As one of Sid Garrison’s gallery dealers in San Francisco said of his art, “I loved what he was able to do with the pencil . . . He was able to compete with any painter.”
A graphite artist since childhood, Garrison typically spent a full day drawing, using 20 to 30 pencils to make tiny termite marks that covered every square inch of 28- x 28-inch sheets of paper. His work was abstract, and his strokes were indistinguishable unless seen up close; from a distance, though, Garrison’s art appeared oceanic or cosmic, and spoke of infinities.
Despite numerous physical setbacks, Garrison worked full-time as an artist. He was born with Alport’s syndrome, a genetic condition that affects the kidneys, hearing and eyes. Garrison suffered a stroke in 2005 and lost his ability to draw. But he persisted, and in three months was making art again, with one notable difference. Although he was colorblind and had previously used muted colors, after the stroke he was able to work with more varied and brighter colors, which he continued doing for the rest of his career.
Garrison was born in Wichita, as was his wife, Terry, whom he married in 1978. His first exhibit was at an outdoor art fair in Kansas City in the late 1970s. When Terry’s work took them to San Francisco in 1988, Garrison exhibited his drawings in numerous venues there, receiving reviews in the “San Francisco Chronicle.” His art was also shown and catalogued in New York City.
Besides making his own work, Garrison was an avid collector of mid-century Scandinavian ceramics and furniture. He and his wife traveled throughout Scandinavia and Europe seeking out the best of what then was a largely ignored genre of sculpture. These ceramics have since skyrocketed in both appreciation and value, and the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis now includes 75 of the Garrisons’ pieces in their permanent collection.
“Collecting was the passion of Sid’s life,” Terry Garrison says, “but making art was the mission of his life.
“He was also an avid Facebook person. He was a befriender of people and had artist friends around the globe whom he actively supported. There was a woman artist in Arizona who was in the last year of her life. Sid gave her constant emotional support and even sent her a small ceramic from our collection.”
In 2014, the Garrisons moved to Kansas City when Sid had the opportunity to receive a kidney transplant from KU Medical Center. In 2015 he needed a quadruple bypass and a pacemaker. He continued making art, which he exhibited at the Kansas City Flatfile exhibits at Block Artspace (winning a jurist award) and had a one-person show at Kiosk Gallery in 2018.
For his exhibition at Kiosk, carloads of friends and family made the three-hour drive from Wichita for the opening. “Sid was so appreciative of how well the show came together,” Terry said, “and the following Monday he was back at work in his studio.”
As an Alport syndrome patient, parent of a teen patient, and Executive Director of Alport Syndrome Foundation, I am so humbled to learn of the challenges Sid Garrison experienced, and inspired to understand his dedication to finding ways to continue creating art. It seems a life well-lived, surrounded by love and creativity. His work is really extraordinary. Our condolences go out to family, friends, and fellow artists. Alport Syndrome Foundation continues to invest in research to change the family stories’ and lived experiences of people with our rare, genetic kidney disease.