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Print
Illinois hunting and fishing

Neighbors worry about Redlin’s health

March 28, 2010 at 04:50 AM

The Argus Leader

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Terry Redlin spent long hours in his small studio crafting the scenes that made him one of the most successful painters in the country.

They are familiar images of geese soaring across a prairie sunset or pheasants near train tracks in a small South Dakota town.

But the very paint that was the vehicle for creating those images - the lead-based “flake white” that many artists prefer - and those close quarters in which he worked might be contributing to Redlin’s serious medical problems.

Just as his hometown prepares to celebrate the opening of the Terry Redlin Environmental Center in May, the famous Watertown artist lives in a nursing home, no longer able to recognize friends and family.

Terry Redlin’s son, Charles Redlin, declined recent interview requests. But Charles Redlin said in a November 2007 interview with KSFY-TV that his father is suffering from exposure to a chemical found in paint.

“My father is sick. I have to be honest with you. He doesn’t want that hidden,” he said in the interview.

Clinton Stein, 87, Redlin’s cousin, said the artist didn’t recognize him during a visit to the Golden Living Center in Watertown.

“I would love to go and visit how we used to do, but he doesn’t recognize me,” Stein said. “There’s no point in me going.”

Redlin, 72, clearly has left his mark on his hometown. The environmental center will open this May, attached to the Bramble Park Zoo’s Discovery Center. The Redlin Art Center in Watertown will celebrate its 13th anniversary in June.

The $10 million art center has granite floors and displays more than 150 of Redlin’s originals. In Sioux Falls, Redlin has a namesake elementary school, which opened in 1998. Countless collectibles bear the Terry Redlin insignia.

Since the 1977 release of “Winter Snows,” (below) Redlin’s ability to capture a wildlife scene has become legendary.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Then, almost three years ago, he stopped.

The iconic artist announced his retirement in June 2007. Close friends wondered why he would quit his life’s work at age 69.

Forgetting or losing interest in familiar tasks isn’t uncommon as dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, progresses, says Dr. Mark Lounsbery of Sanford Health Adult Medicine Clinic, who is not treating Redlin.

But some close acquaintances offer another explanation - they say Redlin has lead poisoning. The chemical exposure to lead paint might have been killing him slowly.

Redlin loved his work and often would paint for hours, sometimes not even leaving his studio to eat, close acquaintances say.

“I think that the paint had something to do with it,” said Pat Hurkes, 61, of Hurkes Implement Co. in Watertown. Hurkes lives next to Redlin’s lakefront home by Lake Kampeska.

In the art world, paint that contains lead is called flake white. Artists long have used flake white because of its consistency.

“Lead does wonderful things with paint. It creates a nice consistency. It’s manipulative,” said Norman Gambill, head of visual arts at South Dakota State University.

Gambill is not certain when use and availability of flake white began dropping off. But he says other artists in the mid-1960s started taking precautions after learning about its toxicity.

Some artists still use the paint, even though it’s difficult to obtain.

“I still use white lead when I can get it. It makes all paint cover very well,” said Sioux Falls artist Gary Hartenhoff, 74. “The white lead that Terry Redlin would have used would have been oil-based.”

Hartenhoff has used flake white for the past 60 years, ever since he owned a sign company, Hart Signs. Hartenhoff hasn’t had any side effects from the lead, but some of his former employees experienced nerve damage.

Some symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and lead poisoning overlap, such as memory loss and mood disorders. However, no r esearch has linked lead poisoning to Alzheimer’s.

“There is some current hypothesis that exposure to lead could potentially lead to Alzheimer’s years down the road,” Lounsbery said. “There’s by no means research showing that.” Changes noted Even before Redlin retired, close friends noticed changes.

His pen quivered during a signing at a Redlin Art Center event. He skipped his daily walks along Lake Kampeska.

“When he announced his retirement, my wife and I sensed something was wrong,” Hurkes said.

At a July 2008 neighborhood block party, Charles Redlin told Hurkes about his dad’s condition.

“Chuck was distraught having to tell me that. Look at the empire that man and family had built,” Hurkes said.

The Argus Leader last interviewed Redlin (below)  in 2002. A well-known conservationist and Ducks Unlimited supporter, he discussed plans to open the Terry Redlin Environmental Center. The building will include exhibits on native ecosystems, wetlands and the prairie.

Illinois hunting and fishing

Redlin had high hopes for the center and said he hoped it would become a “biological institute” of sorts.

Lake Kampeska Redlin often visited Kampeska Lodge, just minutes away from his home where he lived with his wife, Helene.

Lodge owner Doris Wilkey’s eyes light up at the mention of Redlin’s name.

“You could talk to him, you’d think you’re talking to your next-door neighbor,” she said.

Redlin took the time to remember small-town people, Wilkey said.

“I can’t say enough good things about Terry as a person as well as a painter,” she said.

Longtime Watertown resident Elaine Simon, 81, probably will not visit Redlin. She prefers to remember what he was like as a child. Simon is a second cousin to Redlin.

Redlin was the most well-behaved child in her Sunday School class at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Watertown.

“You couldn’t help love him to pieces,” she said.

Simon also recalled the great contributio n Redlin has brought to Watertown and his painting ability.

“He can paint a picture depicting light,” she said. “You’ll have tears running down your cheeks. He has a way of capturing light like no one else I know.”

Work’s wide appeal Redlin’s prints are bread-and-butter merchandise, said Larry Rehfeld, owner of Rehfeld’s Art & Framing in Sioux Falls.

Rehfeld called Redlin the everyman artist. He didn’t push for an elitist style. “He painted for us middle-class, Joe Blow working people,” Rehfeld said. “He liked what he did, and he just did it. I think his legacy will be a Norman Rockwell-type legacy.”

You could say that Redlin painted for people such as Mae Meseberg.

Meseberg owns the paintings “Prairie Skyline” and “Harvest Moon Ball.” From her home, she has a view of the grain elevator that Redlin modeled the scene from. And the latter painting reminds her of her parents’ barn dances.

Meseberg, 77, grew up on a farm northwest of Water town, a quarter mile from where Redlin’s parents lived. Redlin’s parents, Alfred and Dottie, would take Redlin down to the Big Sioux River to watch the ducks and geese.

“Even at that young age, he loved wildlife,” Meseberg said.

She last saw Redlin, his son and mother at a family reunion about 20 years ago.

“We broke down and cried. It had been so long,” she said.

Redlin also painted for people like Jim Regan of Lake City. Regan watched Redlin, in a video production at the art center, talk about his series “An American Portrait.” Redlin unveiled the series of seven paintings in 2004. The series follows the life of a young
boy who grows up and heads off to war.

The final painting, “His Last Goodbye,” captured Regan’s attention. The mother receives a next-of-kin notification about her son. The family’s dog drops his toy, realizing the soldier won’t be coming home.
Redlin dedicated the series to his brother-in-law, Charles Langenfeld. Langenf eld, a Navy hospital corpsman, was killed during the Vietnam War.

“It’s a very meaningful painting for me,” Regan said.

Redlin appealed to a broad spectrum of people. That will be part of his legacy.

“He didn’t try to be the avant-garde artist,” Rehfeld said. “He just did things that pleased people.”

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Very sad.

Posted by HawgNSonsTV on 03/28 at 08:09 AM

Several of Mr. Redlin’s works decorate our home.
Truly a gifted man.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/28 at 09:04 PM

This is very sad news of a gifted man ,thank the good Lord for men like him !It goes to show that you can have everything, but if you dont have youre health you dont have anything.Pray for him and his family they can use a lot of support .

Posted by trolloni on 03/28 at 09:46 PM

Bryann,do you have a pic. of Mr.Redlin’s “The Birch Line..“If you do ,would you please post it…

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/30 at 08:47 PM

still advertising huh hawg?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/31 at 08:50 PM

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