Visual Arts

Neil Sulier, a man of many talents from art to garden-tool design, dies

Neil Sulier holding his painting of the Kentucky River Palisades in the foyer of the office at the Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan House.
Neil Sulier holding his painting of the Kentucky River Palisades in the foyer of the office at the Dr. Thomas Hunt Morgan House. Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation

Neil Sulier, an insurance man who had been a force in Lexington’s art world for decades, died July 30 at his home at Lake Herrington.

Sulier, 78, had apparently suffered a massive heart attack while on the Coffee Cove dock, said his longtime companion, artist and cookbook author Barbara Harper-Bach.

Harper-Bach said that she was assured that Sulier did not suffer and died quickly, which was what he had wished for his death.

Sulier was a 1960 graduate of the University of Kentucky and worked in his family’s business, Sulier Insurance, until he retired in 1987. But even during that time he was a leader at the Lexington Art League, serving at one time as its president. At the time of his death, he was still a constant presence at Lexington Art League events, according to Stephanie Harris, executive director of the league.

Sulier had myriad interests, Harper-Bach said.

“He’s just one of the best artists in this part of the country, and flies under the radar with it because he was a photographer,” she said.

When Harper-Bach found Sulier’s day planner schedule after his death, “there was something every morning, noon and night” from now until October.

But he was also skilled in other areas besides photography and art: Sulier was the 2011 winner of the Historic Georgetown pie contest at Scott County with a strawberry-rhubarb concoction. He was also an inventor of such items as the non-clogging “Rake ‘n’ Roll” leaf rake, a couch caddy to hold various TV-related items, a long-handled pooper scooper for pet waste, and a weed-puller that he billed as the “the world’s best hoe.”

Sulier and Harper-Bach, who collaborated on a Horse Mania horse, had known each other for much of their lives, but only began dating in 2008.

“He was the best-looking guy in town when he was young, bar none,” Harper-Bach said. “What a catch. I finally got him when he was so old, all the women in the world weren’t after him.”

Sulier and Harper-Bach were working together on a mural submission for UK at the time of his death.

“We adored Neil, and he’s going to be greatly missed,” Harris said. “The next opening, it will be very noticeable that he’s not there.

Visitation for Sulier will be held Aug. 7 at Milward Funeral Home Man o’ War at 1509 Trent Boulevard from 4-7 p.m. The funeral will be held at Mary Queen of the Holy Rosary, 601 Hill N Dale Dr. on August 8 at 10 a.m. A reception will be held after the funeral at Lexington Art League’s Loudoun House in the Neil Sulier Gallery at noon.

Harper-Bach said that the irony of having the reception in the Sulier Gallery is that the display currently there — “Still They Persist: Protest Art of the 2017 Women’s March” — is images from the recent women’s marches. Sulier, she said, was a big supporter of President Donald Trump, against whom the women marched.

Sulier’s political views caused a bit of a ruckus among his Facebook community, she said.

“The funniest thing is there’s an anti-Trump show there,” she said, “and the funniest thing is he loved Trump.”

Cheryl Truman: 859-231-3202, @CherylTruman.