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Friday, May 6, 2016

Another inspirational Aurelia alumnus

Monday, August 16, 2010

Farmboy Doug Ohlson at work on his art. Photo submitted.
A few months ago, the Chronicle Times published an article about an alumnus of Aurelia High School, Tom Whitney, who had gone on to do some significant work after his high school days.

We recently were made aware of another Aurelia alum who earned considerable renown in his chosen field. Unfortunately, the occasion which enlightened us was this individual's recent death.

Douglas Ohlson was born on Nov. 18, 1936, the son of Lloyd and Effie Ohlson of the Mount Olive neighborhood south of Aurelia, and was a 1954 graduate of Aurelia High School. His death at the age of 73 on June 29, 2010 ended a highly successful career as an abstract artist. A July 25th column in the New York Times summarizes his professional life, and I thank Paul Nelson, a 1953 Aurelia High School graduate, for sending that to me.

Ohlson attended Bethel College in St. Paul after his high school graduation, and then served three years in the Marines before he earned a degree in studio art from the University of Minnesota in 1961.

By that time, he was already painting abstractly on a large scale, and after his graduation from the U of M, he headed immediately to New York City. He studied briefly there with abstract sculptor and painter Tony Smith at Hunter College, then worked briefly as Mr. Smith's assistant. He began teaching at Hunter himself in 1964, the same year that his work was included in an exhibition entitled "Young Artists" at the Hudson River Museum. He also had the first of seven solo art shows at the Fishbach Gallery that year, and in 1968, his work was included in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art entitled "The Art of the Real: 1948 - 1968," which traced the geometric strain of American art over several generations.

Ohlson exhibited in New York regularly in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and continued exhibiting as recently as 2004. His work is represented in numerous public collections, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Brooklyn Museum.

His death was announced by Hunter College, where he had taught art for 35 years. He is survived by his second wife, Michele Toohey and a sister, Beverly Flentje of Phoenix, Arizona.

Ohlson's modernistic art is "not everybody's cup of tea," but a sampling of his art, along with biographical information, is available at the website www.dougohlson.com.

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