A very gifted local artist is showcasing some of his newest works in an exhibit currently showing at the White Gallery in downtown Red Deer.
Larry Reese, who lives near Sylvan Lake, is extremely talented in a number of ways (he taught at Red Deer College in the performing arts department for many years having just recently retired). His work has also been featured in The Main Gallery & Framing Studio here in Lacombe.
Local audiences have enjoyed his superb efforts as seen through film, acting plus directing students in performances over the years.
These days, he has turned his attention squarely to painting – an artform that offers him a wonderful sense of fulfillment and joy.
Seeing the works set up at the White Gallery – located in Sunworks – for the first time is also a terrific opportunity, he said.
“It’s called the ‘Four Seasons’, and it’s featuring landscapes,” he explained of the theme to the show. “I would say that about 75 per cent of the work is new and 25 per cent has been on display before, but never on sale,” he said.
“It’s also, for me, a huge stepping stone because this is the first major show that I’ve been able to do since retirement,” he said, adding that it’s something of a new adventure these days with the freed-up time to devote to painting.
“Now, I’m not Larry Reese the actor, or the instructor at Red Deer College – I am a painter now – that’s who I am,” he added, chuckling. “I want to see if I can bypass the, ‘Oh, he’s an actor who paints or he’s a teacher for whom it’s a hobby’. I don’t want to be a hobbyist – I want to be a painter.”
Of course, Reese has been a professional painter for many years, but as mentioned, the other commitments took up their fair share of his time and energy.
Looking forward, he has a new spring in his step about the creative possibilities yet to be explored.
“Every day, I paint. Every day. It’s a matter of discipline and it’s a matter of honing the craft to such an extent that when those creative juices flow, I will be able to respond because I will have the tools to respond with.
“That’s part of the aspect of being an artist that I don’t think a lot of people consider – the work behind it – the time and the work. Take a musician at a concert – you don’t hear them playing their scales at a concert, but you sure know that their technique is good.
“It’s the same with art – the brushstrokes, the ways that the colours are mixed, the ways that the paint lays on the canvas, the differences in intensity, in hues, in value and all of those other aspects that create the illusions of what is in your mind.
“I’ve been labeled as somewhat of a realist painter – and it’s definitely about landscapes. But I like to think that I sneak in a whole bunch of abstractions into the realist paintings, too.”
He refers to one of the paintings to be featured in the show that has some purple trees in it, for example. “There are some colours that you don’t naturally see in Mother Nature’s glory,” he explained. “But they speak to me in terms of what I perceive when I look at Mother Nature’s glory.
“So it’s an interpretation of the visual imagery and the imagination coming together,” he said.
“I also like the idea of being a bit eclectic.”
Reese originally hails from Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, and immigrated to Canada in 1961.
Painting proved an early interest, as did music.
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 also 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, as already mentioned, at RDC for many years where he was 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.
But back to the painting.
Reese is in a good place now, reflecting on how happy he is to be expressing himself this way and also how pleased he is to be showcasing some work at the White Gallery.
“I have been waiting a year and a half to get a show into the White Gallery,” he said, adding that Sunworks owner Paul Harris and his staff have all done a super job of supporting and helping local artists especially.
“For me, it was a big thrill to get the call,” he said with a smile. “So I’m very excited about it.”
There is an opening reception for the show on the evening of Sept. 8th.