Local artist Larry Reese has a way of drawing folks in via his extensive collections of paintings, but that is only one of his many modes of expression.
Reese is also a film instructor at Red Deer College, a filmmaker, a director, an accomplished actor and a musician.
These days, his latest exhibit, ‘The Eclectic Eccentric’, features paintings, illustrations, sketches, sculptures, films, and music. The showcase runs through to the end of April at the Welikoklad Event Centre Gallery in downtown Red Deer.
An opening reception is set for March 4th at 7 p.m. Other highlights of the evening will be a screening of Mapping Creativity, an insightful documentary Reese was involved with a few years back. It’s a 45-minute version of the original film. Musicians Corey and Craig Gomez will also be on hand.
Meanwhile, as described in a release, “At once a landscape painter, you will also see abstractions, illuminations, and interpretations of all-encompassing life.”
Many of the landscape paintings will have a recognizable feel to them, having captured the natural beauty of Central Alberta vistas. Others reflect environments around Yellowknife, which offered a number of challenging yet mesmerizing images all their own. “I’ve got three big paintings that reflect my impressions of the Canadian shield around Yellowknife.
“Old-town Yellowknife which is situated right on the edge of a lake is one of the most colourful, eccentric places you can imagine. There’s lots of houseboats – one will be bright pink, another one is yellow – I mean Canary yellow – and another is cobalt blue. And they’re right next to each other, so there is this waterfront of colour.”
Reese points out that one of the pieces is done in his ‘solid colour style’, which of course is injected with his unstoppable creativity. There’s almost a ‘pulse’ that empowers his works – many feel somehow alive – almost like the viewer could walk right into the unique tones of ‘movement’ of the various pieces. Sometimes, it’s almost like the process is self-directing – “It’s like nature is telling what to do,” he laughs, referring to the elements in a given painting.
He also paints in a style he calls ‘fantasy realism’ – where there is a realistic nature to it but it’s intricately stylized at the same time. Overall, he’s always on the lookout to broaden his scope in terms of expressing himself.
“What I’ve also been doing is some exploring with technique, and I’m always searching for something that is recognizably mine.”
Reese originally hails from Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, and immigrated to Canada in 1961. Painting proved an early interest, as did music.
According to his RDC biography, he has lived all over the world including stints from Dacca, Bangladesh, to London, England to Guadalajara, Mexico. These experiences, soaking up the richness of various cultures, also seeped into his work. Reese’s paintings are consistently bold, intricate and strikingly original interpretations of the world around him.
In 1974, he earned a Bachelor of Music in composition from the University of Alberta and has composed numerous songs, stage musicals, and film scores. Television movie credits include Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Oklahoma City – A Survivor’s Story and In Cold Blood. He’s also played recurring roles on several series such as Jake and the Kid, North of 60, and Lonesome Dove.
As an acting teacher he has taught at the University of Alberta, Grant MacEwan College and at RDC for many years where is the head of performance for the Motion Picture Arts Program.
In terms of acting, he’s appeared in such acclaimed films as Brokeback Mountain and Unforgiven, both of which were partly filmed in Alberta.
As for the current exhibit, Reese appreciates the conversations he has with folks who drop by to check out the art.
“I’m excited and terrified to get feedback from people,” he said with a laugh. “On the other hand, why are you an artist if you aren’t going to put the work out there? That’s always the challenge – if you aren’t willing to take that risk and put it out there, and open yourself up to criticism and whatever, then I think you stop being an artist. You get too complacent.”
These days, Reese has his eye on retiring from teaching in a few years, so to that end, he’s establishing himself more and more as a painter. But teaching has, in its own way, provided him with a rich education as well.
For Reese, having several means of artistic expression in his life brings a sense of renewal.
He has pointed out that they tend to ‘feed’ each other. Inspiration for one genre infuses a new creativity to be expressed in another way – and so on.
“You can’t call up your subconscious at will,” he once explained of the mysteries of creative expression. “But you can plant seeds.”
As for his own path, it has been – and continues to be – an amazing source of fulfillment.
“I think I’m a successful painter if somebody looks at my painting and can take a trip ‘into’ the painting,” he explained.
“I want people to feel the temperature, to feel the weather, the wind, and to feel the sun,” he said. “That, I think, would be a huge accomplishment.
“For me, I’ve always liked a painting that can take me on a journey.”