Artist Runar (R.G.) Rodell had a very special talent for creating windows into wildlife — moments frozen in time behind glass and populated with lifelike creations, colorful landscapes, and backgrounds that recede far into the distance. From Jan. 29 to June 4, the Phippen Museum, 4701 N. Highway 89, will feature a collection of Rodell’s pieces in an exhibit titled, Arizonarama.
Rodell lived in Prescott and was most famous for his unique three-dimensional dioramas depicting native wildlife and recreational scenes, according to a news release. In his lifetime (1898-1983), he painted, carved and framed nearly five-thousand unique, handmade pieces.
Rodell began by painting a background in oil that he placed in a deep wooden carved frame. Then he added carved figures of animals, birds, people and vegetation. He then applied plaster, which he specially treated for the artwork, and finally the frame was covered with glass. The effect was like looking through a window into another world.
Rodell’s creations are collected throughout the United States and Europe, and among his collectors when he was living were actor Bob Hope and President Ronald Reagan. In fact, they were in such demand by art collectors and sportsmen in this country and abroad that he couldn’t keep up with the orders, the release stated.
But his largest work was created for the Salt River Project in Phoenix. In fact, it was eventually so big that a huge hole had to be cut from his studio wall to remove the piece. Another large piece, The Big 10, was created for Rodell’s personal doctor, Dr. Marlowe, and was eventually donated to the Arizona Pioneer Home in Prescott.
While he was alive, “Rodee” (as he was known to his friends) had a special fondness for the old Pine Cone Inn on White Spar Road. His home and studio were just across the street, and he could be found most nights of the week enjoying a glass of port with friends. And for many years after his death, a good friend and bartender from the Pine Cone Inn, Benny Alaska, would visit his resting place every year to pour a bottle of Rodee’s favorite port on his grave.
General admission is $12 for adults, $10 for AAA/seniors and veterans, $6 for students with ID, and free for Phippen members and children 12 and younger.
For additional information on this or other events at the Phippen Museum, please call 928-778-1385, or visit www.phippenartmuseum.org.
Information provided by the Phippen Museum.