respect for animals was a central characteristic of her being

In memory of Theron Caldwell Ris

by Doug E. L. Haynes

Theron Caldwell Ris passed away on May 7, 2016 at age 84. Theron was a long term member of the Wisconsin Visual Artists, who enthusiastically participated in the exhibitions and activities our organization. She served on several committees of the South Central Chapter including chair of the membership committee, exhibition chair and chapter chair. Theron participated in the Wisconsin Visual Artists’ Japanese exchanges in 2000, 2002 and 2005. She had an active exhibition record including participation in the 1995 and 1997 Wisconsin Artists biennials. She also participated in the 1998 WP&S Sesquicentennial at the Charles Allis Museum, Milwaukee.

Artists of sufficient age will remember Theron as a tall thin woman who lived in a distinctive house on a bluff overlooking the Yahara river. The modern home had a silo tower with an observation deck that was filled with kites. There was a detached studio and the home was filled with Theron’s ever present dogs.

She will be remembered for her passion, warmth and encouragement to others. Her work was expressive, colorful and usually depicted her favorite subject matter, animals. She used her art to invite the viewer to perceive her subjects with compassion. Her work emphasized each animal’s unique spirit. In an artist’s statement Theron asked viewers to consider, “the unthinking lack of empathy which my species has for other animals.” Theron’s fierce advocacy for respect for animals was a central characteristic of her being.

Ris received two art degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Madison; a BS in Fine Arts in 1981 and a an MFA in 1984. From that time forward Theron never put down the brush. Through the years she had over 25 solo shows. Ris continued to paint and share her work up until her death.

She was preceded in death by the father of her children, William L. Caldwell, and her second husband, Hans Ris. She is survived by She is survived by her six children and two stepchildren. A memorial service will be held on June 19th, 2:00pm at the First Unitarian Church in Madison.


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