Jac Kephart's first and last abstract works are side by side in the The Art Center's North Gallery.

The first flashes in yellows and golds with a red rectangle that holds the eye. He painted it in the 1960s on canvas, which was different than the boards he used later, and he named it "The Red 1" for a red 1 toward the bottom, said Pat Kephart, the artist's wife of 52 years.

Jac Kephart's last painting also has a striking sliver of red, just above a thick horizontal sweep of pitch that contrasts with silver leaf and aluminum foil below.

"It wasn't finished, just setting on the easel" Pat Kephart said.

Jac Kephart, 79, died May 16. More than 30 of his paintings, a retrospective including both his abstract and realistic work, will be part of the show "Shepherd + 1" that will open with a reception at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, at The Art Center, 1803 N. Seventh St.

"He was a bright light," said Terry Shepherd, director of ceramics and artist in residence at The Art Center, who wanted to recognize Kephart's work in "Shepherd + 1," which includes Shepherd's ceramics.

Kephart had an "engaging curiosity" that extended beyond his own work to the artwork of others, said Shepherd, 67, who was in his early 20s when he first met Kephart.

Shepherd used to stop by Jac's House of Flowers, the floral business the Kepharts ran for many years in Grand Junction, just to see what paintings might be hanging on the walls.

"I was always curious. What's he doing now?" Shepherd remembered.

He was just 100 percent artist," Pat Kephart said. "He was just incredibly talented."

Throughout his life Jac Kephart was driven to create. "He was constantly sketching. Anything he looked at he was making into a painting," she said.

The water lilies in a pond near their home became paintings with nods to Oscar-Claude Monet. Boats that Jac and Pat Kephart took photos of during their trips to England, became other works in oil, pastels or mixed media.

"I really wanted to honor Jac by picking pieces he valued," said Matt Jones, curator at The Art Center. With input from Pat Kephart and Shepherd, the retrospective offers a view of Jac Kephart's work that shows his development as an artist, his playfulness, unbound and creative, as well as his deep intellectual side, Jones said.

"Jac was a lifelong study," he said.

A number of Pat Kephart's favorite pieces are in the show, but she holds all of her husband's work close for the parts of him that she sees in the nuance of brush strokes, mix of colors or unexpected materials.

"I can't live without his art," Pat Kephart said.

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