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Homer Hacker’s art exhibits his purpose

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHomer Hacker’s art career led him from a modest house in Dayton to the White House, as one of the Dayton area’s most distinguished artists.

As he prepared an exhibit at Bethany Village this week, he said he has come to see his purpose. Whether painting a landscape, a quaint country house, or portrait of an everyday person, he says: “I want to record God’s beauty.”

At 96, he continues to enjoy creating and sharing art as a resident in the Bethany Village retirement community. He appreciates meeting not only the other artists who live in Bethany, but also the many residents who have welcomed him with their unique gifts and experiences. “It’s such a joy.”

Bethany exhibited a number of his favorite watercolor paintings to share with Bethany residents and his network of friends from Dayton-area artist communities and his church, Sugarcreek Presbyterian Church in Kettering.

The artist, who likes to be called “Hack,” had his work selected for the 2001 White House calendar and for exhibits throughout the United States. His career includes:

  • Artistic Director/Chief Photographer, Dayton Daily News
  • Co-founder of Art Center Dayton, 1946
  • Helped establish Kettering’s Rosewood Gallery in the 1970s
  • Signature member of the American Watercolor Society, 1980
  • More than 30 one-man shows in museums and galleries across the nation.

He received the Montgomery County Cultural District Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008; and was honored with the prestigious Elizabeth Callan medal in 2009 at the American Watercolor Society International Exhibition.

He developed his artist’s eye under the tutelage of his father, a graphic designer for a local manufacturing company and a leading photographer in the Dayton area. “We’d sit at the dining room table and draw things that were interesting to me.”

Graduating as one of the first photography students at Ohio University in 1939, he was hired by the Dayton Daily News. He left in 1963 to devote himself to watercolor art.

His paintings were selected four times for the Traveling Exhibition of the top 50 paintings from the American Watercolor Society Annual Show.

The White House Historical Association selected him to represent Ohio with a painting for the 2001 White House Calendar. His painting depicted President William Howard Taft and First Lady Nellie Taft greeting the crowd at the White House Egg Roll in 1909.

But much of his art captures the beauty of everyday scenes and people: a fishing shanty, an amusement park vendor, a Tibetan peasant he met in the Himalayan Mountains. “You can look at each of the people and see what they’re doing, seeing. People like my paintings for the emotion.”

He continues active artwork by sketching places, clothes, toys and scenes from his own childhood of the 1920s. He keeps a journal close so he can sketch whenever he is inspired. “Everything is from memory and everything is spur of the moment. It’s not a great piece of literature, but it tells a lot about my life.”

“I thank God for a long life filled with so many joys, including my wife, Lydia, my treasurer and my treasure.” She managed the business end of his art. They were married 65 years before her passing.

Art has helped to fill his life with joy and meaning, he said. “I’ve come to look at my life as a wonderful religious experience.”

Written by Bethany Village

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