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Arline Erdrich (1936-2011): Aripeka artist shared her life, spirit on canvas

ARIPEKA — The adage that art mirrors life held true for Arline Erdrich.

Putting a brush to canvas was always a personal gesture, where the Aripeka artist could share the innermost parts of her life and spirit. But Ms. Erdrich wasn't an artist who created pretty images. Rather, her renderings were bold, compelling statements that reflected her outlook on life — and often — death.

"Painting was her poetry," Ms. Erdrich's daughter, Karen Greenblatt, said Tuesday. "It was never a matter of wanting to paint, it was a matter of needing to. Any day that she couldn't create was a day that her life was incomplete."

Ms. Erdrich, an internationally recognized abstract artist who painted for more than 30 years, died from heart disease Sunday at Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill. She was 75.

A graduate of the New York School of Art and Design and the Art Students League of the City University of New York, Ms. Erdrich moved to Aripeka in 1983 at the behest of pop artist James Rosenquist. Although her work was rarely shown locally, her paintings were exhibited in the United States and in Europe.

Former Gulf Coast Art Center director Ken Rollins called Ms. Erdrich "an extremely innovative artist" who mastered a self-discovered technique called "acryllage," which uses abstract patterns of paint as a backdrop for other colors, shapes and textures.

"Considering the health issues she faced she was very energetic and resilient," Rollins said. "I think that drove her even more to follow her passion as an artist."

An avid environmentalist, Ms. Erdrich also threw herself into trying to solve the problems of over-development in her adopted hometown of Aripeka, and with other like-minded residents, helped form the Gulf Coast Conservancy.

But while she was warring with developers, Ms. Erdrich also had to battle numerous health problems. Her treatment for Hodgkin's disease in 1973 lead to complications 20 years later when doctors discovered heavy scar tissue in her chest during heart by-pass surgery.

For months, Ms. Erdrich checked in and out of three different hospitals, then underwent a second surgery. In May 2001, a year after her heart attack, doctors told Ms. Erdrich's family she would not live much longer and she was placed into Hospice care.

But Ms. Erdrich proved her doctors wrong.

She weaned herself from the oxygen she received 24 hours a day, and began building her strength through exercise. By the end of the year, she was back in her home studio working on a new series of paintings and preparing for a new exhibit : a 30-year retrospective of her works.

Greenblatt said her mother put a tremendous amount of time into both projects.

"She would paint for 15 or 16 hours a day," Greenblatt recalled. "It was if she was on a mission."

Last year, Ms. Erdrich's health began taking a turn for the worse as her heart failure progressed. According to Greenblatt, she hadn't painted for nearly a year.

"That was very tough for her to deal with," Greenblatt said. "That was her therapy, her way of making things right in her life."

A memorial service for Ms. Erdrich is planned for 1 p.m. May 1 at Brewer & Sons Funeral Home, 1190 S Broad St., Brooksville.

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

Arline Erdrich (1936-2011): Aripeka artist shared her life, spirit on canvas 04/05/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 8:28pm]
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