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Up close with Randall Tiedman

On the evening of Friday, May 18, painter Randall Tiedman was awarded Best in Show at Ashland University's juried exhibition Time Will Tell. The artist did not accept the award in person, however; at the time he was accepting Best in Show at Lakeland Community College's May Show.

But for Tiedman, it's the art, not winning, that's everything. "When you think about winning, you don't win," he says. "The minute you think something is going to happen, it doesn't."

Both of the paintings, "Deep Water Carousel" (pictured) at Lakeland and "Requiem" at Ashland, are part of Tiedman's "visionary impressions" acrylic series he has created over the past decade. The works all depict imaginative industrial landscapes, taken in miles at a time, but rendered with hundreds of details down to individual signal lights and power lines. Scaffolding and antennas rise from the expanse and bind themselves into structures whose intricacies the eye can barely register, but which must somehow have been painted. These structures compose sprawling compounds that fade in and out of the surrounding landscape and seem to follow it into the horizon.

The artist takes inspiration from Cleveland's Flats and salt mines, but the paintings themselves are not meant to represent any real place. Tiedman isolates elements of the city's imagery and allows them to develop imaginatively from their own internal logic. If he wanted to, Tiedman would be well positioned to tribute the city. Now 63, he is a lifelong resident — and in fact, he's never vacated the colonial double in Collinwood he and his three-generation family grew up in. The modest bedroom he shared with his grandmother as a child is now his studio.

Critics often interpret Tiedman's visionary works as dystopian, forbidding, or as a series of cautionary environmental allegories. But none of that is Tiedman's intention. "There's a romanticism in the work. It's like cello in a symphony," he says. "There's low register, which can be very dark and sinister, and then there's lighter violin. It can be both dark and light." Tiedman's paintings mean nothing but themselves; his romanticism stands above or to the side of any moral evaluations of the landscapes he paints and concerns itself only with their beauty.

Time Will Tell runs through June 15 at Ashland University; call 419-289-5652 or go to ashland.edu/coburngallery to learn more. Lakeland Community College will host The May Show through Friday, July 20. Go to lakelandcc.edu/upcomeve/ for more information.

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