The late Vernon Conrad, who was an agricultural leader in the region and a three-term Fresno County Supervisor, is the subject of a painting that will be part of an exhibit at the state Capitol.
The painting – by noted Fresno artist Ma Ly – will come from state Senate District 14, which is represented by Andy Vidak of Hanford.
The exhibit, known as the State Senate’s Contemporary Art Collection, will be on display from this month through September 2018 in the state Capitol in Sacramento.
Conrad’s son, William “Bill” Conrad, said his mother, Marjorie, “is really excited” about the honor.
“She wants us to take her up [to Sacramento] so that she can see it when it’s hanging there,” said Conrad, adding that the whole family is thrilled.
Every other year, each state Senator can choose art by an artist whose work best represents that senator's district for the exhibit. On May 2, Vidak announced the selection of Ly’s painting.
Conrad died on Dec. 10, 2016 at his Reedley home. He was 90.
In a happy turn of circumstances, Bill Conrad said that Ly is engaged to Vernon Conrad’s granddaughter, Angela “Angie” Turner. The painting is on loan from the private collection of Turner, who is the daughter of Carol and Dwight Turner. Carol is Bill’s sister.
The painting is called “Vernon Conrad: The Garden of the Old Man.”
In the portrait, Vernon Conrad is seen sitting on what appears to be a three-wheeler agricultural carrier. He’s stopped to take a look at a section of planted crops. In the background is Campbell Mountain that has the large white-painted “R” that stands for Reedley.
According to Vidak’s website, Conrad in his later years planted a garden with the help of his daughter, Carol.
Asked what the painting captures of his father, Bill said “that he loved agriculture.”
Bill said that his father also loved gardening and that his father and Carol would garden together and give the excess to family, friends and neighbors. Bill said his father and sister were planning what they would plant this year when Vernon passed away.
Conrad was one of Fresno County’s top agricultural leaders and served as president of the Fresno County Farm Bureau from 1978 to 1980.
He raised cattle on the family farm, after he served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army during World War II. He later diversified into vineyard and other orchard crops before retiring from farming in 2005.
Conrad also became involved in government service, serving on different boards including the Kings Canyon Unified School District Board of Trustees. He served three terms as the District 4 Fresno County supervisor, before leaving office in 1995.
Ly, according to his website, is a self-taught artist. “The human element is at the core of Ly’s work, through portraiture and narrative paintings, done in a realistic style,” the site bio says. In 2016, the Fresno Art Council honored him as Artist of the Year at their Horizon Awards ceremony.
There were four honorable mentions for the District 14 selection: Louis Ferreira of Hanford; Cecile Garrison of Visalia; Lea McAndrews of Fresno; and Ivan Mendoza of Visalia.