Monday, January 18, 2021

Missing Ted Denyer

Ted Denyer
This month marks 15 years since my dear friend Ted Denyer left this planet. I miss him a lot, but I'm also glad he did not have to see the dismal condition of the world today. He would have been bewildered and sad.

Ted was a painter dedicated to making visible the invisible. I'm extremely pleased to see his life's work catalogued on this fine website:, a creation of his son-in-law Efrem Marder and grandson Ben Marder. I hope you'll check out the evolution of his paintings, and take 16 minutes to watch a video documentary that my wife Wendy and I produced about him in 1996.

As I began to write here, I realized the futility of attempting to capture the profound impact one human being can have on another. Every two weeks for ten years, Ted and I had dinner together in a cozy little loft room that overlooked his painting studio in his home in Mount Tremper, NY. I grew from my forties into my fifties, he from his seventies into his late eighties. Our conversations ranged widely, but the words and topics were not the important part of those evenings. There was often a feeling of timeless suspension. Perhaps it's not going too far to say we entered a parallel dimension of communion. We were in tune, sympatico, kindred spirits, but also... I had never been close to an older man before. My own father had frequently felt like a stranger. Ted's warmth, interest in others, fascination with truths below the surface, cultural hunger, self-reliant individualism, curiosity, laughter, young-heartedness, even his sometimes too-crusty opinions about art, gave me a role model. This was the kind of man I wanted to be as I too moved past middle age toward the final days.

By way of tribute via imagination, I gave Ted a very brief appearance in my novel Ponckhockie Union, which is primarily set in my local environs in the Hudson Valley. The character called "Ted" is one of the elements in the protagonist's recovery from a devastating life crisis. His one "on camera" scene is in a chapter that focuses on some of the history of the town of Phoenicia. You can hear me read that chapter and answer some interview questions on the podcast I co-produce, The Strange Recital. I was glad to be able to say a little about the real man that inspired the character. The episode is 24 minutes long.
(See this previous post for more audio glimpses of the novel.)

Another tribute to Ted that I wrote not long after his passing, is this odd little venture in prose (less than 2 pages), called "The Abstract Painter."

The future on this planet seems potentially very strange and difficult, not what I'd hoped for in my later years. My memories of Ted, the example he set for how to live a creative life and face death with courage, are among the things for which I am most grateful.

(Photo of Ted Denyer by Susan Quasha)