Even though Vernon Rickman worked as a sculptor for the Smithsonian Institution for nearly 30 years, he also created more than 300 oil paintings, numerous sculptures, and hundreds of charcoal drawings in his spare time and during his retirement years in Newton. “He was a Kansan, and he was an artist through and through to the very center of his soul,” said his nephew Ted Scott.
A selection of Vernon Rickman’s reliefs and paintings depicting his various styles — figural, religious, landscape and abstract
— will be on display at Carriage Factory Art Gallery, 128 E.
Sixth St., Newton, beginning with an opening reception and program Saturday, July 9, 7 p.m. The exhibit is part of an oral history project on Rickman’s life. Funding for this program is provided by the Kansas Humanities Council, a nonprofit cultural organization that connects communities with history, traditions and ideas to strengthen civic life.
Mr. Rickman died in 2013, but stacks and boxes of his work continue to be discovered by his family. “Sculpting and painting were his life, “said gallery president Susan Koehn. “We’ve learned that he was a solitary man, a quiet man whose immense talent impressed his art instructors early-on,” she said. “His artistic style speaks to his broad-ranging interests in politics, philosophy, religion and worldview. We featured an exhibit of his work in 2014, and artists and patrons were amazed that Mr. Rickman’s high level of artistry had essentially been unknown in his lifetime.”
Rickman attended Newton High School, where he studied under art instructor Marie Orr. He pursued art studies in Kansas City and Cleveland, Ohio, before serving in the Korean War. After graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in fine arts, he joined the Smithsonian as staff artist and sculptor. He worked on major projects still to be seen at the Smithsonian such as the Ice Age Exhibit in the Museum of Natural History. He sculpted likenesses of the First Ladies, still on display at the Museum of American History.
Kansas author Beverley Olson Buller interviewed seven family members and friends as part of the oral history project about Rickman’s life. “Vernon Rickman is an Emily Dickinson of the art world,” Buller said. “Mr. Rickman emerges as a person who was solitary by choice with a great dedication to his family and who left behind a large volume of work as his ‘letter to the world’.I think people will be amazed at the broad scope of subject matter in his work.”
Buller’s interviews will be preserved and shared in the Newton community and throughout the state, with recordings and transcripts to be archived at the Harvey County Historical Museum and the Kansas State Historical Society.
The public is invited to the opening reception on Saturday, July 9, beginning at 7 p.m. Buller will provide an overview of the life of Vernon Rickman. Rickman’s nephews, Ted and Michael Scott, will share memories of their uncle. Music will be provided by Vada Snider on flute, Ellen Neufeld on oboe, and Heidi Regier Kreider on piano. The event is free.
For more information about the Vernon Rickman exhibit/oral history project, call the gallery at 316-284-2749 or visit the website at www.carriagefactoryartgallery.com