Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Faribault nonagenarian’s art show opens on Friday January 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:09 AM
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Even his name has an artistic, poetic ring to it.

He’s my friend.

He’s also an artist.

This Friday evening, 92-year-old Rhody, the man I met about a year ago when I stopped to photograph 10 celebrity portraits on his rural Faribault garage, has his first-ever gallery showing. His exhibit opens with a reception from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. at the Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue North, in downtown Faribault.

I want you to be there.

I want you there to celebrate the art and the artist.

You will meet a humble, gentle man with a sense of humor and a positive attitude that will surely uplift you.

You will meet a widower who treasures the portrait of his beloved wife, Shirley.

You will meet a veteran who served his country during WW II and painted a military scene on old military tent canvas while stationed in Nome, Alaska, because he had no other canvas.

You will meet a father, a man of faith, who painted his version of “The Last Supper” in honor of his only child, Paul, who died at age 23 in a 1977 car accident.


A snippet of Rhody Yule's painting, "Reverent Prayer," which will be among religious paintings included in his exhibit. This is my personal favorite of all his paintings.

"The Betrayal," among several over-sized religious paintings done by Rhody.

Some 50 oil paintings and other art will be featured in the exhibit, “A Lifetime of Art: The Rhody Yule Collection.”

I am honored and thrilled to have helped make this show happen for a man who has been quietly painting for enjoyment since age 16.

That his talent has remained out of the public view for this long still astounds me. Most folks in the Faribault area likely have seen some of Rhody’s work as he painted signs for 33 years. But they have not seen the portraits, religious paintings, landscapes and other art that he created in his free time.


Celebrity portraits on Rhody's garage, where I first discovered his work last fall.

MY DISCOVERY OF RHODY happened by accident, when I saw the 10 celebrity portraits on his garage in the fall of 2009, stopped to photograph them and then knocked on Rhody’s door. I never expected a frail nonagenarian to answer.

That was the beginning of our friendship and my efforts to secure an art gallery show for him. I applied for the show on Rhody’s behalf. And then, when the Paradise accepted his work for a solo exhibit in the Carlander Gallery, Team Rhody formed to make it happen. I’ve been working with Rhody’s family and friends, members of the Paradise Gallery Committee, my husband and even a California graphics designer to pull this all together.

From choosing paintings to hauling, cleaning and titling them; promoting the show; and now, this last week, finalizing details for the finger foods to be served at the reception, this has been a process. Those of us involved can’t wait for you to meet Rhody and view his art.

Team Rhody wants you to be there, to celebrate with those of us who care for and love this man, this artist.

Rhody's self-portrait, 1989

PLEASE JOIN US from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Friday, January 14, for a meet-the-artists opening night reception for Rhody and artist Adam Kuehnel, who creates watercolors and will exhibit in the Lois Vranesh Boardroom Gallery. Adam says his work “exists somewhere on the path between Hemingway’s Two Hearted River and Keillor’s Lake Wobegon.”

As for Rhody, I’ve only labeled his show with the “A Lifetime of Art: The Rhody Yule Collection” title and not slotted him as an artist.

I think Rhody would simply prefer to be just Rhody.

A recent photo of 92-year-old Rhody.

I saw Rhody on Saturday, when my husband and I picked up the last of his paintings and delivered them to the art center. He was eating breakfast with his friends at the assisted living facility where he resides. As always, he was happy and talkative. He’s sporting a new haircut. He’s picked up a new shirt and corduroys to wear on Friday. A relative says Rhody looks mighty dapper.

He’s ready to meet you. I’m ready for you to meet him, my friend, the artist. Rhody Yule.

IF YOU LIVE in Canada or Finland or Arkansas or Washington D.C. or anywhere that is not within reasonable traveling distance to attend the art show, I understand why you won’t be there. I hope you’ve enjoyed this online introduction to Rhody and a sampling of his art.

However, if you live in Northfield or Owatonna or Waseca or the Twin Cities metro, please consider driving to Faribault for this opening night reception. We’re only a half-hour drive from Burnsville, 45 minutes from Minneapolis. The art center is in the heart of Faribault’s historic downtown. You can’t miss the marquee.

If the weather is bad, please check before coming.

Both exhibits will continue through February 26. So if you can’t make the January 14 opening night event, stop at the gallery from noon – 5 p.m. on Saturdays or from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Friday.

P.S. If you attend on opening night, you’ll be treated to free food and beverages with an open cash bar also.

You'll even see the Duke at Rhody's show. Sorry, no Elvis.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling