Blickensderfer and related families - Person Sheet
Blickensderfer and related families - Person Sheet
NameRussell W. BALDWIN
Death22 May 2008, Ramona, California
FatherOmar Jean WILSON (1900-1991)
MotherJanice E. MESSERLY (1906-1993)
No Children
Notes for Russell W. BALDWIN
Russell Baldwin; artist’s artist admired for meticulous works

By Robert L. Pincus

June 1, 2008

Russell Baldwin’s wit was seemingly always in effect. When he had an exhibition at Pacific Beach’s Taylor library in 2003 — his first big solo show in 22 years — one piece had a ticking clock under glass and cited a statistic about average viewing time for a work of art: seven seconds.

When asked about the piece and the jarring number, he said, in his characteristically deadpan style. “Actually, it’s down to 6.9 seconds, but I decided to round it off.”

It was intrinsic to him to take a troubling fact and make you laugh at it. He would sometimes erupt into laughter, in reaction to his own droll remarks, too. It was also impossible for him to create a work that wasn’t beautifully made, even though he declared, “It’s the idea that matters most.”

Baldwin also had a kind of credo, “Art is all over,” which he applied not only as an artist but as the director of Palomar College’s Boehm Gallery, which he led from its inception in 1965 until 1986, when he retired from the faculty.

He would guide you through the space, pointing out, with immense pride, all the subtle refinements he made to it, so that art would look its best there. And his sophistication and reputation as an artist showed in the sort of exhibitions he presented, which featured some of the widely recognized California artists: Sam Francis, John Baldessari, Judy Chicago, William Wiley and Wayne Thiebaud, among them.

Baldwin, 74, died last week at his home in Ramona. The cause of death was suicide, according to the county’s Medical Examiner’s Office.

Mark-Elliott Lugo, who oversees the San Diego Public Library’s art program and curated Baldwin’s last exhibition, recalls, “When the program was founded, he was one of the artists I knew I wanted to show. I admired the meticulousness of his craftsmanship and the way he integrated concept with the object.”

Baldessari — a native of National City who began his career as an artist here before achieving international prominence for his pivotal conceptual works — recalls, “There weren’t many artists who I found to be as interesting as Russell in San Diego. He was so valuable to me. I’ve lost a dear friend.”

He was an artist’s artist, admired by a host of accomplished peers, locally and beyond, that included Richard Allen Morris and Robert Matheny as well as Baldessari. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, his work garnered a good deal of recognition for his immaculately made works that mingled words and image, text and object.

Morris, who in the last decade has gained acclaim, shows and collectors in Europe for his paintings, was a longtime friend and admirer. “He (Baldwin) has a reluctance to promote himself, and so he was ignored a lot, except by other artists. Seeing the few shows he had, I appreciated him tremendously.”

The La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art (now the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego) gave him a solo exhibition in 1981 and his works were collected by the MCASD, as well as by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach.

Baldwin was a homegrown talent — a native of San Diego who grew up in Point Loma and earned both his B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees at San Diego State University. He had lived in Ramona for several years.

The San Diego Public Library, which owns two of the works exhibited in Baldwin’s 2003 exhibition, has placed them on view at the Taylor library in tribute to Baldwin.

He is survived by a daughter, Sarah Tijerina, a son-in-law, Joe Tijerina and a grandson, Matthew Mowrey. The artist is predeceased by his son, Marc Baldwin, who died in 1984.

No public memorial service is planned.

Russell Baldwin; artist’s artist admired for meticulous works | The San Diego Union-Tribune
Date found: Friday, June 20, 2008 7:36:20 PM


Remembering Russell W. Baldwin

By KATHY DAY - For the North County Times | Friday, June 13, 2008 11:13 PM PDT

RAMONA ---- Russell W. Baldwin’s character and quirkiness were all part of his life as an artist, said those who knew him.

The retired Palomar College art professor and original director of the college’s Boehm Gallery was 74 when he died May 22, 2008.

Baldwin, who was born in San Diego on May 26, 1933, and attended Point Loma High and San Diego State University, retired from teaching 20 years ago.

Phil Tippett, an animation and visual effects director who counts “Star Wars” and “Jurassic Park” among his credits, was a student of Baldwin’s in 1969.

“He was very influential,” Tippett said this week in a phone call from his Berkeley studio complex, which employs 225 artists and technicians.

Tippett said he’d thought of his former professor just a few days ago and wondered what Baldwin was doing. They had lost touch over the past dozen or so years.

Tippett remembered Baldwin as “always encouraging and never judgmental” and said his professor exposed his students to a wide range of topics in art history that “turned me on to fine art.”

“I lucked out,” he added, noting that when he entered Palomar so he could get a student deferment from the draft, Baldwin and his fellow professors Harry Bliss and Frank Jones were part of a “terrific art department.”

“Russell let me do all sorts of stuff,” Tippett said, from setting up exhibits to giving him access to tools and studios into the late hours of the night.

Baldwin’s daughter, Sarah Tijerina, said she was a self-professed “Daddy’s girl” who always admired his creativity.

“Whether it was his art or design at home or how to accessorize, he was very creative,” Tijerina said.

“He was always thinking outside the box, taking an idea and going way outside,” she added. “He’d come full circle and then it made sense.”

As a younger man, Baldwin worked in metal shavings, sculpture and painting. Later, his work became more abstract and more political, she said.

His last show in 2003, at the library in Pacific Beach, was entitled “The Last Picture Show?” Details about the exhibit and examples of his work can be found at

In explaining the exhibit, library curator Mark-Elliott Lugo wrote that it featured “a stunning series of impeccably crafted, three-dimensional, wall-mounted pieces incorporating found and fabricated objects and text.”

Baldwin, he added, “prefers that viewers discover for themselves the multilayered meanings and ideas imbedded in his works.”

Bliss, Baldwin’s co-worker and friend of 40 years, said he was a “modern artist, a purist who pushed his students to do superlative art.”

He was also “a character, who was urbane without being imperious,” he said, adding that they did not see eye to eye but respected each other.

Bob Matheny met Baldwin when they were civilian employees of the old Naval Electronics Laboratory on Point Loma when they were in their early 20s.

He went on to teach art at Southwestern College for years, where Baldwin taught part time before moving to Palomar.

“He was one of the most important San Diego artists of his generation,” Matheny said, noting that the high point of his career was in the 1960s and ‘70s. “He was one of the 10 or 12 best artists at that time.”

Baldwin was “exceptional, working with lots of concepts and ideas. … His work was full of symbolism and meaning, although sometimes it was difficult to understand,” Matheny added.

For a while, Baldwin took time off from his art and teaching. His attention, Matheny said, turned to auto racing and restoring cars.

He break from art lasted about 10 years, with his return culminating in the Pacific Beach show.

“He has some new work that hasn’t been seen yet,” Matheny said, adding he’s hopeful that details can be worked out for a retrospective of his works in the gallery that credits Baldwin for “being a vital spirit in its movement towards recognition.”

Meanwhile, his friends can see his work at a celebration of his life July 19 that at his Ramona home, where he had art sprinkled throughout his house and yard.

Baldwin is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Joe Tijerina; a grandson; and ex-wives Joyce Baldwin and Nancy Raven.

He was preceded in death by a son, who died at age 16 of leukemia.

Remembering Russell W. Baldwin : North County Times - Californian
Date found: Friday, June 20, 2008 7:38:47 PM
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