Lorna Ritz and her pet, Kukumba, who she says is “not really a cat, but something I dreamt up.”
Visual artist Lorna J. Ritz has announced there will be an upcoming show of her work at the Edward Hopper House in Nyack, New York in 2011. She currently has a show at the American Ambassador’s residence in Caracas, which will be there for the next three years. She also exhibits at The Oxbow Gallery in Northampton, MA., and the Alan Klotz Gallery in NYC, Her work can be found in numerous private and public collections.
How long does it take you to work on a painting, from start to finish? Do you work on more than one at a time? I work on one painting at a time, and to silence. My students sometimes ask if they can watch me paint, but I tell them: ‘You’d be bored.’ I spend so much time just standing there silent within, waiting, watching for an idea to come. It always does, but only when I am in a meditative state. Therefore, a painting can take six weeks, studying it everyday, working on it, making changes, then studying it again. I seem to know how to access a place from within from where imagination flows, so that there is intent in the brush marks. How do you know when a painting is done? It never is. I could conceivably work on one painting forever. It would just keep evolving into something I like more. But I let a painting go when its statement is real, alive, and showing me more each time I study it, so I let it live there instead of changing it all over again. The colors each sit rhythmically tied to each other and so no longer need to be exchanged yet again.
Do you ever feel like working more on paintings that you finished in the past?
No, that moment is gone and I am just not there anymore. How has your work evolved? The space in the paintings has deepened over time, there is more to see, more you want to experience, finding places where you want to be, that you’d never have previously imagined. Painting is another form of travel, discoveries made along the way. Who and/or what have been your major influences? The Japanese painter Kimura, who lived in Paris 20 years; Joan Mitchell; Robert Ryman; Jane Wilson; my mentor, James Gahagan; the last paintings of Monet; Bonnard’s color; the French painters, Corot and Poussin, and yes, still Kandinsky.
What inspires your paintings? Landscape, experience, and time.
Do you listen to music when you work? If so, do you have a favorite genre, and how does the music affect your work?
The way I paint simulates improvisational jazz, which I listen to only after I paint, or to get me started. When I work I listen to wind, the sound of rain, snow falling, birdsongs. I don’t want my eyes to get interrupted by others’ rhythms, especially when I get so involved in the music.
How do the titles relate to your paintings, especially in the case of the ones with more unusual, poetic titles?
Each painting finds it title after I take it off the easel. I live with the painting when it is hung on the wall, until its essence finds its name. For example, I did a painting while I was in mourning for my Father, who was very dear to me. The colors were my Father, his presence. The painting titled itself, “Eternal Presence.”
What’s your biggest challenge as an artist?
If you look at my resume, you’d think I am successful. But I have debt. Paint and living costs could conceivably change my attitude if I allowed them to do so. I am a good painting teacher, which is how I have always made a living, but schools are hiring much younger artists now, so I have no stability, just some teaching gigs that have allowed me to keep painting. When I could not afford paint, I ripped up corrugated cardboard and made collages, or drew; (I always have crayons), so nothing stops me from being at my best painting-self, except for those times I do feel like a ship lost at sea in a storm caught in everyday personal life problems. Then another of my best selves rises up and I then conquer that, too. I keep discovering what keeps me strong, reinventing my solid base which keeps getting challenged by life.
Is there anything you would wish for in public policy to help artists?
In Europe if you have been painting as long as I have been, and have the body of work that I do, the government venerates you and financially shows it. In this country, the successful corporate people are the ones venerated. Art is always the first thing to go, when there are cuts. In the newspapers, the title page is the “Arts and Leisure” section. Public Policy would, in my dream of dreams, title one section “Leisure” and another “The Arts.” And being the teacher that I am, one would think that with my many years of rich painting experience that I would be grabbed up by the colleges who need serious painters who know how to articulate visual ideas.
What advice do you have for young or new artists?
Don’t sell out by following trends. Look within, and look out and around you, but don’t have your head stuck in the gallery scene. Get life experience. Fall in love with your medium so that your distinctive voice can be heard through it. Then, build upon that. Community is more important that competition. Care about each other and help each other all along the way.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I ‘listen’ for the hidden secrets embedded in the paint itself, and to how it wants to move across the surface of linen. The surfaces of my paintings resemble ancient walls, in that there is a sense of history alive in them, through the repetition of the “placement and replacement” of paint many times over. It is necessary to go through the search process each painting. A painting gets born when it has a specific presence that comes alive in it, that seems, for me, to come together only at the very end through the last accoutrements that fine-tune it.
Lorna holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Michigan and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute, New York. She has extensive experience as a teacher, both in the United States and abroad, and has traveled through the U.S. Information Agency. The recipient of several awards, she has exhibited at Smith College Museum of Art, The Painting Center, New York City; the Fine Arts Center’s University Gallery at the University of Massachusetts, the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College, and the Fine Arts Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, among other institutions. She also traveled through the “International Program” through the Augusta Savage Gallery to work with artists in the Townships in Cape Town.