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Feature Story
reed magazine logoAutumn 2008


Living with #29

On a painting by David Reed 68

By Charles Rhyne

I live with David every day. I see him as I come down the stairs in the morning, hanging on the wall beside my mother’s piano. David gave me the painting after his 1975 exhibition at Reed College, which I organized with him and his New York Gallery at the time, Susan Caldwell. Since then, #29, 1974, has hung on that same wall, a modern presence in an otherwise traditional parlor. Like most things in my home, everything in that room is personal, but nothing else so conveys the presence of the person.

I wish I had seen David paint that panel, though that would clearly have been an intrusion. Nevertheless, I have tried repainting it with him many times. The urge is not so compelling as with the multi-panel stripe paintings in the same exhibition, on which the pigment-filled brush runs strongly left to right across the wet, white surface, leaving exciting drippings which take on a life of their own, each stroke ending in a final release. #29 is gentler, the strokes flowing together across the entire canvas, the technique more subtle, drawing us in to savor the exquisitely refined striations.

David Reed exhibition

1975 David Reed exhibition, Faculty Office Building, Reed College

David entered Reed as a freshman in fall 1963, and spent the year between his junior and senior years at the New York Studio School on a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship. I was on leave his first and last years at Reed so we had only one marvelous year of classes together. Little matter: David arrived at Reed the same year as Bill Midgette, with whom a mutually rewarding friendship developed in their first year and continued until Bill’s tragic death at 40, in 1978. Bill was a wonderfully supportive mentor for David, teaching him to be true to himself and exemplifying an absolute commitment to being an artist. This was, above all, Bill’s legacy to David, who had classes with Bill, including his senior thesis, throughout his years at Reed. Moreover, David’s time at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine and at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program in New Mexico was closely associated with Bill.

For those who were not here in the 1960s, the peripheral place of art in the Reed curriculum at that time is difficult to imagine. When I came to Reed in 1960, and when Bill Midgette came in 1963, there was no sequence of courses in art history or studio art—basically, no department. There was the inspiring teaching and example of Lloyd Reynolds, who taught both the only art history course and calligraphy, the only regularly scheduled studio art course. Over the years, quite a few students had graduated as art majors through individually arranged programs or through the joint five-year program with the Museum Art School. But in 1968, David and four other students were the first to graduate with an inclusive art major at Reed, and it was two more years before the first three art majors graduated with art history theses. These students helped us to see what an art major at Reed should be like.

reed magazine logoAutumn 2008