future shows. "I really want to concentrate right now," Ridlon said.
"I'm so excited about doing these big paintings and having the space to do them."