George Rhoads died peacefully in Chinon, France, on July 9, 2021. He was 95. George had been living with his son in France for several years. Born in Evanston, Illinois, the son of Paul Spottswood Rhoads, MD, and Hester Chapin Rhoads, he is survived by his two children, Paul Rhoads and Daisy Rhoads, a grandchild Chip Chapin, and two sisters, Emily Rhoads Johnson and Paula Menary. A third sister, Hester Bradbury, died in 1982. George attended the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago, then spent a year at L’Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris. In 1955 he returned to New York City and married Shirley Gabis. The couple had two children, Paul and Daisy, and eventually divorced.
George’s talent for drawing was apparent by the age of two. His passion for painting continued throughout his lifetime, even though he became better known for his captivating audiokinetic sculptures, which can be seen in airports, malls, science museums, and hospitals throughout the world. “People have always tended to equate machines with drudgery,” he once said. “My goal is to show machines at play.” One of his most intricate ball machines can be seen at the Sciencenter in Ithaca, where its musical sounds and whirling balls delight viewers of all ages.
It would be difficult to categorize George’s painting style because it varied from one decade to the next. He began with abstract city scenes, moved to trompe d’oeil, early Renaissance, aboriginal, surreal and realistic landscapes, and everything in between. When he wasn’t designing a ball machine or painting, he was creating origami figures, making masks, teaching yoga, building fountains, listening to Beethoven or jazz, thinking up palindromes, or writing a novel. Everything in his life was fodder for art.
George lived in Martha’s Vineyard, New York City, Harford Mills, and Dundee before finally settling in Ithaca in 1985. Graphic artist Marcelle Toor was his beloved partner for twenty years before her death in 2009. George’s legacy may not be as the doctor his father hoped he would become, but it will be one of giving joy and a sense of wonder to everyone lucky enough to have known him or enjoyed his awe-inspiring abundance of art.