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Beauty is his perogative

Wren Wertin
"Switzerland" by Erich Windisch.
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Erich Windisch is traditional in the classic sense of the word.

“There’s so many ways to interpret art, to see it,” said the artist. “I like to paint things in nice colors to show the beauty. I’m old fashioned in this way.”

Long-time local Windisch is hosting his annual exhibit in the Vail Library’s Community Room. The show will be on the walls through the end of the month, and an artist’s reception will be held Wednesday 5:30-7:30 p.m.

“Sometimes you add something to it,” he said. “You’ve heard of the freedom of the artist – I might exaggerate the color of the sky. But only to make it more beautiful.”

Painting is only part of his life. During the winter, he can be found on the mountain teaching skiing. He was a supervisor for 30 years at Golden Peak, but decided to return to the job he loved best – on the front line, taking classes out and teaching folks a little bit about what he knows.

“I like to be with people,” he said. “When you teach them, they try so hard – maybe they grind their teeth. But they practice, and suddenly it clicks. It’s warming to see.”

Windisch Way on Vail Mountain was named for him. Born in Germany, the painter learned to ski at age 2. Five years later, he took his first gold medal in a ski race. He went on to win championships in Bavaria, Tyrol, Allgau, Werdenfels, Bayerwald, Oberland, Chiamgau and Inngau.

After being chosen for the German National Olympic Ski Team, he dislocated his shoulder. Anxious to return to the slopes, he competed in ski jumping before his shoulder healed. His only concession to the injury was to keep his arms straight at his sides instead of wheeling them in the air.

His good results in the Olympics caused a revolution in the sport. Windisch was inducted to the Ski Hall of Fame in 1994, and he was also named “Ski Instructor of the Year” by Ski Country magazine. He’ll always have skiing in his life, but traveling and painting are big parts, too.

“Especially in the spring,” he said. “I have the urge to paint more, after the season is over. In the winter, I’m surrounded by people. In the spring, I want to head out and just paint. Such a different contrast.”

But painting is still communicating with others for Windisch. He’s not teaching them how to turn, but he’s showing them where he’s been. His affection for the mountains he paints is obvious – he can’t help but reach out and trace the line of the mountains against the sky. He’s got a myriad of new canvases on display in the exhibit, but the Matterhorn – which he climbed 40 years ago – is still among his favorite subjects.

The exhibit is a free event. The community room is open to visitors during normal library hours.


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