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In Memorium (1941-2015)

Ted Herlinger



Words by Teeka Ballas
Photos by Nick Bradford
first published in Anchorage Press, April 2, 2015

Last week another hole in the universe opened up. There is now an empty place where once there was a gasp of fury, a pledge of ornery, a hail of talent and vision. Ted Herlinger was motivated by curiosity and creativity; he led a storybook life through the work he did—a soldier, a cook, a fisherman, a teacher—and the adventures he chased down.

Many in Anchorage knew Ted by his leather jacket or his truck—both of which were emblazoned with his nom de plume, “Art Attack Alaska,” or by his crusty laugh and art that was at times cutting edge, sometimes disturbing, sometimes ingenious, always wrought with talent.

He’s been called “Terrible Ted,” a curmudgeon, a pain in the ass. He had a voice that wasn’t just from the gutter; it rose from the dregs of the gutter, and he cursed like a sailor, but had an enormously generous heart and was genuinely supportive of his fellow artists.

“I loved that chalky, growly-bear, marshmallow man,” Gina Hollomon, Anchorage artist and co-owner of the Blue Hollomon Gallery shared on her Facebook page. “He was rough on the outside and all gooey on the inside! I wish I had a video of the day we blew hog gut outside my studio! He had me go to the butcher shop in Mountain View and buy a ‘hank of hog gut’ so we could wash it and wash it, then blow it up like six-foot-long condom balloons and string them through trees to dry and dye. We laughed ourselves crazy that day.”

Ted was loved by more than just artists. He was a political tyrant online, forever forthcoming with opinion and discourse. He had an impressively large Facebook audience that subscribed to his nightly rants.

Ted received an art degree in California, hitchhiked to Seattle and eventually made his way to Alaska where he received a master’s degree in screenwriting at UAA. There’s a mountain of things in between, like the most important thing—meeting Judith, the woman he always spoke of with a twinkle in his eye, his best friend. They first met in a literature class she was teaching in the early 1980s.

Herlinger7__by Nick Bradford

“On the first day of class, I told the students to make sure they were in the right class,” said Judith. “And Ted said, ‘I’m on the manifest for your other class, but that’s not my voyage.’ I liked him right away. I knew he was different.” She said they spoke on the phone all the time and started dating after the class ended.

Ted had a slew of medical problems that started really kicking his ass this past year. He had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, difficulty walking and an aortic stenosis, yet his work continued with a new show, “Spring Birches,” at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art. Thrilled with the positive feedback he’d received, he’d been inspired and began taking photographs of the inside of his refrigerator for a new project.

“He’d overworked himself,” said Judith, “which was not unusual for him.” On the morning of Saturday, March 22, Ted complained of not feeling well and laid back down for a bit. He didn’t get back up again.

“He wasn’t well, I know, but it just happened so fast,” said Judith. “I didn’t expect it to happen so soon.”

Ted was one of the most generous artists—not just with his art, but also with his consideration, his respect, and his time. There are not enough souls on the planet like his.

When Ted first came to Anchorage he found himself homeless; the Brother Francis Shelter (he later designed their donor wall) and Beans Café helped him stay alive and get back on his feet, and he never forgot that. There will be no ceremony commemorating the extraordinary life he lived or the enormous number of lives he touched. So to celebrate Ted, Judith has asked that donations be made in his name to either or both centers.

Herlinger5__by Nick Bradford

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