Sid Rheuban @ CSU Gallery
The artist Sid Rheuban turned eighty last year and uses a walker to get around. But in
Rheuban’s life, most things have a twist, an extra turn of the screw, and in his hands the
walker seems more like hip gym equipment; it’s surprising he hasn’t used his acrylics to
paint racing stripes on it.
Younger visitors to his one-man show can hardly keep up as he speeds around the
polished floors of the gallery at CSU. But if energy equals youthfulness, Rheuban’s physical
and psychic performance is even more remarkable in the paintings that crowd the walls with
vibrant color and a sense of constant motion.
Colonel Sanders, who started his fried chicken empire late in life, once remarked that life
begins at seventy. Rheuban didn’t wait quite that long to stage his rebirth as an artist – but
he was sixty-six when his long-dormant talent for painting began to grow and blossom.
After serving in the United States Navy during the Second World War and later in Korea,
Rheuban found himself doing many different kinds of jobs. He was a reporter for the
Cleveland Press, a salesman for Radio Shack, and Executive Director of the Reform Jewish
Temple for thirteen years – among many other occupations. But being an artist wasn’t on
the list. He tells how as a child in school he was discouraged from drawing by the critical
remarks of an art teacher. When he was 35, a night class in painting proved uninspiring.
The right combination of circumstances didn’t happen until 1990, when he enrolled in an all-
day drawing class at Cuyahoga Community College. At first he endured the usual
depressing remarks about his lack of conventional skills. Then one day everything
changed. He brought a corkscrew to class, rendered it in his usual intense, expressive way
—and was praised for his ability!
That’s all it took.
Fourteen years and several hundred works later Rheuban zooms around a newly-minted
world of canvas, plexi-glass, and paint. At CSU the locomotion is via walker, but in his
Aurora studio he rolls from painting to painting in a wheeled office chair— rolls fast, one
There’s no water and no toilet in the Aurora studio. On the other hand, it has three big
windows with a view of trees and lawn that appear as a backdrop in many paintings. The
only pure landscape in the show is a medium-to-small work titled The Studio Garden, drawn
in ink on green plexi-glass. It depicts a bench, a large central tree, a circle of stones, and a
house amid dense foliage. But the human figure is almost always Rheuban’s main concern
– friends, family members, and himself. One of the simplest and most eloquent works on
view is a model outlined in blue paint. Seated in a chair, she wears a robe loosely around
her shoulders; her large, strangely masculine hands and arms rest on the arms of the
chair. Called Prussian Blue, it is one of several two-sided works on plexiglass hanging from
the gallery ceiling. oints out the mauves and greens in a painting at the west end, then
reverses course and zooms eastward, arriving at a 2-sided work hanging from the gallery
[The Plain Dealer 3/6/05]