Deconstructing the Avant Garde: Ed McCartan’s Art Retrospective

When my dad moved into the nursing home, I didn’t think an art show would be possible. I shelved the idea of a gallery opening. His amazing work has only been shown publicly at outdoor art shows once or twice, more than fifty years ago. He has always been a humble man and he remains unrecognized for a large body of artwork created during his lifetime.

Ed McCartan Self-portrait

Ed McCartan’s self-portrait.

Then Hospice took over. They came up with an idea to do a retrospective at the nursing home where he is living, the Evansville Manor, a few blocks from my parents’ house in Evansville, Wisconsin. Danny and I had to go.

Drawing had helped my dad with the transition into the nursing home. He would sit in the window of his small room and sketch from photographs or from a book of animals. A few weeks before the show, he stopped drawing.

Ed McCartan Art show 2

Dad and Mom.

My mom had framed many pieces over the course of the last year. He had forty paintings to show. We set them up in order from earliest to latest work.

Ed McCartan with Linda and Pat Zielinski

My cousin Patrick Zielinski and his wife, Linda, helped Danny, my brother, Joe, and me set up.

Ed McCartan art show

Ed McCartan Art Show

Ed McCartan Abstract art

Tug Boat by Ed McCartan

Art Show Ed McCartan

The show chronicled his early days on the farm in the town of Lake Five, our life in Madison, and family vacations, to the avant-garde and deconstructed drawings of the last year, due to dementia.

This was the portrait room. Why the bird painting? Dad painted it after my brother, Joe, was born. Three hungry mouths to feed. Danny noticed a lot of humor conveyed in Dad’s artwork.

The Portrait room Ed McCartan

Three hungry mouths to feed

Portrait of Patty and Susie


American Family Insurance recognized Dad for designing their logo. My brother is standing in the back. Yes. He got all of the height in the family.

American Family Insurance and logo designer Ed McCartan

American Family Insurance and logo designer Ed McCartan 1

Family and friends attended the show. Steve Pagelow, Joe, Danny’s sister, Lori Pagelow, Mike Siemion and you know the rest. I’m showing off my double jointed elbows. AKA Susie Slicer on the court.

Lindau McCartan family

Ed and friends

Ed McCartan art show 3

My cousins, Eileen Soto and Dan Kieliszewski, and Uncle Ted Kieliszewski drove from Milwaukee. DSC08852

Dad really enjoyed seeing his artwork again. I loved the old show cards which became billboards when he worked at Hansen Outdoor Advertising as their art director.

Mom and Dad Art showShow cards by Ed McCartan

How did Danny end up in a show card from the early 1960’s?

Danny skiing Ed McCartan show card

It was ironic to see the drawings he did while quarantined in the Air Force for rheumatic fever. That’s why he’s in the nursing home. Dad’s heart is functioning at 15% due to valve damage from that disease.

Ed McCartan in the Air Force drawings

Ed McCartan art show 4

He painted quite a few abstracts

Ed McCartan 1

Ed McCartan 2

and many watercolors.

Ed McCartan log cabin

Ed McCartan Edmund Fitzgerald

His drawings and watercolor sketches filled six tables. I only picked a few of them for the show. Somewhere there’s an album filled with the logos he designed under his own name, McCartan Advertising.

Ed McCartan drawings

Ed McCartan drawings

The ones he drew since having dementia are wonderfully distorted.

Our deer Friend Ed McCartan

Ed McCartan drawings with dementia

Ed McCartan and dementia

Ed McCartan drawings

Pope Francis by Ed McCartan

After growing up surrounded by art, it was amazing to see it all displayed. The next day, I discovered another stack of drawings and large watercolors in his office at home. Who knows what I might find in their attic?

That Monday, my parents celebrated their 58th Wedding Anniversary.

McCartan family

I know my sister, Patty, would have loved to have celebrated with us. Ah, the life of a working girl.

I’m so thankful to Mercy Hospice and Evansville Manor for hosting the event and for American Family Insurance representatives for stopping by. My dad, Ed McCartan, is truly a gifted artist and appreciates everyone’s effort.

I talked to my mom today. Dad is drawing again. Yay!

Do you have a hobby or life’s passion? Is there something you would love to learn how to do?

79 thoughts on “Deconstructing the Avant Garde: Ed McCartan’s Art Retrospective

Add yours

  1. AMAZING – Love, love the variety of his work – thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    I love photography which results in way too many photos over the years. I really need to delve in to archive and purge. Then I would love to pick a few favorites to frame and display. The biggest project is electronically archiving all the printed photos before I went digital.

    I have a love for learning and have a few things on my to do list to learn (i.e. play the drums, travel internationally, etc.).

    Happy Weekend – Enjoy!


    1. Thanks so much, Renee! It was so cool to see his artwork displayed.

      I have the same problem with photography. I am just now getting better at deleting photos. They take up a ton of space on my computer and I have tons of prints in the basement to put into albums. GAH! Not enough hours in the day. Something else always takes a higher priority.

      A drummer. How cool are you!? Travel is always on my list too.
      Have a fab weekend too!


  2. This is such a moving representation of your dad’s beautiful talent and also filled with love of your family. I have always enjoyed seeing your amazing talent in all forms of art, and now see what a wonderful influence you had in your life. What a blessing for you and your family and to all of us that you shared this wonderful event. Kai


    1. Thanks so much, Kai! Great to “see” you.
      It came together almost magically. I’m so glad we were able to have a show while Dad could enjoy it. He really has influenced all of us in the family to be creative. When I started to write, he would give me ideas of stories I should tell. He’s always been super supportive. He is the best Dad! It was a blessing.


  3. This is just wonderful, Susie. I especially like his work after dementia started – all that talent skewed into a different direction. Great that you could be there for your family, and that he is drawing again.


    1. Thanks, Peg. It really was great and satisfying in so many ways. I love his later work too. I’ve heard of some artists who become frustrated with their work, but not my dad! I think it’s the process he loves the most.


  4. Susie, what a wonderful way to honour your father’s immense talent! Thanks for sharing such a meaningful event with all of us. It was almost like being there. I agree with the idea of making prints and cards as so much of his work has a broad appeal! Your pride is obvious … lovely …


  5. This made me so happy! How absolutely wonderful that you did this to honor your dear father. I am sure it meant the world to him. Now I understand where your talent comes from. Thanks for sharing his beautiful and varied work! 🙂


    1. Thanks so much, Maria! And thanks for the Facebook share. It really was amazing to set it all up and see it in one place. I found a bunch more that should be framed. He is an amazing talent and a super supportive dad. I’m very lucky!


    1. Thanks so much! I love them too, but have always loved his abstracts best. He is so talented. I’m glad he was able to attend and enjoy himself.
      Thanks for stopping by,


  6. A wonderful tribute. What a body of work! Amazing that he kept his light so hidden. Love the watercolors in particular, and our “deer.”

    Good to see your elbows in there, too.


  7. Wow, Susie! Your dad is very talented-and I am impressed that he did so many techniques. ie: pencil, watercolor, etc.
    What an incredible memory for you all to have this event. And so generous of the facility to host.
    I found it very interesting how the distortions showed up with the dementia. There must be some scientific explanation, but it is interesting.
    Thanks for sharing!


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