Obituary: Remembering artist Roland Reiss

We mourn the loss of Los Angeles artist Roland Reiss who passed away from natural causes on December 13, 2020 at the age of 91. As Chair of the Claremont Graduate University Art Department from 1971 to 2001, he mentored generations of students in an innovative program that set a standard for graduate art education.

The Claremont Museum of Art also presented the exhibition Roland Reiss: Unapologetic Flowers and Small Stories in 2018.

Known for his warmth, generosity and professionalism, Reiss won the prestigious College Art Association Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2009. 

Steve Comba recalled that “Roland was the sort of teacher who could read the phone book and you would be enraptured. His strident intellectual approach and steadfast insistence that you never compromised in the creation, and more importantly, the ideas, that formed who you are as an artist are lifelong lessons that I’m sure resonated with hundreds of former students, colleagues, and friends of Roland. He treated you as a peer and expected the same. He was a force of nature!” 

Jane Park Wells commented, “He was my mentor and my friend, always positive and articulate. I’ll miss him forever.” Gary Geraths, Rebecca Hamm, Athena Hahn, Joyce Hesselgrave, Michael Woodcock and many other friends and CGU students were influenced by Reiss and continue to grace Claremont’s art community.

Reiss attended Pomona High School during WWII. As a budding young artist, he was inspired by Millard Sheets who spoke about fine art as a viable career. He went on to study art at Mt San Antonio College and UCLA. 

An artist of international stature, he maintained an extraordinarily successful career that extended for more than 60 years. Reiss is widely recognized for his miniatures, but was first and foremost a painter. His work has been exhibited extensively, recognized by no fewer than four NEA Visual Arts Fellowships, among many other honors, and is to be found in major museums and private collections including The Whitney Museum of American Art, LACMA and MOCA. Reiss is survived by his wife of 20 years, the artist Dawn Arrowsmith.

The COURIER will have more on the life of Mr. Reiss in an upcoming edition. Many thanks to the Claremont Museum of Art for providing this information.


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