James Ridlon – “Riddles of Excellence” – 1989 Sport Artist of the Year
Ridlon said, “I have drawn on memories, feelings and concepts rooted in my football background. The work might seem whimsical but there is an underlying truth in the statements…because I was there.” For this reason, his unique and inventive expression of the realities of sport, Ridlon was chosen by the Art Committee as the 1989 Sport Artist of the Year.
With the whimsical nature of Ridlon’s assemblages, there is a sense of existentialism in that the meaning of something is only in the meaning we give it. “Everything I do, I want to look accidental, but controlled,” he said. To achieve this, Ridlon juxtaposes images or objects that are seemingly unrelated to recreate several layers of meaning. Ridlon said, “This juxtaposition represents two different types of awareness—of the random and the ordered, or, you could say, the accidental and the sophisticated. It also represents the different phases of my own life, the Jekyll and Hyde of me.”
Perhaps one of the influences on Ridlon’s artistic philosophy is what he listens to while working. “I listen to books on my way to and from school and while I’m working on a painting or a sculpture. I love Kafka’s The Castle,” Ridlon said.1 Franz Kafka was a major fiction writer of the early 20th century, and considered to be an existentialist thinker. “You know to me, with all of the problems I had as a kid, there is nothing quite so beautiful as the spoken word, and I can’t believe how beautifully this man writes.”
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Ridlon’s art could fill more than all of Kafka’s novels. His style of “crowding many things in a small space and making it look organized rather than chaotic,” coupled with inspired titles, creates a kind of refined absurdity. In the absurdity, viewers find deeper meaning and the spirit, life, and drama of sport.