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Late in Life, Eddie Maxwell Finds Solace in Painting

Eddie Maxwell has enjoyed the titles of army veteran, retired railroad pensioner,  and hair salon owner. He is also the survivor of a severe brain seizure, and now the 84 year-old Elm Manor Homes resident is an artist.

Maxwell signed away his Northern Virginia businesses in 1989 when things looked bleak, which is also when he “dropped to his knees and asked God to let him live.”

In return, a man who once described himself as having “more women than you could shake a stick at,” also promised that he would start painting. And he has – in vivid oils and acrylics, with landscapes a specialty, like the mountains of Colorado, where Maxwell was once stationed in the Army.

“When I got out of the hospital I just prayed,” he recalled of that life-changing time.

Rays of sunlight were evident in many of his works, perhaps offering a promise of hope, during a one-day show at Elm Manor (behind St. John’s Episcopal) last week. Several of Maxwell’s pieces are for sale at the new Second Helping Rescue Mission store on Williamson Road.

“I’ve had some luck,” said Maxwell about those who look out for him now.

The manager of the store’s café, Jonathan McGraw, has taken the artist under his wing, after Maxwell wandered in – sockless – to a temporary gallery McGraw was running on Franklin Road. McGraw helped Maxwell move in to Elm Manor, where he paints in his living room/studio, to the sound of easy listening music coming from a digital TV channel. As a young man in Bluefield, West Virginia, Maxwell sang on a television program himself.

Maxwell claims that people he didn’t paint often “show up” in his work afterwards, and said that sometimes his hand moves in mysterious ways while holding a brush.

“It’s like someone is doing the painting for me.” The apparitions he swears aren’t painted in were even the subject of a chapter in “The Ghosts of Virginia, VII” by author L.B. Taylor. Elvis Presley “showed up on the dance floor,” on one canvas, said Maxwell.

Blind in one eye, with cataracts in the other, Maxwell can still be prolific at times: “I can do a painting in one night,” he said at the Elm Manor showing. He’ll even make up his own colors and favors a vivid orange-pink hue found in several works.

“I’m in another world when I paint,” said Maxwell, who gets around with the help of a walker and a scooter when traveling more than short distances.

It looks like he spends plenty of time in his cozy studio/living room as well, as easy listening tunes blare in the background.

“I don’t try to copy anyone else,” said Maxwell, who nonetheless admires the master Monet. His works are somewhat reminiscent of the French painter – but Eddie Maxwell is a true original.

By Gene Marrano
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