Cutting-edge artist gives Gorgas lecture

By Caroline Smith | Staff Reporter 

Type "oil painting" in your search bar on Google and images of dusty, ancient art will fill your screen. However, Ridley Howard, a renowned painter, speaker and co-founder of an artist-run gallery in New York, is rejuvenating this age-old art form and transforming it into something that resonates with modern audiences. On Thursday evening, he will give a lecture about his fresh take on the traditional painting style.

At 7 p.m., Ridley Howard will speak and answer questions in Gorgas Library, Room 205. The lecture is free and open to the public. Art students and non-art students alike are welcome to attend the event. 

Pete Schulte, professor of drawing at UA and chair of the Visiting Artists and Scholars Committee, says he feels that Howard’s career and work are particularly relevant and educational for students at the University of Alabama.

“We live in a contemporary culture, and he’s really tuned into that even though he’s working with oil paint and the figure, primarily,” said Schulte. “He’s working with the most traditional material and the most traditional subject, but also he is breathing incredible life into it and really making quite a name for himself in doing so.”

Howard tends to use the human figure and landscapes for the majority of his subject matter. He creates his art using oil paint, but his work has a contemporary flavor that is not commonly associated with the oil medium. 

Austin Woods, a senior art major with a concentration in drawing, says he is looking forward to Howard’s visit, as he's intrigued by Howard’s new take on a traditional painting style.

“The material – the way he handles it, and the way it almost looks airbrushed – stands out to me,” Woods said. “I absolutely love the handling of materials and the colors – the way that they contrast. It just gives it a life of its own. It pops off the canvas. It’s pretty cool how he approaches the figure. I really like the mixing of the abstract and the new.” 

The story of Howard’s career path is another topic that may draw students to his lecture. Born in the South, Howard moved to Boston for graduate school and then New York to pursue his artistic profession. Now, he has moved back to Athens, Georgia and continues to create his distinctive paintings.

Megan Goldman, a senior art major, is hoping to glean information from his presentation on how to succeed as an artist post-graduation. 

“I think he’s very relatable,” Goldman said. “We listened to a podcast that he spoke in, and he seems very casual in that he’s willing to explain his background, and not in a very intimidating way as an artist, but he breaks it down into how he got where he is as a student at a southern university. It’s really important to get how artists like him are able to achieve what they’ve reached.”

Schulte emphasizes that all students, whether pursuing a career in art or not, can acquire some practical wisdom from the upcoming lecture.

“I think hearing artists with a reputation like Ridley Howard’s, for example, talk about their work can be really nourishing beyond just studio practitioners – all people that are interested in living a creative life and thinking critically about things a little outside of the box,” Schulte said.

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