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SLU ’69 and ’70: Four Artists and Their Work Since Then

June 2 - June 25, 2010

surfer by john kelly

John Kelly '69, Surfer, digital photograph, 25 x 37 in.

It all began with my first return to St. Lawrence since graduation, for the 30th reunion of the Class of ’70.  Having been an art major, I was hoping to find classmates who had also majored in fine art, or at least taken some studio art classes during those years.  I was curious to learn if, and in what ways, they had used their art backgrounds, either in their careers or in an avocational way.  At that reunion, I didn’t find any art majors, but I did find John Kelly ’69, a history major, who had been in one of my painting classes.  I was delighted to learn that Kelly was having a very successful career as a commercial photographer.

Five years later, as I was making phone calls for my 35th SLU reunion, I continued my search for classmates who had studied art.  By this time, the idea of a small group exhibition, of artist alumni from the classes of ’69 and ’70, was starting to intrigue me.  I looked forward to calling Fred Darfler, whose paintings were a highlight in a class taught by Professor Guy Berard.  As I had anticipated, Fred had continued over the years to create artwork.  Even though his career was in biochemistry (Fred had double-majored in bio-physics and fine art and later earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry), he had too much creative fire to give up painting.

Richard Linke ’69 began teaching photography at Skidmore College while I was living in Saratoga Springs in the 1970s.  I had first met Rick in one of Professor Mike Lowe’s sculpture classes.  Rick’s talent in sculpture was quite apparent, and he was also known on campus for his photography.   When I called Rick recently, he told me that he had just retired from his 35-year career as professor of photography at Skidmore.  He has continued, of course, to make his uniquely creative photographs.

Not long ago, I visited St. Lawrence as an artist-in-residence and made a lithograph with Professor Melissa Schulenberg.  I had spread out several of my earlier lithographs and works on paper on a table in the printmaking studio, to discuss them with Melissa’s students.  Cathy Tedford, director of the Brush Gallery, stopped by to see my work and, during our conversation, she enthusiastically agreed to put this exhibition on the gallery’s calendar.  

With heartfelt thanks to John, Fred, Rick, and Cathy.

Connie Harris Saddlemire ’70

darfler paintinge

Fred Darfler, untitled, n.d.,
acrylic on canvas, 23 1/2 x 12 in.

I realize that this show is to contain only works of fine art, as opposed to music and writing.  And this is unfortunate for me because I haven’t confined myself to painting.  I’ve written two humorous (?) novels and put together two music (blues and bluegrass) CDs.  In addition, in my thirties, I was actively engaged in obtaining a Ph.D. in biochemistry and pursuing laboratory research work that I was convinced would earn me the Nobel Prize in Medicine in the year 1994. When I got over the surprise that I wasn’t selected for the honor, I started my own tiny biotech company and did that for 23 years.  That ended January 1st of 2010, and I am now actively engaged in being a retired scientist and a snowbird, spending winters in Virginia and Florida, and regret not having done it sooner.

As for my painting, I have taken a two-pronged approach.  One style is realistic, at least to start out, and the other is abstract using basically flat geometric shapes.  It was my intention to fuse these two styles and create a unique and utterly astounding and innovative style, but my attempts have been met with complete and dismal failure.  Undiscouraged, I just do realistic or abstract as the mood hits me.

My realistic paintings are landscapes, cityscapes, and portraits.  I start by painting what’s in front of me until it’s reasonably recognizable.  Then, I turn away and change the painting to make it look like I think it should look.  And where it goes, no one knows.  A lot of it is trial and error, and the reason I use acrylic is that it dries fast.  I can quickly get rid of my mistakes, as the words of my mentors haunt me, “Sharpen up those lines, Darfler,” and “Don’t mix paint on the canvas.”  Sigh.

My abstracts typically start with a small piece of cardboard onto which I paste cut geometrical colorful shapes.  Then, I rotate the cardboard 90 degrees and paste some more, and so on.  I keep doing this until I can look at it all four directions and not throw up.  Then I enlarge it by a factor of five to ten and simply paint it on a canvas.  The final stage is to modify the color, light/darkness, etc., to fit the larger piece, because what is OK when small is not necessarily OK when large.  Kind of like children.

That’s it.  That’s what I do.

Fred Darfler ’70



rainbow falls, richard linke

Richard J. Linke '69, Rainbow Falls, Iris inkjet print, 31 x 44 in.

After St. Lawrence, I was off to Ohio University for an MFA in photography.  The SLU Photo Service gave me plenty of practical experience, but in those days, photography as a so-called “fine art” was not part of the academic life on campus.  The art world has never really been completely comfortable with how photography fit in with the higher aesthetic associations of painting and drawing.  And now with the popular (and thus suspect) ease of digital technology and inkjet printers, the battle is still brewing.

I was fortunate in graduate school to have an opportunity to teach, and early on I knew that sharing the exploration and mystery of photography was a perfect fit for me.  I began teaching in the art department at Skidmore College in 1975 and was very happy to make it my life’s career.  My students were always keeping me up-to-date, fresh, and energetic.  So it was with gusto in 1999, that we embraced the new digital world, tore out the old darkrooms, and the students and I built one of the first completely digital photography programs in the country.  Few academics get the opportunity to experience such a dynamic revolution in their chosen field!

I am delighted that my teaching career began with my liberal arts education at St. Lawrence.  I’ve enjoyed the challenge of retraining myself, building a state-of-the-art computer lab, and bringing students into the 21st century.  In a way, by participating in this alumni show at St. Lawrence, my career comes full circle.  Most likely I will not be exhibiting photographic prints on gallery walls again.  After teaching photography for nearly forty years, I am retiring to have time to complete numerous existing projects and move forward with new interests, including working on documentaries for PBS.

I want to complete Exploring the Adirondacks, my first book adventure, featuring digitally restored “classic” artwork from the 1800s.  After gaining extensive experience working on Seneca Ray Stoddard, An American Original, nationally broadcast during 2006-07, I plan to expand my Adirondack book project and create several more HD DVD presentations.

One image in this exhibition, a landscape taken in the Quaraing region in Scotland, is the very last old-fashioned silver wet-lab print that I made.  The rest are digital.

Richard J. Linke ’69

print by connie saddlemire

Connie Saddlemire '70, Twig II,
watercolor/torn paper/twig, 14 1/2 x 9 3/4 in.

Creativity and a love of art and music have been driving forces in my life, if not always the central focus.  I have earned an MA in Studio Art and shown my work in a number of exhibitions, nurtured and supported the creative efforts of my son, volunteered for seven years at a contemporary art museum, and was the aesthetic decision maker—in concert with the architect and builder—in the creation of my house in Colorado.  Over the years, I have continued to regularly visit museums and galleries and to collect the work of other artists.  Music has also been a big part of my life and provides a diverse and ever-changing soundscape that keeps me energized.  My artistic output has been sporadic but mostly with good reason—I make no apologies and have few regrets.  I have always continued to have ideas for new work and look forward to getting into my new studio and bringing them to life.

My artwork follows the twentieth century tradition of geometric abstraction.  The ideas behind my images—the patterns, colors, and textures—come from nature or sometimes from manmade things that show the weathering of time.  I’m also fascinated by the line, in patterns or otherwise.  I’m interested in the various ways that linear patterns appear both in nature and in manmade objects.  I’m curious about all of the things that an isolated line can be, besides “just a line.”  One of my newer motifs is the triangle, and I joke about a subliminal connection to my having been a “Tri-Delta” at St. Lawrence.  As with the line, it’s interesting to contemplate all the things that a triangle can be and the many ways I can use triangles in my artwork.  My images are structured in a simple, geometric way.  But, rather than using only straight lines and right angles, I like what happens when lines are slanted or wavy or fuzzed.

Connie Harris Saddlemire ’70