Rice Mountain by Rudy Helmo. On exhibit in the office of Hoosic Valley Elementary School.
This past summer, the Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy had a retrospective exhibit of the work of Rensselaer County artist Rudy Helmo. The star of the exhibit was his large oil painting of Rice Mountain in Melrose in winter. It is usually very visible but little commented upon in the office of the Hoosic Valley Elementary School. You could see it when you go to vote, or actually any weekday at all. Warren Broderick of Lansingburgh assisted with the research and compilation of the exhibit. The biographical information which follows is from Rudy’s daughter Joan Helmo Bondy.
Rudy Helmo was born in Germany in 1908. He began painting as a young man, immigrating to New York City in 1929. He worked as a waiter in restaurants in New York and studied in the Art Students League of New York. In 1944 he and his wife moved to Troy. He continued to work in restaurants, but had some exhibits of his work and began to teach. In 1950 the Helmos moved to Pittstown, near Melrose. Rudy was finally able to paint and teach in earnest. He offered classes at schools, clubs, museums, and the Albany Institute of History and Art, plus SUNY at Albany.
Helmo painted in a number of styles, from impressionism to expressionism, and painted portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. He was a very outgoing man, famous for holding demonstrations where he would speak to an audience while painting, explaining his process, finish the work, and auction it off while still wet. He exhibited locally and nationally.
In 1970 he and his wife moved back to Bavaria in Germany. They found they missed the U.S. and returned to Albany in 1975. Rudy’s health began to fail, and while he continued to paint, his teaching activity was reduced. He passed away in 1986.
Cathy Crowley McNulty helped me discover how Hoosic Valley Elementary got its wonderful Helmo painting. Rudy taught art classes at the high school from about 1958-1968. In 1964, Ellen Wiley, art teacher, and her colleagues at the elementary school purchased the oil from Helmo, seeking to increase their students’ appreciation of fine art.