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Chaos and color in the paintings of Ric Gendron



Ric Gendron doesn't really know which of his paintings are currently hanging at Radius Gallery as part of his current exhibit. He doesn't go out to art shows all that much, even his own.

It's a quirk that might seem strange to some, but it's also what makes Gendron's art as powerful as it is. The Idaho artist doesn't believe in creating art for anyone except for himself: a private, personal process that also happens to be his livelihood and profession for more than 25 years.

"When I paint, I don't think about the outside world," he says, "and I've been fortunate that people have liked what I'm doing. It's easy for artists to follow trends, almost every year, but I hate that—doing what's selling now. There've been several times that I would have been able to make more money, but it wasn't true to the way I approach my work. You have to paint for yourself and love what you are doing. Forget what other people think."

His philosophy couldn't be clearer in his works. The 63-year-old painter creates audacious, bright and sometimes disturbing works, populated by striking portraits, bold images and fantastical foliage. A member of the Confederated Tribes of Colville and a current resident on the Coeur d'Alene Reservation, his works also echo his life and his Native American culture, from warm, heartfelt portraits of his 10 grandchildren to haunting reflections on the Indian holocaust.

Gendron paints in a small in-home studio that's cluttered with a rainbow of acrylic paints, his extensive and varied music collection, antiques he's picked up over the years, and his stereo. His walls showcase art, but not his own. Work by friends and colleagues inspires him.

Ric Gendron’s “Raven Brings Light” is part of a new exhibit at the Radius Gallery.
  • Ric Gendron’s “Raven Brings Light” is part of a new exhibit at the Radius Gallery.

When it comes to his process, speed is the reason Gendron gravitates to painting (and specifically acrylics) over other mediums. Set-up doesn't include carefully lining up, grouping or mixing paints. Instead, he thinks as he goes, painting fast and sometimes on more than one canvas at a time if a flash of inspiration hits him. On one canvas, a raven (one of his favorite images) stares intently at the viewer from a hot pink background. On another, a skeletal figure with a toothy, elongated grin stands in lemon-yellow light.

"I've always loved to use a lot of color, even as a kid," he says. "A lot of the colors, I use them straight out of the tube or jar. When I paint, it's chaotic. I start grabbing colors. I won't know what I will use one color to the next. It's a surprise to me, also."

Largely ignoring critics, collectors and academia, Gendron is influenced by what is around him: his family, his music, his culture, his history, his experiences. When he visited Standing Rock in December to join the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, it is no surprise that he returned with imagery dancing in his head, and lots of photographs to mull over. Weeks later, he had a 30-by-40-inch canvas titled "Standing Rock," an explosion of colors, images and emotion, his experience translated into expression. But the painting, which depicts a giant raven with a black snake in its talons against a backdrop of snow-covered teepees, won't be in a show any time soon. Because, after all, Gendron paints first and foremost for himself.

"It's hanging on the wall right here in our home," he says. "I don't hang on to a lot of my work, because this is what I do for a living, but this painting, for now, I like right here."

Ric Gendron's paintings show at the Radius Gallery through April 8.

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