Painter’s ex­hi­bi­tion is tri­umph over chronic ill­ness

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY DENISE M. WAT­SON

VIR­GINIA BEACH | Dur­wood Zedd has learned to live with the fire.

The pain that can flame around his face and through his teeth was a dull throb as he searched stacks of ab­stract paint­ings and na­ture pho­to­graphs to in­clude in his art ex­hi­bi­tion.

The con­stant buzzing in his ears has be­come tol­er­a­ble; at least his symp­toms don’t de­bil­i­tate him as they once did.

Mr. Zedd, 70, has had sev­eral ca­reers, one as a pro­fes­sional auctioneer, his fam­ily name well known in lo­cal busi­ness cir­cles for decades. He owned a gym, worked as a trainer, ran cloth­ing and re­tail stores, and be­came a suc­cess­ful pho­tog­ra­pher in San Fran­cisco.

His lat­est turn might be his most im­por­tant. Eight years ago, he de­vel­oped a neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der that threat­ened to rob him of his abil­ity to work and to live.

But he chan­neled his en­er­gies into paint­ing, and will open “Dur­wood Zedd: Ret­ro­spec­tive of Pho­tog­ra­phy and Paint­ings” at the Towne Bank Pav­il­ion Cen­ter I in Vir­ginia Beach. The work will be on dis­play through Au­gust.

“The art is what keeps me go­ing,” he said.

Mr. Zedd grew up in Nor­folk and worked in the fam­ily’s auc­tion busi­ness, and he and his brother ran their own. He also ran the pop­u­lar Eljo’s cloth­ing store at Wards Cor­ner be­fore tak­ing off for San Fran­cisco in 1988 to try some­thing new.

He was go­ing on a trip to Italy, and his then-girl­friend gave him a cam­era. Mr. Zedd ex­hausted rolls of film, and his friend was struck with how well com­posed and dis­tinc­tive the pho­tos looked.

“They’re ac­tu­ally pretty good,” he re­mem­bers her say­ing. “They don’t look like tourist pho­to­graphs.”

He was work­ing as a trainer at the time and saw a client walk­ing around the gym with an auc­tion cat­a­log. He wanted to get the man’s opin­ion of a photo Mr. Zedd had in his car.

“How much do you want for it?” the man asked.

Mr. Zedd didn’t know what to say, so he just tossed out a num­ber: “$350.”

The guy or­dered one. Min­utes later Mr. Zedd was telling the story to a co­worker when another man tapped him on the shoul­der and asked about the photo. He wanted one, too. Mr. Zedd quoted the price, and the man asked Mr. Zedd to bring in all of his work.

The one print was all Mr. Zedd had. He started tak­ing more pho­to­graphs, and the man be­came a reg­u­lar cus­tomer, buy­ing more than 50 pieces.

Mr. Zedd then rented a space to sell his pic­tures of na­ture and ar­chi­tec­ture. He added unique fix­tures, ta­bles and ac­cent pieces, and soon had a bou­tique of high-end items.

Years of grow­ing up in auc­tion houses gave Mr. Zedd an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the eclec­tic and hard-to-find pieces his cus­tomers loved. Mr. Zedd’s pho­to­graphs were even­tu­ally ex­hib­ited at gal­leries in San Fran­cisco, San Jose and New York.

Then one morn­ing in Oc­to­ber 2009, a sear­ing sen­sa­tion shook Mr. Zedd awake.

“It felt like an ax was go­ing through my head,” he said. “It wasn’t a headache; it was just head pain.”

He was later di­ag­nosed with trigem­i­nal au­to­nomic cephal­gias, a dis­or­der of the trigem­i­nal nerve, the sen­sory nerve of the face. It cre­ates headaches that Mr. Zedd says feel like some­thing is bor­ing into his skull, in­ces­santly.

Mr. Zedd spent months in pain clin­ics and tried Bo­tox shots, oxy­gen reg­i­mens, pills and hyp­no­sis. He couldn’t fo­cus and use his cam­era.

Con­fined to his apart­ment, he picked up a paint­brush and started doc­u­ment­ing his pain in daily sketches. He’d paint a woman’s face to re­flect his mood, a slight smile on good days, some­times a blank stare, other times a grumpy look when the rent was due and he wasn’t sure how it would be paid. He al­ways in­cluded a ci­garette dan­gling from the lips.

He re­al­ized he was paint­ing me­mories of his child­hood. The “Ci­garette Girls,” as he named the se­ries, rep­re­sented his mother and aunts who died from lung cancer. He now has more than 600 works in the se­ries.


Artist Dur­wood Zedd is hold­ing his first art ex­hibit of paint­ings and pho­tog­ra­phy at Towne Bank Pav­il­ion Cen­ter I in Vir­ginia Beach, Vir­ginia. “The art is what keeps me go­ing,” Mr. Zedd said. Mr. Zedd dis­cov­ered his tal­ent for pho­tog­ra­phy dur­ing a trip to Italy.

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