The striking work of an historic Miami artist and sculptor comes to Tallahassee in a Venvi Gallery special tribute exhibit, The Legacy of Gideon: A Retrospective. The show, which opens April 7 with a reception from 6-9 pm, will be on display until May 17.
Gideon, described as an “artist who borders on being an elemental force,” created an unusually wide range of work that virtually covered the full array of creative styles, from realistic to abstract, impressionistic to contemporary. Over the years he developed revolutionary paints and sculpting compounds, and used and employed a technique and form that enabled him to render sculptures and paintings in a unique way. His signature heavy and thick paint often was an essential element of his art. Coupled with heavy sculptured frames that Gideon made himself, his classic paintings are highly sought by private collectors.
Born in Kansas in 1924, Gideon developed an early interest in art. He retained an ability to innovate and create that sustained him throughout his life, an ability that saw him through Depression Era and Dustbowl challenges, family hardships, and horrific WW II experiences. After enlisting, he was part of the 66th “Black Panther” division, then placed in Field Artillery before ultimately gaining Army Ranger status. It was as an Army Ranger in Austria that he witnessed the concentration camp horrors that haunted his dreams and waking hours, and influenced the poignancy of many of his powerful portraits.
Obsessed and haunted by the visions he experienced, he went on to paint and sculpt some of the most harrowing and poignant images of post-Holocaust Europe.
His life experiences, particularly in guarding SS soldiers and working with victims liberated from the concentration camps, are evident in his superb Gideon Holocaust Collection, which includes front-line sketches, paintings, and sculptures, some life-size.
After the war, with "decorations for valor, memories of the kind of combat duty that scars you somewhere inside, and $300," Gideon moved to Miami. Once settled in, he began a very successful art career that spanned more than five decades. Thousands of Gideon artworks were commissioned to beautify the walls of businesses and hotels in the continental United States, as well as in Cuba, Haiti, Aruba, Toronto, and Jamaica.
Eventually, Gideon began to turn his emphasis from large scale commissions to devote his energies to more personal work, what he called “serious work.” Then, in 2002, after fifty-six years in Miami, he moved at age 78, with his large remaining art collection and supplies, to Thomasville, Georgia. His artist-wife, Heather Gideon, is from Valdosta, Georgia, and they enjoyed the peace that comes with a more tranquil environment. He passed away in 2010.
Hopes remain for a private collector or museum that would acquire the collection of over 5000 original works. Luckily for Tallahassee, however, the Venvi Gallery will have available in the exhibit a representative showing of his extraordinary artwork. The opening wine and cheese reception of The Legacy of Gideon: A Retrospective, held from 6-9 on April 7, is free and open to the public. The exhibit closes May 17.