George Rhoads

Dressed in loosely tailored bright purples and magentas, George Rhoads’ puckish demeanor belies his 80-some years. In what would be to most of us retirement years, he focuses his youthful energies on his first love: painting, rendering traditionally flat acrylic paints as deeply textured as oils. His most recent undertaking is a series of landscapes, many of them inspired by his Finger Lakes surroundings.

“I’m trying to get the feeling you get when you look at a landscape that arrests your attention – a quiet and kind of eternal moment. I go for twilight,” he says. “Moments of twilight quiet the mind.”

With an artistic career spanning seven decades, the Finger Lakes resident continues to reinvent his art. A renowned painter and designer of whimsical audio-kinetic ball machines, Rhoads began his artistic endeavors as a sort of Renaissance apprentice, drawing and studying the basics as a very young man. After earning a degree from the University of Chicago and studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, he supported himself in New York City by painting houses and doing medical illustration while selling his paintings at the Terry Dintenfass Gallery.

Rhoads served a term with fountain maker Hans Von de Bovenkamp, before striking out on his own in the fountain world. Then he hit upon a toy called “Climb Every Mountain,” which he sold to the game company Milton Bradley. This convergence led to a career in audio-kinetic sculpture, which has earned him, among other accolades, a nomination for the Prix de Rome. A feature in The New York Times Magazine described his kinetic works as reflecting “Alexander Calder’s abstract constructions on the one hand and the cartoons of Rube Goldberg on the other.”

Rhoads’ works are included in the Museum of Modern Art, Malcolm S. Forbes, Leonard Bernstein, American Scientific, and Westinghouse collections. His room-sized ball machines enchant kids of all ages at the Corning Museum of Glass, New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Ithaca’s Sciencenter, as well as children’s hospitals and public spaces around the world.

George Rhoads’ recent paintings will constitute a one-man show titled “Transcendental Landscapes” in the gallery of Ithaca’s Community School of Music and Art, 330 East State Street, from March 5 to 28. Sales will benefit the school. The show kicks off Ithaca’s annual Gallery Night, a walking tour of a dozen or so downtown Ithaca art galleries. E-mail for more information. During the course of the show, he will offer a gallery talk on his work. To see more of his paintings, visit

by Peggy Haine

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