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Art People: Jack Radetsky / painter

  • Jack Radetsky at his home in Sunderland.

    Jack Radetsky at his home in Sunderland.

  • Jack Radetsky at his home in Sunderland.

    Jack Radetsky at his home in Sunderland.

  • Jack Radetsky at his home in Sunderland.

    Jack Radetsky at his home in Sunderland.

  • Jack Radetsky paints at his home in Sunderland.

    Jack Radetsky paints at his home in Sunderland.

  • Jack Radetsky painting at his home in Sunderland.

    Jack Radetsky painting at his home in Sunderland.

  • Jack Radetsky's paints at his home in Sunderland.

    Jack Radetsky's paints at his home in Sunderland.

  • Jack Radetsky at his home in Sunderland.

    Jack Radetsky at his home in Sunderland.

  • Jack Radetsky at his home in Sunderland.
  • Jack Radetsky at his home in Sunderland.
  • Jack Radetsky at his home in Sunderland.
  • Jack Radetsky paints at his home in Sunderland.
  • Jack Radetsky painting at his home in Sunderland.
  • Jack Radetsky's paints at his home in Sunderland.
  • Jack Radetsky at his home in Sunderland.

Say the name Jack Radetsky to most local folks and they’ll probably be reminded of ice cream cones and hot fudge sundaes: For 15 years, from 1990 to 2005, Radetsky and his wife, Susan, owned Bart’s Ice Cream Parlor in Amherst.

What most people don’t know about Radetsky, 64, is that he’s an award-winning artist whose work has appeared in galleries and museums across the country and around the globe; his first solo exhibit was in Paris in 1977. There’s a reason for that: When the couple bought the popular ice cream shop, Radetsky says, he planned to take just a year off from his painting to help get the business up and running. But one year turned to two, which became five and then 10 and finally, 15. In that decade and a half, says Radetsky, a once-prolific painter, he didn’t once pick up a brush.

At first, he says, he felt OK about taking the time off, but as he watched his art career “fade like a slow sunset,” it kept nagging at him. “It was like the other child that I was neglecting. ... I thought I’d never paint another picture.”

When he and his wife sold the business, Radetsky decided it was time to return to his former career. After a slow start (due in part to a serious illness), he finally began painting again.

“It took me a little while. I wandered back into the studio and cleaned it up and started to do some work but I wasn’t fully committed,” he said. “Part of it was my lack of confidence: Can I do this again? Can I re-establish myself professionally?”

Apparently, the answer is yes. He has since re-established his professional relationship with OK Harris, the New York City gallery that represented him in the past. His newsolo exhibition there opens Saturday and runs through Jan. 19, 2013.

Radetsky, who works in acrylics, says his paintings are first and foremost about the presence of light and atmosphere, and the intimacy of place.

He uses lamps of all styles, and the light they emit, as the centerpiece of his work. And though he doesn’t paint people, the intimate atmospheres he creates with the light evoke the presence of human activity. “I want the work to transcend paint and to become about light.”

But there are challenges: “Light has so much more range than paint,” he said. “You have to take certain license with the way you use paint to accomplish that phenomenal quality, to understand light and the absence of light. And if your palette is right — I’m not a big fan of right and wrong, but it has to make sense in a certain phenomenal way to click — there it is, there’s the magic. ... This is the challenge and the inspiration of my work.”

— Kathleen Mellen

OK Harris is located at 383 West Broadway in New York. Radetsky’s website is www.jackradetsky.com.

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