The Woman in My Office
Danica Sveda (AA, ’10)
When I started working at the Casper College Foundation and Alumni Association, I inherited the office from my predecessor Linda Nix. There was a large portrait of a woman staring into space with her cross-stitch laying in her lap. Her hair is perfectly coiffed, she is wearing a lady’s suit jacket and a subtle smile, it’s almost imperceptible, and it’s hard to tell if she’s smiling at all. I commented on the painting right away; I was in love. Linda smiled and said, “Not everyone likes it.” Another co-worker piped up, expressing her dislike of the painting. And so it has gone during my time in the office. Visitors never fail to comment on the painting — it inspires strong reactions because it is such a large presence in the office.
The artist remained a mystery for some time until Valerie Innella-Maiers, a Casper College art instructor, stopped by. She has been working on cataloging the college’s art collection, and I asked her if she might know who the painter was. Without hesitation, she said, “Earl Reed.” His scratchy signature suddenly became clear. Earl Reed was the first art instructor at Casper College, and he had indeed painted the portrait.
Born in Nebraska in 1893, Reed started painting in the Hudson River School genre, which consisted of romantically themed pastoral landscapes with humans and the environment coexisting peacefully. Albert Bierstadt represents the genre in his majestic landscape paintings that portray dramatically lit landscapes. Reed later attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the oldest art school in the United States, and the University of Nebraska and the Chicago Art Institute. He worked in Chicago for a time as a commercial artist.
Reed came west in 1940 and moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then relocated to Casper, where he became an art instructor at Natrona County High School. When Casper College started on the third floor of NCHS, he took the art instructor position with the new junior college. He spent the rest of his career teaching at Casper College. During his time teaching, he continued to paint. Casper College has a collection of his landscapes, wildflowers, and architectural drawings. The portrait hanging in the alumni office is the only portrait. In it, he uses light to play on the face of the subject as it washes across the back wall. Her hands paused as she sits on a simple wooden chair give the observer the time to consider what might have caught her attention. Is she simply lost in thought or pausing to reply to a question? Her bright blue eyes gaze into the distance.
That is what great art is about, isn’t it? Great art makes the admirer reflect or even recoil, but it produces reactions. Reed continued to teach even after retirement. He became a private teacher to those interested in developing their skill.
Note: If any of our readers have other Earl Reed paintings or took classes, Footprints would love to collect your stories. Also, we have often wondered who the subject of the portrait in the alumni office is. Please let us know if you have information about the woman in the portrait.