"Everyone is born with creativity and we either choose to nurture it or not."
Ritchard Rodriguez was born and raised in New York City, studied art at NY’s School of Visual Arts under mentors Gilbert L. Stone and Jonathan Borofsky, migrated once west to Aspen Colorado for two years where he was invited to exhibit for the very first time (at its Jerome Gallery), then east to Berlin, Hamburg and Paris for a duration of eight years. There he was represented by art dealers Michel Ozenne in Paris and Jan de Maere in Brussels who, aside from granting him a solo show in Paris’ first arrondissement, would also include him in the FIAC at the Grand Palais and the Auction House Elkaim, L’Isle-Adam. Now Rodriguez finds his home in Miami, where inspiration comes from the environment that surrounds him. We had the chance to talk to the painter about his work inspirations, and what he wants to accomplish with his art.
What is your earliest memory of art?
Being the happy loner, youngest of four siblings, pencil my choice of tools, drawing on paper, lines, shapes, nothing I would recognize today, although my mother recalls my saying it was a “sanitation street sweeping truck”. This was before entering kindergarten. Then there were faces ‘cause my other siblings were drawing those. I was the day dreamer at home who would continue.
Who are some of the artists that have influenced your work?
When I believed I would make drawing comic books a career, it was Gene Colan, among others. When I studied painting in art college my mentor was my instructor, Gilbert L. Stone. Likewise Gil had turned me onto the Old Masters, the Dutch, especially Rembrandt whose portraits to this day keep me mesmerized. Ironically, years later I would meet Lisa de Kooning, friend of a friend’s friend, and only then learned about her father, yet another Dutch painter who at the time (1979) was the highest paid living artist. A few years later, while residing in West Berlin, a retrospective of Willem de Kooning was being held, and I witnessed a video of this incredible master working. At the time I was a meticulous figurative painter working in oils, and this experience corrupted me for life. I was blown away while coming to the conclusion that once an artist masters his/her skills he can just about do anything his heart desires without sacrificing any quality within his vocation. And in time I jumped off the cliff of a comfort zone with a hand glider of my own invention without regrets. Oh, BTW, the aforementioned Gene Colan has remained an inspiration in my abstract painting for the last 9 years. I have just entered my 46th year of painting in oils :)
Are we born with creativity or is it learned?
Everyone is born with creativity and we either choose to nurture it or not. An individual’s society, family, etc, may very well be instrumental in such a choice, that and the discipline it requires. Folks go about how “talented” I am, but the spectator doesn’t realize that what they see is work, hard work that follows an impulse via love and passionate devotion. Whatever one chooses to do, not having it chosen by an outside source, via diligent effort will have fantastic results, otherwise it simply won't.
What are some of the subject matters that you like to touch on with your work?
Hope, respect and awareness, and a personal fear of ignorance. Funnily enough, similar themes appear within my works’ titles, and BTW, all my work begin with titles triggered by so many aspects of life.
What was the last thing you saw that really inspired you to create?
Having moved to Miami from New York City. I must confess I never looked up at the skyscrapers of NY where I was born until I returned from a long residency in Europe, awed by its terrific wealth of Art Deco. Now here, I’m likewise inspired by the skies over Miami, especially when the heat soars along with its humidity, and I'm struck by massive cloud formations that reach up vertically, catching the sun’s spectrum of vibrant colors at all times of day.
If you could collaborate with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
“Dead or alive”? That’s funny, although I think I understand. I have always dreamt of collaborating with those whose work differ from my 2D world: musicians, dance companies, even sculptors. One thing that drew me here is the spectacular public art displayed outdoors throughout, Miami Beach, Wynwood, Coral Gables. I would love to see my images warped into the 3D world, even on the stage for dance companies, etc.
What do you want to accomplish with your art?
I once had a chap contact me about a work of mine seen during a show in SoHo NY. He had been going through a rough period since his fiancee left him after 4 years of engagement. He confessed that when he saw this “work”, entitled, ‘…If it’s a Girl…’, his pain stopped. Now when he enters his home it’s the first thing that he sees. If my work can do that to someone then I have accomplished my goal, having it invoke hope.