Obituary: Gregg Blasdel, 1941-2024 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Gregg Blasdel, 1941-2024 

Artist, teacher and culinary wiz lived his art every day

Published June 18, 2024 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated June 18, 2024 at 10:43 a.m.

click to enlarge Gregg Blasdel - COURTESY
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  • Gregg Blasdel

Gregg Blasdel of Burlington, Vt., passed away at home surrounded by family on June 6, 2024. An artist, educator, researcher, curator, collector, culinary wiz and avid cyclist, he adored his family, friends and beloved cats.

Gregg was born in Belle Plaine, Kansas, on January 14, 1941, the second son of Red and Erma Blasdel. It was in Belle Plaine that he discovered his first self-taught art environment by David Rousseau. This would shape his career as an artist, researcher and educator. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas and his master’s of fine art in sculpture and painting from Cornell University.

He was a pioneer and among the most important and committed documentarians of artist-built environments by self-taught artists. In 1968 he published his seminal article “Grass-Roots Artist” in Art in America magazine, which played a pivotal role in bringing the creations of idiosyncratic, self-taught artists to the public’s attention. After receiving a National Endowment for the Arts grant, he packed up his VW van and drove 15,000 miles around the U.S. with his friend and research assistant, Nick DeFriez, meeting and documenting artists and their work with a camera and a tape recorder. With the same curiosity and commitment, he taught at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the University of Vermont, Saint Michael’s College and Burlington City Arts.

He moved to Burlington, Vt., in 1974, to finish a book on Clarence Schmidt with his coauthor, Bill Lipke. He fell in love with Vermont. It was here that he left his mark on the art community through his commitment to his students and the work that he produced.

Gregg lived his art every day, whether he was making a print, building a stone wall, doodling, object-making, balancing rocks or cooking dinner. After Gregg was diagnosed with cancer, he started making a series of abstract percussive rattles he called, “Life and Death Rattles.” He found the sound and the act of rattling therapeutic; this was another example of how art was reflected in his life.

He is survived by his wife, Jennifer Koch; daughter Oakley Blasdel, of Albuquerque, N. M.; son, Illinois Blasdel (wife Tracy), of Leawood, Kan.; son, Max Blasdel (wife Rachel Fealk), of Portland, Ore.; grandchildren, Ada, George, Evelyn, Alice, Felix and Frances; brothers Joe Blasdel (wife Sammie), of Owasso, Okla.; Graeme Blasdel (wife Joan), of Naples, Fla.; and John Blasdel (wife Linda), of Leawood, Kansas.; many nieces and nephews; and his favorite cat, Tootone.

A gathering to celebrate his life will be held on September 15 at 3:30 p.m., at the Community Sailing Center.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Burlington City Arts Scholarship Fund, 135 Church St., Burlington, VT 05401.

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