Job placement executive designed sculpture displayed at Good Shepherd

Russell Riendeau of Barrington, executive the vice president of Jobplex, an executive search firm in Chicago, said his most creative period has been in the last six years.

It wasn't part of his regular job. It was on his own. Perhaps it's part of an empty nest syndrome or just a sudden burst of energy. He wrote five books, recorded 7 CDs of music, and created about 80 paintings and 15 sculptures, including a massive easel he donated last month to Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington.

"I do it for the love of creating," said Riendeau, 58.

The sculpture of a crooked easel, called The Everest Easel, is made of 14-inch wide salvaged steel ibeams, tubing, 1/2-inch steel plate, and 3/4-inch steel bolts. It weighs more than 1,500 pounds and is about 15 feet tall. It fits inside a 7-foot circle and is strong enough to hold about 20 people.

"I was working on a lot of abstract paintings a few years ago and woke up one morning with an image of a Dr. Seuss-like artist easel in my head: tilted, leaning, wacky looking," Riendeau said. "Not sure where the image came from, but I jotted down the image I saw and decided to make it."

He worked with Harmony Metals in Gilberts to construct it. "One of the owners, Rick Janes, was great to help build it in a way that 3 guys could assemble it with one big wrench." Janes has since passed away, he said.

They built the easel in stages. First, they picked out bent, twisted, old steel from the back trash pile and then, piece by piece, welded the frame together to get the right perspective, angles, bends and abstract feel that he had envisioned, he said.

Afterward, they finished the base and frame, added the peak, the chains to the bottom, and the teetering paint brush on the top. They added big nuts and bolts "to give it an over-the-top appearance and make it easy to assemble with the right wrench, yet too difficult to disassemble for safety reason,"

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he said.

After showing the easel in Artprize, an international art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and at the West Loop Art Festival in Chicago, Riendeau said he had some interest in other parks and venues. But they all wanted the easel to have a sponsor with money to donate along with the easel. He knew some people at Advocate Good Shepherd and offered to donate the work to the hospital.

The Everest Easel represents two concepts. One concept is to picture your life as you want it and put it in a framework of thought that you can see and work to achieve. Second, life is not perfect, as the easel is not square, just like our lives, he said.

"We need to aim high and accept the wacky things and challenges that go with life," he said. "I like mountain hiking and Everest has always been a fascination with me, so the name seemed to fit the world's tallest portable easel. Yes, my wife thought I was going nuts, building this huge steel sculpture with no idea what I was going to do with it. I didn't either, but the idea I couldn't shake."

<h3 class="briefHead">FastTracks</h3>

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Russell Riendeau of Barrington designed and donated The Everest Easel sculpture to Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington. COURTESY OF ADVOCATE GOOD SHEPHERD HOSPITAL
Miriam Cooper
Enzo Incandela
Chris Gary
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