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Terry N. Turrell

(1946– )

Terry N. Turrell

Terry Norman Turrell was born on November 4, 1946, in Spokane, Washington, the first of four sons. His dad was his own boss—a gentleman, logger, and truck driver who loved old cars and fixing them up. "I find myself using the colors, or patinas, of my dad's old cars." Turrell's mother was a hard-working housewife, raising the boys on her own during certain periods of time and who enjoyed cooking, dancing, and big band music. "My mom painted our houses out of the ordinary colors, like pink or popcorn yellow."

They moved back and forth between Northern Idaho and Washington State. His grandparents were retired farmers. "Grandpa liked to do bean paintings and Paint By Numbers." Drawing came naturally to Turrell, especially after he contracted a mild case of polio at age 8— the last year before the vaccine became available in the US. "Although we were poor, I never felt it. I built little wooden toys, drew all the time, and had a dog." Attending high school in Idaho, "I was good at sports, but not the competitive thing."

Turrell went to and graduated junior college; during this period he traveled back and forth to San Francisco at the height of the 1960's hippie and peace movement. "I was a kid from Idaho and had no idea what a hippie was or the peace movement for that matter. I spent seven years resisting the draft of the Vietnam War. They were trying to draft me when I was 17 and still in high school. I was eventually given a 4F deferment and was told that I was 'undesirable'. My father had been in WWII. He didn't want any of his sons to suffer the awful effects of a war. He was instrumental in keeping me out of the draft." Turrell supported himself by making leather handbags and batik wall hangings, which he sold at the Pike Place street market. He eventually ended up hand-painting T-shirts for close to 20 years. They were all one-of-a-kind works of art, selling for $20 each. Later, he branched out into house painting to further supplement his income.

Loni McIntosh has been Turrell's partner of the last 22 years, and close friend for 33. They met in 1975, both being part of the vibrant local craft community that is a unique and viable part of the Pike Place market. Not until 1986 did Turrell begin to create what he considered "art" — an occupation that now commands his full-time devotion. A successful show at the MIA Gallery in Seattle gave him encouragement. Highly intuitive, "I always liked the human figure — the fact that the subtlest change of the eyes or mouth brings out a whole new emotion."

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