Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Paul Rinaldi: Chicago


Please share a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what were any early influences on your work? Where do you live now?

I grew up in New York and Connecticut.  My parents are writers and educators who modeled the values of hard work and creative exploration. They did their best to expose 4 children to the arts….attending concerts, visiting museums and historic sites.  I have an early memory of seeing an exhibit of abstract art at the Guggenheim Museum in New York…Kandinsky stood out.

Variation X, Rembrandt's Quarry
encaustic on panel, 55 x 25 in., 2011

Did you receive any formal art training? If yes where and what did you major in? I did graduate work in Art History at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and completed my M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing at the City University of New York, Brooklyn College. I first learned about the encaustic process while a materials and techniques class at the University of MA.  I started using the medium in earnest about 3 years later.

Lexicon V
encaustic on panel, 20 x 67 in., 2011

At what point in your life did you become interested in making art and was there a certain point when you decided you were primarily an artist?

While I made much art when I was younger, my choice to become an artist occurred In my junior year of college, I had taken a couple of art history classes as part of the liberal arts core, and by the time we hit early 20th century art I was convinced.

Variation XXVV
encaustic on panel, 19 x 25 in., 2011

What is your media?(Please describe briefly)
I alternate between painting with encaustic and acrylic paint throughout the year.  In my drawings, I primarily use oil pastel, and sometimes ink.  I also do quite a bit of photographic work, though these pieces have not been exhibited very much.

encaustic on panel, 33.5 x 25 .5 in., 2010

What is your current work about? 

I started painting with encaustic in earnest in the 1990’s while living in Egypt and teaching art at the American University in Cairo. Living and traveling throughout the Middle East for 7 years, I developed a large body of “photographic sketches” and a repository of image and sound memories that I’ve used as inspiration in my work.

My paintings often exhibit qualities of a palimpsest, whereby imagery is developed, wiped-out, covered over, and sometimes veiled with successive layers of translucent color.  The layering of paint is like the layering of time—moments passing into days, months and years—the immediacy of the present perpetually slipping into the past.

Paul Rinaldi, Self-Portrait
Somewhere in Egypt, 1990's
While the visual form of my work grows out of a vocabulary of subtle tensions developed by Modernist artists, it also speaks to my affinity for antique religious icons, shrines, temples, mosques, and spaces of deep contemplation.  I construct my images from memories of light, color, and space gleaned from these sorts of subjects.  I very much like the idea that an artwork can function as a focus for human contemplation and reflection—that in some way, it can serve a gateway to both collective and individuated memory.  I look to color to function as an indicator of place—sometimes particular and real, other times imagined.

I try to produce work that collapses time, work that fuses the geometry and structures of a contemporary world with an ancient painting technique.  The logic of geometric forms is in some way countered, tempered, or challenged by the sensuality of the wax medium and the organic fusion of color and light.  Visually, I want my paintings to speak musically through a crafting of shape, color, line, surface, and space.  I’m concerned with how these elements repeat and vary through the structure, creating emphasis, and shifting foci, syncopation and rhythm, visual harmony and contrast.  At the same time, I’m every bit as interested in the cleansing role of emptiness—the pause, the silence, the waiting, the sense of expectation.

Ascension XXXV
encaustic on panel, 19 x 25 in., 2011

What is your workspace like?
I have an encaustic workspace in the attic of my home, and I work on larger canvases in my garage during the warmer weather.  The spaces are simple; I have skylights that provide a fair amount of natural light for working…though I could use much more open wall space.

Inside Rinaldi's studio (above and below)

Are you involved with any arts groups or communities? If yes, what do you gain from that affiliation and what do you contribute to it?

I am a member of FusedChicago, a group of Midwest visual artists who use the encaustic medium.  The group conducts studio visits and demonstrations, and helps promote visibility of our artwork through its blog ( and exhibitions in the Chicago area.

Variation IX
encaustic on panel, 23.5 x 29.5 in., 2010
How do you develop a sense of community with other artists, and how do you support your art colleagues?

Years out of grad school, raising children, teaching, it’s a challenge to find as much time as I would like to connect with other artists.  I’ve moved around quite a bit, which has a way of disrupting one’s community…I taught at the American University in Cairo for 7 years, lived in NYC both before and after that experience, and I’m currently living outside of Chicago.  I teach painting and drawing at Prairie State College, where I’m regularly involved in wide variety of discussions and critiques with my students and colleagues.  I’ve also found that online venues, such as facebook, have enabled me to connect with many artists around the world who share similar interests.

Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?
We all get stuck at times…my only solution is to keep working.  I generally have several pieces in progress at a time.  There is a dialogue between individual pieces.  When one work is being stubborn, I move to another.  I’ve come to realize that not all things are possible in a given moment or day.  Solutions often come to me days later, when least expected.

Variation XVI (Tangential Democracy)
encaustic on panel, 21.5 x 49 in., triptych, 2011

Do you have particular habits that you think support your art practice?
I find it’s best for me to set a regular schedule for studio time, and I try to get in some work as many days of the week as is possible.  It’s sometimes difficult for me to enter the work when I’ve been away for a spell, and I find it useful to spend time looking and thinking about the paintings every day…even if there’s not enough time to get at it.
When I’m away from the studio, I like to take photographs.  This gives me a creative way to interact with the world, and exercise many of the same visual thoughts that are present in my paintings.  I suppose that I use the camera very much like a sketchbook.  While the images certainly impact my thinking, I don’t use them as direct sources for my painting.

Do you have other jobs other than making art?
Yes. I coordinate and teach in a small, but vibrant fine arts program at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, IL
Parenting 2 aspiring musicians—ongoing delight.

Where would you like to be in 5 years as far as your art making?
I’d like to be able to devote more and more time to making art.  I have the pleasure of showing my work at 2 exceptional galleries: Perimeter Gallery in Chicago, and Circa Gallery in Minneapolis.  I hope to find venues in other parts of the country where I can exhibit.

Do you have any upcoming shows that you'd like to mention?
September 2011—one person show at Circa Gallery in Minneapolis.

Do you have any web links/site/blog etc. you'd like to share that show your work?
My website is located at

Thank you Paul!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Read My Blog on Your Phone...

Hi Everyone
I've been real busy, in NYC for 2 weeks. I'm here learning all about Usability for the Web and for Mobile Devices —for my "day job" as a graphic designer and soon to be UX designer. Coming home and back to my studio this Friday night.

The good news....

My Blog is viewable and readable on your cell phone. I am still learning how to enable video on a mobile devices, but for now, you'll have to do that on your computer.

Meanwhile I have 2 terrific interviews lined up, that are in progress. First, is Paul Rinaldi, and next is Carol Heft.

Check back soon!