Nine Decades of Reflection
by Charles Reddington
On my 90 the birthday I thought I might start reflecting my long life as an artist
and art historian.
1st and 2nd decades
I was born in Chicago in 1929, just before the stock market crash that turned every
life in the USA upside down, including that of my family.
My parents of Irish/Swedish background had a thriving plumbing business. With a
family of three boys, everything was running smoothly until disaster struck. The
My father could not handle the loss of his business and was not able to take care of the young family. He left soon after, leaving my mother and her mother with the three boys to raise. I was the youngest. We moved in with relatives and life was a bit chaotic to say the least.
My elder brother Tom was now the head of the family. Even with my mother’s strength and support, it was a big task for a twelve year old. My brother Dick, only two years older than me, was a difficult and willful boy who surely missed the guiding hand of a father. He made my young life rather miserable with his wild and irrational behavior.
I was a dreamer and could spend hours just watching the world go by. By the time I started schooling in the south of Chicago in a very mixed ethnic environment I was mostly interested in sports and history, in particular art history. If I was lucky enough to find some paper and pens, I just hid somewhere drawing and sketching for hours. My older brother Dick used to make fun of me and destroyed my treasured little creations.
When I was ten my beloved grandmother of Swedish descent suddenly died. This was a great loss because she believed in my early talents. Around the same time another little brother arrived. Baby brother Bob came as a total surprise to all of us and shifted my mother’s attentions.
Later, when it was time to further my education, I managed to secure a scholarship at the Art Institute of Chicago. Of course, I had to work as well to support my studies and living costs at home. I did gas and oil deliveries and unpacked trolleys at night.
At that stage, my older brother Tom had left home and joined the Airforce and my brother Dick became an apprentice for a plumbing business.
These were the formative years for me creatively and personally. Studying at the Chicago Art institute opened my eyes and ears to the outside world. I was suddenly exposed to the great arts of Europe, in particular to Italian and French masters. It also opened my mind to new tastes in music and food. At that stage, I was mostly fascinated by classical Middle European music such as Wagner, Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler, etc. I believe these new sensual experiences influenced my early artistic education.
During my studies I also worked at various laboring jobs, which left me little time to devote to my art. Once I finished my degree I worked for a short period in a graphic art business but I felt this was not my artistic calling.
I met my first wife who was Australian and happened to be an artist model. We moved to Australia, where I instantly got a position as a lecturer at the Melbourne Institute of Art and later Sydney. During that time I got involved with a group of young artist such as Robert Hughes, Bob Klippel , Colin Lancely, Emanuel Raft and John Ohlsen. We became the face of a new art movement. Our artistic home was the Paddington Hotel, where we would discuss and elaborate on our new ideas of art in Australia. This eventuated in the forming of the Hungry Horse Group. That was of course at the time were Jackson Pollack made his debut in the USA.
Later I was offered a position to establish the School of Art in Adelade, South Australia. During that time, my work became very strong in color and form, and my creative juices were flowing in massive spurts. I also became the proud father of my son Bjorn and later daughter Shoshan.
Unfortunately, my family situation became somewhat complicated and I opted to take a position in London for a period of a year. This proved not to be a good decision and I returned to the USA to get my master’s degree in art and art history.
4th and 5th decade
During this period, my style changed drastically and my work became much more figurative. After earning my master’s degree, I was offered a position as associate professor in fine art at the Indiana state University in Terre Haut. I stayed more than 20 years as full professor in the fine arts department.
I immensely enjoyed forming and educating young lives to develop and channel creative talents. I still enjoy ongoing contacts with some of my students. I so adored mentoring young lives and seeing their artistic ideas develop. In my spare time, I worked in my own studio and continued with my own art development.
My son Bjorn lived with me during this time, and later my daughter Shoshan and my new wife Carol Sue joined our family unit.
During my time at the University, I had the opportunity to connect with international artist programs world-wide and attend various international artist in residence programs in Italy, Iceland, and Australia. These experiences made me realize that I needed to extend my artistic horizon and after my early retirement from the university as professor Emeritus I was able to travel the world and explore new ways of putting my art experiences to canvas.
6th, 7th, and 8th decade
I returned to Australia, a place I adored. I took up artist of residence at the Dunmoochin art community in Melbourne. There I connected with amazing individuals and fellow artists, such as my dear eccentric friends Frank and Lee Werther. During that time met my present wife, Rommie, and we formed a wonderful partnership that lasted for over 20 years.
We explored many places in Australia, lived in Vic, NSW, visited QLD and took every opportunity to travel. On one of these trips we discovered a small country in the Andes called Ecuador. I was fascinated by the ancient cultures of Ecuador and South America. we decided to live there for a while to process all the emotions and feelings this country had to offer.
Firstly, we established ourselves in Cuenca, an ancient city full of old world charm and culture. Unfortunately, the high altitude and cool climate did not agree with my ongoing lung issues and we moved to a small village called Vilcabamba, further south in the district of Loja. The climate and altitude here is perfect. Spring forever. We found an amazing place to live with perfect studio space and views forever. I created daily. We associated with many expats from all over the world and formed many friendships. Most people here are amazingly friendly and helpful.
During our time in Ecuador my son Bjorn visited us several times and it was fun to share this different cultural experience with him.
I just celebrated my 90th birthday. Unfortunately, I was not in best health, my lungs are giving up. We just returned from a three month trip to Australia, which was very enjoyable but also exhausting. I am happy to be reunited with our animals and to be in my studio. Our present abode gives us the best of everything, studio space, close to the village and amazing views over the valley where Incas settled many years ago. There is a view to the mountain called Mondego (sleeping Inca). I am never bored with the views over this amazing Valley. I am still full of ideas but not much energy. I have to work on that. A daily glass of whisky should help.
Charles passed away on April 13, 2021. He was making coffee as usual, and suffered from a heart attack. He lead a full, colorful, and artistic life until his last day.