About the Artist:
Excerpts From, Rory Wagner, Michael Wigley, Northland Press, Copyright 1982, pages 3-5 ISBN 0-87358-305-1
Rory Wagner was born in St. Petersburg, Florida on a warn July day in 1950. His father, a highly decorated career military man, was a Maryland native; his mother's family, Rising, founded the Rising Paper Mill in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
Born into a military and socially conscious atmosphere, Rory never considered a career in art. His father believed Rory should become a world -class athlete; Rory's early childhood sketches were merely the result of adolescent boredom.
Wagner describes some of his youthful artistic experiences: "When I was twelve years old, I drew a picture of Rip Van Winkle. I drew him just as he was waking after his prolonged sleep, and included a stretch and a yawn. Very long fingernails, as I remember. I gave it to my teacher, who proceeded to enter it in one of those class art contests you see everywhere. I won the damn thing. Big Deal! There must be thousands of people out there with the same dubious honor bestowed upon them at some point in their lives. I think I realized the relative unimportance of the feat at the time, because although I continued to draw, filling my text books with drawings, I never entered another contest. Throughout his school years, he left a legacy of text books containing what would today be a fortune in Wagner drawings.
By the time he reached high school, Rory was an individualist and an athlete, but still not as artist. He considered competing in the regional Olympic swimming trials, but soon decided he was lacking in dedication when he saw his opponents with their body hair shaved and their ears taped back to reduce drag in the water. Rory acknowledged that he was literally over his head in the competition; he was never able to fulfil his father's expectations of becoming a world-class athlete.
After high school, he entered the University of Florida along with many of his friends, and continued to fill textbooks with his drawings. Little interested in school, he soon was negatively distinguished by failing everything. He could not seem to find his slot in life. Disillusioned, Rory left the university, returned home, and became involved briefly with a girl he had known in high school.He soon discovered that he needed wider horizons to explore. "I asked my father for a plane ticket to Spain, where my uncle was busy writing and having a ball. I didn't stop to consider that he might not need me to share it all with. So off I went."
If high school and college were disappointments for Rory, Europe was positively disastrous. After being in Europe for only a few days, Wagner was hit one morning with the realization that he was nearly broke and several hundred miles away from Spain and the security of his uncle. Practically penniless after a dining extravaganza with a couple of resourceful young airline stewardesses, Rory was reluctant to contact his parents for money. He set off for Spain, hitchhiking when necessary, riding the train when he could afford the ticket.
Upon arriving on his uncle's doorstep, Rory found himself once more at loose ends. "I did nothing but hang around, make myself a total pain to my uncle, and write home for money." Eventually wearing out his welcome, Rory departed for home. His return was a brief one; Rory decided that it was time to grow up, and he wanted to do that Europe. As he says, he left "....... with eyes a bit wider open, and certainly more mature. This trip wasn't quite the disaster of the previous one." He lived in Deya del Mallorca for some time, and then in London.
When he was tired of exploring the continent, he once again returned to America. But, rather that joining his family, he joined the Army. The Army was helped him solve a myriad of problems, and although his performance was somewhat lacking, he had time to decide on his next step in life.
Returning to college after his military tour, Rory majored in English Literature; he finally seemed to be getting it all together. This trip to school was better for many reasons, and he even found time for art to become important. Although he considered it beyond belief that anyone could actually make money doing something he really enjoyed, Rory pressed on with his drawings. "Due to the old America work ethic, I'd always assumed a person had to do something he utterly hated in order to make a buck. I'd always lived by that axiom, doing really gritty jobs all my life." One day, out of the blue, a friend offered him fifty dollars for a charcoal drawing. Drawing with charcoal was a favorite pastime, and he had done this on canvas many times before. Astounded, he took the money and never again returned to college classes. he spent twenty-four hours pondering the implications of becoming the professional artist he felt compelled to be. The struggle within awakened the young man's artistic sensitivities and unleashed as energy he had not known he possessed.