Artist for all Time: Clarence E. Van Duzer, Rest In Peace

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Sat, 01/31/2009 - 01:22.

Clarence E. Van Duzer at Convivium 33

I was very saddened to learn today we lost a great artist, loved friend and family to many, and inspirational Clevelander with the passing of Clarence E. Van Duzer. I knew Van Duzer as a family friend and always was inspired and energized by talking with him, his work, and his approach to life. At our last meeting, at his Convivium opening, in 2006, he was so strong and clear it seemed he would live on forever.

His life and work seemed of another reality. One of my most Cleveland moments was visiting Van Duzer at his then-new studio on the Cuyahoga River, in the Flats, in the early 1970s - this was the most remarkable and artistic personal lifestyle statement in the history of the region. There by the Burning River was one sign of sanity and intelligence, yet by all appearances this life was insane... nobody had a studio and lived in the Flats. I've loved the Flats ever since.

The last showing of his work I saw was spectacular. Van Duzer looked great - he was strong and inspired - his work sparkled at Convivium and it was excellent - beautiful, warm, energetic, emotional, mature paintings and strong, compact, thought-provoking sculpture. Write up here... a nice example from the show below.

Clarence Van Duzer painting

Van Duzer was under-appreciated by far too many in the "art scene" here.

Van Duzer's loss is the latest of many the local arts community will suffer in the coming years, as Van Duzer is of a great generation of late Cleveland School artists who made Cleveland a globally important creative source in the 1970s. Many are creating great art today, that should be collected and appreciated today.

Now is an important moment for interspection within the arts community today.

I feel very fortunate to have known Van Duzer, shared my appreciation for him and his art with him, and learned from him - he inspired me to be a sculptor, to view life from my own perspectives of reality, and to care about Cleveland at the very core.


Van Duzer Opening at Convivium 33

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Nice Bio on "Van"

From googling... from Museum of Florida:

C.E. Van Duzer ~ Artist
 “Van” to his many friends and colleagues, “Red” (from his youthful red hair) to his family, has lived in Cleveland, Ohio, most of
his life.  He was born Clarence E. Van Duzer, Jr., in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, on November 12, 1920.  The family moved to Cleveland from
St. Louis, Missouri, in 1926, and Van began his education.  At the Gordon Elementary School and later the Halle Elementary School on
Cleveland’s West Side, he was recognized at a very young age for artistic talent.  Male students were required to wear ties, and for those
who forgot, the teacher had Van draw and cut out a paper or cardboard tie to be pinned on.
  His secondary education continued at Thomas Jefferson Junior High School, and then West Technical High School.  His
brother, Bill, had entered three years earlier majoring in art; Brother Bill became the biggest influence on “Red’s” career.  His teacher, Paul
Ulen, was considered one of the great teachers in the school system.  He recognized Van’s talent and pressed him to enter many      
competitions.  In a city-wide poster contest by the American Road Builder’s Association, he was awarded a First Prize of $300.  Upon
graduation from West Tech, he was also awarded a one year tuition scholarship through the National Scholastic Awards.  It is said that
our personalities and our abilities are both hereditary and environmental.  Van has both.  His father was an entrepreneur and inventor, his
mother was a vivacious and warm hearted Slovenian, and with his brother Bill in graphic arts, Van was immersed in a creative and artistic
life.  He entered the Cleveland School (later Institute) of Art in 1939, but something more was needed.  He applied for a Fellowship at the
Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  While he waited, he went “on the road.”
Van was always an independent soul, and traveling gave him time to think and see things beyond the neighborhood in Cleveland.  He
worked odd jobs, reaching New Mexico before turning back for home.  A phone call to his mother, and he got the news:  acceptance at
Cranbrook on a one year fellowship!  His experience at Cranbrook Academy was not really a “turning point” but rather a “jelling” or     
solidification of his thoughts and a major influence on his future as an artist.  “It was a community of artists.  You lived in, worked with,
were surrounded by art every day.”  Cranbrook had resident faculty in every major discipline….painting, sculpture, ceramics, everything to
stimulate creativity.  Van studied painting under Zoltan Sepeshy in a master/apprentice format.  There were few formal classes; each 
student had a small studio and there were frequent visits and group critiques.  Van learned much about painting….and criticism.  Zoltan,
he said, “could with a few words cut to the core and you would say of course!  Now I see”.  
  Van was absorbed by this life.  He met his future wife, Grace, here.  But the outside world would intrude in a shattering fashion.
December 7, 1941:  the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  “Everything stopped.”  Van said.  The director of Cranbrook closed the      
Academy and sent everyone home.  Though the school reopened at a later date, Van never completed his one year fellowship.  He   
returned to Cleveland and re-entered the Cleveland School of Art, and Adelbert College at Case Western Reserve University.  At the
same time, he worked the night shift at the Cleveland Fisher Aircraft Plant as a general foreman in the engineering department, producing
the B-29 bomber.  But to finish his studies, he left the bomber plant and took a position at Warner-Swaze, where he could get a schedule that allowed him to complete his education.  He received a BS Degree in Art Education from Adelbert College, being
named “Top Student” in his graduating class.  He also received the Agnes Gund Memorial Scholarship, for graduate study, upon graduation in 1945.  Van selected Yale University for his graduate study.  He earned a Master of Fine Art degree and was named
“Standard Bearer” of his graduating class.  
  In 1947, Van was invited to join the faculty at the Cleveland School of Art.  He spent two years teaching art history, color composition and figure drawing.  Another opportunity called, and in 1948 he moved to Denver, Colorado, and became Professor
of Advanced Painting at the University of Denver.  After five years at Denver, he became the Director of the Flint Institute of Art, a museum and school of art in Flint, Michigan.  After five years there, he to returned to teaching and devoted more time to his own
creative work.
  In September 1957, Van was invited back to the faculty at the now Cleveland Institute of Art, teaching painting and drawing until his retirement from teaching in 1989.  He was named Professor Emeritus by the Cleveland Institute of Art.  So that’s his
academic career.  But there is much, much more to Van’s life than teaching and painting.  While on the faculty at the Cleveland Institute, Van built a studio/workshop in the Flats area of Cleveland.  Here he had the space to create some of his largest, and   
perhaps most seen work, in three dimensional sculpture.
  One of Van’s fellow faculty members from the Cleveland School was Joseph Jankowski, who was appointed art consultant at a Polish Catholic seminary, St. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Michigan.  For their new chapel on the   
campus, some major sculptures were envisioned.  Joe Jankowski knew just the person to create them: his colleague, Van Duzer.  A meeting was arranged with the Monsignor of the seminary. 
  Van was drawn to the concept and accepted a five year commitment to create and install the project.  Copper sheeting was chosen as the sculpture medium, rather than castings, so Van taught himself how to form and braze copper sheeting to create
three dimensional figures.  He cut, formed by hand and brazed all the figures literally by himself at his studio in Cleveland.  There were 11 apostles (Judas is not included) and Jesus in the Last Supper grouping.  Each was made slightly taller than life size and
finished in a linseed oil formula that gives them a warm glow.  Over the altar is a 9 foot crucifix, also in copper but finished in a copper oxide “vergidis” color.  And outside, over the entrance, is the 26 foot “Our Lady of Orchard Lake”, also finished in copper/green
  Van created other sculptures in copper and many are on display around Cleveland.  He also created many 3-D sculptures in stainless steel.  These were fabricated at a foundry in Cleveland, from models sculpted by Van in his studio.  The most well
known of the stainless steel sculptures is “Global Flight and Celebration,” commissioned by the City of Cleveland and installed at the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.  Other, smaller stainless steel sculptures were commissioned and installed at shopping
malls owned by David and Richard Jacobs. 
  Van still paints and creates nearly every day.  He has a studio in Ohio City on Lorain Avenue in Cleveland, near the West Side Market and other historic sites.


Disrupt IT

Memorial to Clarence Van Duzer

  I work at the Brooklyn Branch of the Cleveland Public Library that features a metal sculpture by Clarence Van Duzer.  The sculpture depicts the steel valley skyline.  We get frequent appreciative comments on the piece and I have loved to tell patrons about the warm and generous person Clarence Van Duzer.  

I am so sad that I will have to tell people he has died.  We have a regular patron Charles Seward with a long and colorful past similar to Clarence Van Duzer.  I will have to take his picture soon, too, because he is feeling his mortality in his eighties.  Both of these men seem so immortal and strong to me.

Norm-thank you for this. 

Norm-thank you for this.  It is a beautiful memory for me and and now a wonderful tribute to a man that only comes around once in a lifetime.  I am so grateful to have experienced him.  His memorial information include: Service at 11 am this Monday -February 2, 2009 at the Church of the Covenant at 11205 Euclid Ave. Cleveland Ohio 44106  216.421.0482


Van Duzer and the Lead Chicken Award

lead chickenImage of the lead chicken...

This is a great story about Van Duzer and his mates at CIA. Snubbed by Sherman Lee's May Show, they made an award of their own: The Lead Chicken Award.

The story by Dottie Shinn of the Akron Beacon Journal is a good one, but you'll have to search the Cleveland Public Library database to read it in its entirety. It's worth the visit (, click on do research search van duzer)

Here's an excerpt:

"Birth of Lead Chicken

The Lead Chicken Award was born because of the turnabout at the May Show. But it was a reversal that took place a good 20 years after Abstract Expressionism literally ran traditional art out of the galleries in New York.

"These guys couldn't get into the May Show, yet their students were getting in and winning awards," complained Boncela.

"They got tired of it. They discussed boycotting the show and not entering. They didn't all boycott, but seven or eight of them left it, mainly painters and drawing teachers. They revolted against the May Show not accepting traditional stuff and accepting just anything else."

Those who boycotted rallied with a fake chicken award, which began as a series of wisecracks in the CIA faculty room: "One of them made the comment that 'if we were farmers, our chances of getting into the May Show would be better,' " Boncela recalled.

"Louis Bosa said, 'Maybe in my next life I will be a farmer.' Then Clarence Van Duzer said, 'Well, guys, it looks like we've got a chicken among us."

Jankowski bought Van Duzer a plastic chicken as a gag birthday present.

In 1970, when Bosa was retiring from the art school, the group wanted to give him a memento, Boncela said. "So Van Duzer took his plastic chicken and cut its head off, then had a mold made of it and had it cast in lead and presented it to Bosa at his retirement party.

"By 1978, when John Teyral retired, they realized the Lead Chicken Award had become an honor, so they decided to give it to him and to do this whenever someone who had done well and helped other artists in Northeast Ohio retired."

The award was given every year after that until 1995, when Van Duzer , who had begun the tradition, retired and received a Lead Chicken Award of his own."

Van Duzer's work is also in the Cleveland Cultural Gardens

The Estonia Garden.  Not a great shot, but the best I could find online. Norm, could you visit with a camera?

This wonderful untitled work was commissioned for the Cleveland Public Library Slavic Village Branch.

untitled C.E. Van Duzer


Tradesman Van Duzer

  Last year, I met up with a bunch of architect friends of C.E. Van Duzer.  They had commissioned him to do a mural for the restaurant Tradesman Tavern in Parma. 

I am going to head out there and see if I can get a photo.  The young architects really tapped into Van Duzer's energy.  It is an energy that I have to find for myself.

CE Van Duzer Forever Young

I won't be able to make the service tomorrow, but I hope that some one mentions that C.E.Van Duzer was forever own favorite artist falls in the same category :)

Van's radio interview

Another under appreciated Cleveland artist ...

Sadly I am only just realizing what a talented artist C.E. Van Duzer was. Why did'nt Cleveland appreciate him? Why did the PD snub him? --There was only a death notice on Sunday. Surely even with their remaining skeleton crew someone could have scrambled together a few paragraphs about him.

I loved the show at Convivium last year. Thank you Alenka!

Around NOON today

  WCPN will reair Dee Perry's interview with Cleveland legend C.E. Van Duzer.  Listen closely to this soft-spoken interview and learn how perserverance and humor can keep you sane and forever young in NEO.  Thanks to Alenka for the information.

A magnificent MAN

Van Duzer obituary

Van Duzer Memorial

The memorial to Clarence Van Duzer at St. Josaphat Arts Center/Convivium33 was a heartwarming and joyful experience befitting the man.  A foundation has been established to help students attend the Cleveland Institute of Art.