Ernest E. Walters, 76, abstract artist, writer, gallery owner

March 02, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Ernest Edward Walters, a Harford County abstract artist, writer and gallery owner, died of brain cancer Wednesday at Lorien Nursing Rehabilitation Center in Bel Air. He was 76 and lived in Joppa.

"Although Ernie was highly intellectual in his art, he never lost his love for the poetry of life, and celebrated its beauty in his writing as well as his painting," said Gladys Goldstein, a well-known Baltimore abstract painter.

Mr. Walters was born in Elizabethtown, Ky., and raised in Louisville, the son of a restaurateur and thoroughbred racehorse owner.

"His father said he was always sketching people and that sort of thing even when he was a child," said his wife of 43 years, the former Dorothy Keesecker, retired social studies department chairwoman at Middle River Middle School.

Mr. Walters attended the University of Louisville and Miami University of Ohio before enlisting in the Army Air Forces in 1945 and serving for a year as a gunner in North Africa.

After his discharge, Mr. Walters studied at L'Ecole Napoleon in Paris. He also studied education at what is now Towson University and creative writing at the Johns Hopkins University.

In 1953, Mr. Walters returned to Louisville, where he painted landscapes and portraits and wrote short stories and poetry. In the late 1950s, he established Erewhon Press and Embryo Magazine. He was editor of the now-defunct literary quarterly that featured poetry and short stories.

He trained thoroughbred racehorses from 1958 to 1961, and while racing horses at the Laurel track met his future wife. After marrying, the couple settled in Baltimore, where Mr. Walters taught elementary pupils for two years in city public schools.

In 1966, they moved to Vienna, Austria, where he resumed drawing and painting full time. While abroad, he published a portfolio of 17 of his black-and-white drawings.

He returned to Towson and moved to Joppa in 1972, where he concentrated on abstract drawings.

During his career, Mr. Walters exhibited widely in the United States and Europe. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, Museum of Modern Art in New York City and Musee d'Art Moderne in Brussels, Belgium.

His work was described in a Washington Post review during the 1970s as "strange, elliptical drawings [that] look like diagrams for buildings or honeycombs, or new worlds. His drawings appear to be painstakingly detailed and meticulous studies. They are disturbing."

During the 1970s, he also began incorporating his poetry into his artwork.

"In the 1980s, his style changed to a soft brush hatching and, according to Amy Hauer, a friend, they `caught the light in such a way that the slightest movement of the viewer seems to cause the colors to dance and change the focal emphasis,'" Mrs. Walters said.

Mr. Walters owned and operated Daedal Fine Arts Gallery at Fallston Mall until his health began to fail in the late 1990s.

Mr. Walters used a printing press set up in his garage to print his poetry, plays and novels. He self-published his last novel, The Beast Within, in 1998.

"He called it the Daedal Press and in addition to operating the press, he also handset the type and handled the binding of the books," Mrs. Walters said.

"Ernie was a genuine friend whose art and writing are rare and wonderful gifts to the world. He was a geometric extractionist and his use of form was outstanding. His work was full of color and intrigue," said Reggie Camphor, co-owner with his wife, Marilyn Camphor, of Camphor-Hill Fine Arts Gallery in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood.

"He was dedicated to the fundamentals of abstract art, especially the abstract qualities of color and form and their relationship to music and mathematics. The world has lost a truly unique soul," he said.

Mr. Walters enjoyed attending performances of the Baltimore Opera Company and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete yesterday.

In addition to his wife, survivors include three daughters, Marcy V. Walters of Louisville, and Kristina Talbot and Judy Shiver, both of Vero Beach, Fla.; a brother, Robert Walters of Millington, Tenn.; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His marriage to the former Judith Loebman ended in divorce.

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