Rick Gedney ’70 is meticulous about the details. Perhaps it’s why his paintings of Hudson Valley landscapes are easily mistaken for photographs.
His paintings are based on places he visits. He has an “affinity for rivers, streams and water,” which remind him of his early childhood visits to parks and beaches in Port Chester and Rye, New York, where he was raised.
“It’s about seeing the beauty in that one little moment, when the wind has come down and the water ripples, and the sky is illuminated. It’s about being observant, waiting. I look for those kinds of moments.”
After discovering art at Franklin College, Gedney planned to combine a career in painting with teaching guitar. He recalls two professors who “made art come alive.” One, Thomas Locker, a traditionalist who painted in the Hudson River School style, “insisted we needed to learn to draw,” whereas the other, Luigi Crispino, an Italian abstract expressionist, “was all about color — how reds balance against greens, darks against lights.” “I loved Locker’s drawing and his representational work, but I also loved Crispino’s colors and his brush work,” Gedney said.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in studio art, Gedney moved back to the New York area, where he soon found himself mired in a bad economy, married and unable to find teaching jobs. He turned to banking, initially as a teller because “it was kind of easy, and I figured I would paint on the side.” But “kids came along, and I had to make a real living, so I didn’t stick with art. I lacked confidence. I’m still self-conscious that I didn’t follow my heart,” he said.
Nonetheless, even as he moved into real estate finance, Gedney never entirely stopped painting. “I set aside a little space for myself in a corner of our family room. Since I worked with oils, which needed to dry, I was able to do a bit, then stop, deal with family life or go to work, then return to it.”
Along with painting, Gedney loved playing guitar. “I didn’t play in bands anymore, but I always kept playing, privately.”
Then the 2008 economic crisis hit while he was a banking vice president. “I was carrying on this dual career, and I saw an opportunity to get out. I knew if I really wanted to paint, now was the time,” Gedney recalled. “I was so unhappy, because I had gotten so far away from who I was and what I wanted to be doing; there was no choice. Everything was pulling me away from the arts; I reached a point where I could continue on that path or finally get back on the other one. It took a few years, but once I made the decision, everything opened up.”
Beyond painting, he performs with his spouse, Michele, in a musical duo known as Open Book. They have released three albums. Art and music are central parts of the life he enjoys today in Philipstown, New York.
“I don’t do either to make a living. I pursue it because I have to; I can’t not do it,” he says. “It’s about listening to your heart, then following your thoughts and your heart when they’re aligned.”
Written by Alison Rooney/The Highlands Current, (Reprinted with permission. Edited for content and length.)
POSTED Jul 16, 2020