James Arthur Ridlon. Born July 11, 1934, Nyack, New York.
Artist and former defensive back, he had an auspicious beginning in Nyack, New York. The son of a lobster fisherman, Ridlon struggled with dyslexia from an early age all the way through elementary school. Stuttering resulted in isolation, giving him the time to focus inward. It was during these trying times that he turned to art and athletics as a release from the other handicaps. By high school, he had learned to deal with his dyslexia and stuttering and began developing his artistic skill under an excellent art teacher. Upon graduation, he earned a football scholarship to Syracuse, allowing him the opportunity to play in the same backfield as Jim Brown. While at college, his artistic skills developed and he discovered his calling.
Ridlon was one of the first tough-as-nails National Football League defensive backs in the 1950's and 60's. In six years with the San Francisco 49ers, he played every defensive backfield position. He finished his career with the Dallas Cowboys, earning all-NFL honors in 1964 as a defensive back. Then suddenly, at the peak of his career, he retired from the gridiron and returned to his alma mater, Syracuse University, to complete his graduate studies in fine arts.
Since 1946, college football's best interior lineman has been awarded the Outland Trophy, but because of an apparent theft of the original plaque in 1967, it had been 21 years since a proper trophy was handed to the winner. That all changed in 1988 when Mercedes-Benz, the corporate sponsor for the award, selected Ridlon to design a new trophy. Auburn University defensive tackle Tracy Rocker was the first recipient of Ridlon's newly designed trophy.
Ridlon's premier work, however, is the assemblage he created in 1986 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of "ABC's Wide World of Sports." The 8x10 foot creation had everything on it from a Steve Mahre ski boot to a Harlem Globetrotter basketball. The response to this work earned him and his assemblage a spot in the Smithsonian Institution. He also prepared assemblages for the 100th anniversary of Syracuse football and the 35th anniversary of Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
Jim Ridlon was named “Sport Artist of the Year” by the U.S. Sports Academy in 1989. He has a BFA and an MFA in sculpture from Syracuse University and a Doctorate (D.Hu.L.), from Cazenovia College. Ridlon has had 37 solo shows of his work including the Canton Art Institute, Ohio; the Zenith Gallery in Washington, D.C.: and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University. He has been included in over 100 group shows and is represented in over 500 public and private art collections including the Munson-Williams Proctor Art Institute in Utica, NY; The Julliard School of Music, NY; ABC, NY; and the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, Canada.
Jim Ridlon has taught for 36 years and currently holds the distinction of “Outstanding Professor Emeritus” from the School of Art, Syracuse University.
Information courtesy of Joseph Giallanza