Painter reaches for learning, inspirationRiver Falls artist Harold Henson picked the name “Reaching Beyond the Hedges” for an upcoming exhibit and a recently released book of his works.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
River Falls artist Harold Henson picked the name “Reaching Beyond the Hedges” for an upcoming exhibit and a recently released book of his works.
The exhibit takes place 3-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, at the Abundant Life Church, 896 Hwy. 65. It features Henson’s oil paintings, and at 6 p.m., he’ll share thoughts and reflections about the works.
He says the exhibit gives him a chance to share what he’s been doing lately and to preview some of the pieces he’ll have at the annual Art on the Kinni event, held this year on Sept. 8.
The book is now available through publisher Author House and contains photos of Henson’s work along with some descriptions, observations and poetry.
Find the paperback online at bookstore.authorhouse.com -- search by title, author or ISBN number: 978-1-4389-1951-5.
A visit to his studio/garage reveals dozens of paintings packed with symbolism and vivid hues both subtly blended and boldly presented.
The paintings depict spirituality, life lessons, women’s issues, violence, urban life, justice, love, farming, good and evil -- to name but a few elements.
He said the title “Reaching Beyond the Hedges” seemed right because much of his work is not about the obvious things in life. It intends to “get right in there,” instead of looking over, under or around the hedges.
Henson said he likes going to Bible study at Abundant Life Church and enjoys singing at Ezekiel Lutheran Church -- he said both experiences influenced his recent works. They carry a strong spiritual theme accented with symbolic aspects of modern life.
After being invited by Pastor Ted Marsh to display work at the church, Henson came to think of it as the perfect venue since many paintings have a good-versus-evil theme.
Henson paints enduring messages into works such as “Angel of Mercy,” “Redemption,” “Love and Happiness,” “Gospel Singer,” “Leap of Faith,” “Noah’s Ark,” and more.
The paintings offer a creative perspective on the pursuit of happiness, affection and love, the scales of justice, the story of Adam and Eve, different temptations, both testaments of the Bible, the 9/11 tragedy and even the dangers of texting while walking.
He learns a lot about today’s “conundrums” from talking to people in the community.
The 62-year-old Baltimore, Md., native grew up in the Washington D.C. area, eventually moving to Minneapolis then to River Falls 20 years ago. He lives in semi-retirement with wife Loretta and their two cats and two Yorkie dogs.
Henson said he feels at home here, often drawing inspiration from local themes.
Having lived through the civil rights movement, he says it’s uplifting to see children of different races playing together as peers. It also makes him smile to see, for example, senior citizens walking safely after dark.
Asked about his understanding of women’s issues, he replies with a broad smile that he has nine sisters. He’s learned a lot in life and feels called to share some of those lessons as a way to help and inspire others.
“I love people,” he said, “that’s one of my keys.”
A garage full of work quantifies his latest creative streak. He’s also an avid supporter of the River Falls Community Arts Base (CAB) and proud to be one of its earliest supporters.
Henson visits schools and hospitals on occasion; he sings with the local Community Gospel Choir and belongs to the Rotary Club.
While he has many local connections, Henson’s work is also known in other parts of the world.
One of his paintings hangs in a South African hospital that tries to help people reintegrate after having lived through the terrors of apartheid. Hospital representives said his “Metamorphosis of South Africa” had a healing effect; they wanted to share it with bishop and peace advocate Desmond Tutu.
Henson says his life didn’t get on track until he understood love. He’s come to understand that often a giver of help gets more from it than the receiver.
He says money is not the driving force behind his work -- it’s more a desire to present messages that carry through the ages, especially ones that inspire, motivate, uplift.
He said he isn’t afraid to depict the “dark side” of things but tries to do it respectfully. He uses color to elicit emotion and always does originals -- no prints.
Henson admits he doesn’t adhere to conventional oil-painting techniques. He mixes color right on the canvass, not a palette. He might work on multiple paintings at once, using all of one color he wants on four or five pieces before starting with another.
Most of the time he uses one big brush and one small one. He never knows how long a painting will take to be ‘finished’ because that depends on inspiration and time.
Henson said he has fun with his work because that is important, too. He’s experimenting with landscape and still-life scenes, as well as smaller paintings.
“It’s my heart and soul to the people,” said Henson about the art.