Last May, Richard Cramer, Professor of Painting at Tyler School of Art, retired from teaching after 37 years at Temple University. Now residing in the Lower East Side of New York City, Cramer has returned to making a living in his one-man shows.
The artist immediately clears up the assumption that he was a child prodigy.
“I was the worst student in the class,” he said. “I had the lowest GPA in the senior class when I graduated. The only thing I ever did in high-school was play ping-pong.
It was in my senior year when a teacher introduced me to art and I took off.”
It wasn’t until college that Cramer’s career got off the ground both academically and professionally. Throughout his four years as an undergraduate student, Cramer has entered numerous art shows and exhibits.
“I took home an award in every art show, including the exhibits most of the faculties at the Layton School of Art were to intimidated to show, he said.”
Cramer received his master’s at the University of Wisconsin before teaching painting at Elmira College. After a talk with the Dean at Temple University, Cramer came here to teach.
During his 37 years at Tyler, Cramer produced 30 one-person shows. His first show was in New York City at The Gallery on 57th St. From there Cramer participated in more than 250 national exhibitions including “Mahoney Plane” at Caelum Gallery in 2000 and a prestigious showing at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
Controversy, along with fame, has been part of Cramer’s life. In October 1999, Cramer reacted negatively to former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani’s threat to cut off funding at the Brooklyn Museum of Art if they exhibited the “Elephant Dung” painting.
Cramer recalls this issue without any retraction. He states even today that, “art is about everything.”
Unflagging in his efforts outside school as well as in, Cramer has dedicated his life to art.
“At Tyler I loved teaching Foundation Drawing to the freshman,” he said. “But my most important classes were Urban Industrial Landscaping workshop and the Color class.”
Cramer remembers his first introduction to art as a senior and wants to ignite that stirring feeling in other artists. Cramer’s classes included field trips to the Coal Company and Bethlehem Steel where Cramer combined light and a sense of place into his artwork.
Today, Cramer has an exhibit at Buckdale University. His new paintings exhibit the diptych format. Cramer is also experimenting with ink drawings where thousands of lines are based upon storefront windows.
After 37 years, Cramer leaves Temple his Palisades-Glass Mosaic, a cut glass piece exhibiting a Unitarian structure.
“Do as much work as possible,” he said, referring to incoming art students. “My first year I only did 200 paintings when I should have done 400.”
Alexis K. Morgan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.