York visionary artist goes from unknown to a solo exhibit
An exciting trove of art by late Yorker Ralph Eck (1930-2015) has recently been discovered. The paintings are on display at Millersville University’s Eckert Art Gallery, but only until May 11, so you will have to act quickly to see the exhibit. The gallery, in the Winter Art Center at Millersville, is open Tuesday: 11 a.m. – 7:30 p.m., Wednesday: 1 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Thursday: 11 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. and Friday: 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Eck graduated from Millersville, served in the 695th Air Force Band during the Korean War and then taught at Spring Grove for a decade. He left teaching to take care of his aging mother, working in a factory at the same time. His mother lived to be over 100, so he had decades to express himself in his art, working with house paint and applied objects in his basement to create mostly three-dimensional paintings.
The story of their discovery sounds like something out of a book or movie. Eck’s niece, Louanne Glasgow, was showing artist and vintage textile dealer Sarah Noble other items from the estate at Eck’s former home. She allowed Noble a look at the paintings her uncle had created. Glasgow said that very few people even knew of them. Noble shared the find with her sister-in-law Heide Leitzke, Millersville professor and director of the Eckert Art Gallery. The two women co-curated the current exhibit, so that Ralph Eck’s work is finally visible and available to be appreciated by the public. Click here for a Lancaster Newspapers article on the discovery and show.
Eck’s work can be called visionary art. I personally find much visionary art too edgy and disturbing for my taste. These paintings, however, evoke a much lighter, joyful feeling. The curators selected an apt title for the exhibit, Joy of a Bird, a term taken from Eck’s illuminated manuscripts.
The photos of the works in the newspaper story, in the catalog available at the gallery and in the few that I have included here can give you some idea of Eck’s work. Photos do not really capture the dimensions, sheen and feeling of seeing the originals. Go see them in person if you can.
We will be creating a file on Ralph Henry Eck, Jr. at the York County History Center Library and Archives. It will include the show catalog and print outs of his obituary, newspaper articles and photos that I took at the exhibit. Perhaps some of you knew Eck or know more about him. If so, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can add more information to his file.