"While a friend was well into a kitchen remodel, his wife decided she needed a food pantry. With no pantry space available in the plan, he was forced to redesign space allocated for mops, brooms, etc, to house the pantry. Her pantry would be very narrow with no room to walk into. So, to increase the storage, he built shelves high in the space. For her to reach the upper shelves, she would need a step stool. To eliminate the hassles with that, he built her a single step that would slide out to allow her comfortable access to the top. It was the perfect solution for the space and the genius of it stayed with me. When I was in the conceptual stage of 'First Step', it was my intent to create a set of steps behind a railing wall. As I was drawing the steps on the canvas, the pantry step came to mind and I thought, 'why not?'. I erased all of the steps except for the single step that remains. The painting is meant to confuse the viewer, but once the backstory is revealed, it hopefully makes SOME sense to the viewer."
- Rick Ruark
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Acrylic on Canvas
30" x 40"
“Art is not boundary-driven. It doesn’t discriminate and therefore crosses all borders of humankind.”
Rick is a unique, concept-driven artist whose eye for shape and color is palpable. Born in Columbus, Ohio, Rick relocated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he lives today. With a career in advertising and graphic design, Rick was able to exercise his creativity daily. However, peripheral neuropathy and arthritis affected his ability to use his hands and began to change his ability to execute complex key combinations on the computer. Still full of creative energy, Rick transitioned into a full-time artist.
Making art is healing for Rick, both physically and emotionally. In April of 2020, Rick received a liver and kidney transplant after a 7-year wait for a donor match. From a physical standpoint, making art keeps him moving. He must stand when creating all of his art because he works from a laid-flat easel, which prompts him to move around the piece and sometimes lift or turn it. During months of transplant recovery, this was critical for working his legs, arms and regaining balance. Emotionally and psychologically, Rick says “Making art can take the focus away from negativity and transfer those resources to something more positive. It's not an escape from issues, just a pleasant break, or respite from them and helps me to regroup as well as grounding me. Making art is a great equalizer for my emotions.”
Those who know Rick and his work see him as a ‘disrupter’ or ‘interruptor’. Rick explains, “I interrupt the flow of the viewers’ eyes on the canvas with a color, a geometry change or placement. Sometimes these are very obvious and other times very subtle. People either see it right away, eventually, or not at all. I enjoy it when people feel there’s something not quite right, but can’t quite pinpoint it. Sometimes deviation is necessary for the success of a concept and on occasion, the deviation becomes a permanent layer in my processes.”
For Rick, rejection is his biggest influencer and motivator, because, as he explains, success is an end result that comes from the hard work one does after rejection. He feels that rejection only leads to a greater thoughtfulness in his creative processes and acknowledges the valid opinions of the viewer. He is influenced by the Haitian artists of Miami, whose color choices influence his today, as well as Frank Lloyd Wright whose homes with their long, horizontal lines were first to inspire his geometric pieces. Additionally, Rick appreciates the use of geometry of Bauhaus artists and architects, as well as the colors and geometry used by Victor Vaserely, Andy Warhol, and Frank Stella.
Overall, Rick says his greatest accomplishments would first be his two sons, both of whom have since passed. Rick goes on to say, “Second would be enjoying a successful professional career that I created on my own terms: a tremendous amount of self-teaching combined with the ability to relate to those layers of corporate America who believed in me and helped me along the way.” Rick beautifully summarizes why ArtLifting is valuable to him and others, when he says, “Artlifting breaks down that wall and reveals a display of talent and perseverance in individuals that, while they may have to work a little harder to produce their final result, accomplish it spectacularly. Artlifting gives these artists and creatives recognition for their accomplishments and legitimizes their work.”
ArtLifting champions artists impacted by homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork. Learn more here.