Randall Tiedman: January 31, 1949–November 4, 2012
Randall Tiedman’s body of work spanned nearly five decades. It began with a comic book cover when Tiedman was 15 and included forays into portraiture, abstract and experimental depictions, and romantic Hudson River School inspired landscapes.
Tiedman’s most recent work featured industrial landscapes with factories bordering cascading waterfalls, unseen lighting sources spilling over sporting arenas and tumultuous lake water sloshing over entire city blocks. The dramatic industrial images evoke his hometown of Cleveland in the primal sense while never depicting it in the literal sense. However, to describe Tiedman’s last works as dystopian, apocalyptic, or even gloomy would be far removed from the artist’s intent, which he disclosed somewhat reluctantly less than two weeks before his death.
“I don’t mention this too much because it sounds crazy and people don’t make sense out of it,” said Tiedman during an Oct. 23 interview. His admirers, however, will no doubt inflate with epiphany before they melt in wonder on learning that Tiedman’s last works depicted classical music, which he savored throughout his life.
“I look upon industrial landscapes as essentially symphonic. They look very grand to me. I don’t see them as blighted at all,” said Tiedman, adding that his work was a visual representation of “slow horns scattering” and violins playing.
“I never think of my work in terms of social concerns or things about the environment or making a statement about the city,” said Tiedman. “It just never occurs to me.” He described the “compositional patterns” of the industry along the Cuyahoga, or downtown’s jagged skyline or our spacious arenas as falling into perfect sync with the lush movements of
Nielson’s symphonies or Jean Sibelius’s tone poems.
An avid film buff, Tiedman also readily owned up to his respect for Disney’s art, which he tethered to his lifelong fascination with Cleveland by referring to it as a “magical kingdom.” In effect, Tiedman’s last efforts were a two- dimensional, Northeast Ohio version of Fantasia, courtesy of his own imagination, a landscape brimming with larger- than-life Rust Belt props and the likes of Havergal Brian, Arnold Bax and Ralph Vaughn Williams.
Tiedman had no formal art training and lived most of his life in his childhood home in Collinwood. His father was prone to violence and counted the infamous mobster Danny Greene among his drinking buddies. Tiedman worked for Reliance Electric for one year before being drafted in 1969 and serving in Vietnam for 11 months during which time his mother died. After a one-week stint at Kay’s Book Store upon his stateside return, Tiedman took a job at the Ohio Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped on Lake Shore Boulevard, where he worked for more than three decades. In addition to his artistic endeavors, Tiedman trained and fought as a boxer during the 1970s. His father passed away in 1988.
Randall Tiedman died peacefully in his sleep on November 4, 2012. He was 63. He leaves behind brother Richard and sister Cheryl Tackett as well as his wife of four years, Susan Wiltshire Tiedman.