BEING FLAWED, BEING TRANSPARENT, MAKING ART

At about 15, I was drawn to Abstract Art, to the freedom and calmness within it. It touched me. It rang a bell with me. I began experimenting with color field work, primarily influenced and inspired by artists Mark Rothko and Hans Hofmann, but also branching out into abstract expressionism. I am a self-taught painter. Rules and techniques followed without question can stifle creative expression. I have to work as directed from within, by what inspires.

The landscape around Lubbock, Texas, where I grew up, probably did play a part in my passion for the abstract.  The openness and flatness there, at least when driving in the surrounding counties, looks like a lot of nothing, desolate, monochromatic, but when you stop and begin to take in details, you see depth, subtle variations in color. What appears simple on the surface, is really complex. I find the geometry of the imperfect square or rectangle to be a primary consideration in my work, perhaps because it reminds me of west Texas flatness and the self-containment of life there. But the rough edges of my rectangles are also like the imperfections of life and nature’s flaws. It takes maturity to accept our flaws.  Nothing is really smooth.  Nobody is perfect.

My first art class was in 1998 after a career as an accountant.  I had been diagnosed with a life threatning illness and decided to take an art-healing class at the Glassell. I was fighting depression and all the emtional upheaval that accompanies any devastating illness.  And it did.  I knew then that painting was my true calling in life.  It helps me dig into myself to be more and more creative.  When you are doing what you enjoy most in this world, it has a positive effect on your mental and physical health.

I begin a piece with gesso, modeling paste and other materials to create textural base.  If I don’t gesso or build up the paint, I feel naked, just my rawness and me, art-less.  Smoothness also implies nakedness, and I feel the need to dress the canvas.  Making art is the mixing and building up of layers of color, playing texture against the plain canvas. This is healing and opens me up.  I sense hope.  Hope comes from having a purpose.  Instinct tells me when the painting is done.

I usually work on two or three paintings at one time. A work may take days — or months — to complete.  I paint over and over the same piece, experimenting. I go deep inside, into memory, learning more about myself.  I see more and more.  I create to preserve life’s experiences and memories of places I have been.  The challenge is to enjoy the journey, the fun of it, and not to be hounded by the end result, to just let go and let it be, to learn, to evolve.

I paint solitude, but not loneliness — what is discovered in solitude. I am attracted to the colors of the natural world, the earth tones, which can be kind of sedated, the gray trunk of a tree next to green leaves, for instance.  On the other hand, I am very passionate, and my colors can reflect that.  Red signifies sacredness for me.  White is purity.  Black is strength.  Vibrant colors come to me like personalities, and that can be fun.  The paints are having conversations.  For instance, on a flight out to LaGuardia Airport, I noticed the lighted squares of the apartments, and later, as I painted these squares in what was to become my New York series, I saw people in them. Each square took on a personality.

Abstract art, being nonrepresentational, is open to a wide variety of interpretations.  There is no right or wrong view.  I just want a person to be emotionally connected to each piece in his or her own way.  We are all connected even if we see and feel things differently.

–Ronnie Queenan