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. What beautiful works. Quite a talent indeed. My late mother was also an accomplished artist and her paintings continue to provide a link for us even now. Nice post.


    1. Thanks Al! I’m so glad we were given the opportunity to share his work. He really enjoyed it.
      I think that’s an important component to being an artist. Their works capture an image during a period of time and will be appreciated for years to come.
      Did she hand down any artistic talent to you?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your father’s work is beautiful and inspired. What a gift to your family! Has he ever thought of having prints made? I’ll bet they’d sell nicely, and be pieces that people would welcome into their homes. What talent!


    1. I mentioned that when I was there. I would love to have some of his paintings scanned to have canvas wraps made. Prints are a great idea too. We’ll see!
      Thanks D!


    1. We are very proud of him. It was so nice to see the effort on the part of friends and family who attended the show.
      In the 70’s, he painted murals for several restaurants. When I was in college we frequented one of the Brat and Braus. I loved mentioning to my friends that my dad painted them. They wouldn’t believe me until they checked the signature. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations to your Dad! What a precious gift you all gave him showing off his work. Sometimes artists just can’t do the self-promotion stuff and need someone to do it for them. Yah you!


  4. Susie – what a wonderful tribute to your dad. I’m glad you were able to be there with him and your mom and to be a part of the art show. As children we don’t realize how talented our parents are until later in life. My mom is an excellent cook who inspired me to learn how to coo and so many other wonderful skills. My dad was always learning and growing teaching himself new things into his early sixties. I can draw, but I don’t as much draw as much as I’d like and I wish I couple paint half as well as your dad. Thank you for inspiring me to step it up and experience something new. Have a wonderful week.


    1. Thanks Clay! Maybe you could take a night class. It’s amazing how trying something different frees our mind and opens it up to creativity in other areas.
      Cooking is very similar to art in that it is creating something out of basic ingredients. With a little effort, there can be great results. I’m glad to hear you picked up some of your parents’ talent.
      Have a fab week too!


  5. Oh, Susie, what a wonderful tribute to a marvelously talented man. I’m so glad he’s painting again. Sounds like the show was just what he wanted. I’m thinking an annual event perhaps?


  6. Congrats to your parents. Their long partnership is quite admirable.
    This gallery showing was brilliant idea. Susie – send an email/link to CBS Sunday morning show – your dad, his body of work, and his/the art work’s stories is right up their alley. Put on your thinking cap and send it to other media (library/university) that might be interested. It’s vintage, it’s human interest, it’s art, it’s cool.
    I can’t believe he worked with/for Hansen – many of us grew up with his artistic directions up there on billboards
    If you haven’t done so already photo each one of the pieces you selected – and upload to computer/thumbdrive backup/cloud with all the stories anyone can remember about the pieces. Your grandchildren will adore you for that giant scrapbook of life. (It’s also a real authentic look at the era which should interest historians as well as the art minded…I know you’re busy, but…get some help?)
    Cool dad! His most recent pix are just as fascinating…(could be hung in the finest hospitals or therapy buildings)


      1. I’d love to see that on some Sunday. So many angles possible: a senior citizen who helped create icons of the era – and drew/painted family life, who just had a comprehensive exhibit – and is still doing art and creating. What a magazine article. (AARP? I’m not up on print magazines these days, but there are bound to be those who focus on senior living or Americana or a state focused magazine?)


  7. What an amazing idea to showcase your dad’s wonderful art. How meaningful that must’ve been for you all and how great that others got to enjoy it too. A very special event for sure.


  8. What a wonderful thing! Such talent, and how lovely for it to all be displayed like that, I bet he was moved. I particularly like the man and dog in the snow, it feels like there’s a story there.


    1. That was a self-portrait of fetching eggs from the henhouse. He could do what I can’t and that is create art from memory. I always need something to work from.


  9. What a beautiful tribute to your Dad & his incredible talent. It must have filled your heart with such love & pride, to see all of his work on display. I hope, in doing so, it inspires him to continue!


  10. What a beautiful tribute to a life’s work! Your dad much have been so touched that he got to display all of his artwork and to have so much of the family come out to celebrate with him. It’s also very clear where you got your artistic talents, Madame Wild Rider!


  11. His art is awesome. I think I like the advertisements the best. The card for Morton Salt is one I have seen before. So cool.

    Being able to celebrate the gift a family member possesses is wonderful. My mother is a gifted musician, the pride my father has always expressed for her something that I learned to love in him. Sometimes pride can be a selfish thing, but never when it is for a family member or friend!


    1. That is so cool about your mom and dad. I agree about pride. These days so many compare and become jealous instead. My dad is so humble, everyone is proud of him.
      I do love the advertisements too. There were a few more, not shown in the post. I would imagine he created all kinds of them while in the outdoor advertising business, but didn’t keep many of the originals. Maybe I’ll find more someday!
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Linda! He’s truly a fine artist where I concentrated on illustration. My sister paints.
      I didn’t know that about your family. Do you have any of their work?


  12. This is extraordinary on so many counts–your father’s remarkable talent, the range of his body of work, the coordination of so many working together to exhibit his work, and most of all the love and appreciation for a great man and artist. Thank you for sharing it with us in this beautiful post!


    1. It really was a miracle of sorts. All the stars aligned. 🙂 It was a great effort by hospice and I’m thankful to the Manor for letting us use the space for the afternoon.


    1. Thanks Jackie! He last painted his dog, Charlie. I think it his favorite since Charlie only visits once in a whiles and Dad asks about him all the time. When we brought the painting to his room, he was thrilled!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. He is ‘One in a Million’ Susie! You must be so proud of him. I bet he enjoyed the show as much as you and the rest of the family did. God bless him.
    I see where you get it from. You can see that he stepped out of the box once in a while to try new styles and methods.


    1. He subscribed to American Artist Magazine for decades which inspired him. Even though I don’t think he took his fine art seriously at all and supported the family by graphic design, he always worked on something during his free time.
      Thanks so much, Wally!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I enjoyed this post so much, Susie! I loved looking at your dad’s art. I found it fascinating. It’s such a great tribute to him. Even though he’s not in the best health, it’s wonderful that he could witness it. Thanks for sharing his work here.

    The only thing I would love to learn how to do is these days is cope with heat and humidity. Not gonna happen, pal.


    1. Thanks, V!
      It was wonderful for him and us. I am amazed Hospice’s effort. They did a great job of coordinating the event.
      I get “warm flashes” from the Tamoxifen, so I feel your pain. I’m not fond of air conditioning and always have a hoodie within reach. Hot, cold, hot, cold….


  15. Oh Susie, what a wonderful post and what a wonderful dad you have. I was so moved reading this and seeing his wonderful artwork. What a beautiful family you are!


  16. Such incredible talent! I loved all of his artwork, but especially the abstract of the trees. Just beautiful. What a great celebration for you and your family. Happy anniversary to them!


    1. Thanks so much, Darla!
      That’s my favorite painting too! It hung in my parents’ house in Madison for decades. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to honor him and his work and he’s drawing again! I think the show motivated him.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you for sharing your Dad’s wonderful talent. So cool to see the variety. My passion since I was 10 has been photography. When my son was a toddler, I started taking pictures again as a creative outlet, and more. After working for my entire adult life, having a child with special needs and no support, at the age of 38, almost did me in. Rediscovering this passion really saved me.


    1. Thanks so much for stopping by.
      That must have been so hard. Good thing you realized it’s important to take time for yourself. I agree that having a passion can save you. For me, it’s a great stress reducer!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. I’ve been waiting for this post! I smiled all the way through this picture story. Talent and passion have no boundaries, which is shown throughout his works. I am in LOVE with his paining of the house in the first photo. It drew me right in to that beautiful day he preserved over time.
    Thank you for sharing this incredible man you get to call dad with all of us.


    1. Thanks so much, Lisa! I love that painting too.
      It was truly a gift that he was able to enjoy his art show. He really is incredibly talented. This is only a small sampling of what he has created. We are all so proud of him. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: