The James Ratliff Gallery in Hillside Sedona features a new exhibition of acrylic interpretative abstract art by multiimedia artist Christine DeSpain Schroeder.
Abstract art is defined as the kind of art that emphasizes the use of non-representational forms to create meaning and reality — that it doesn’t necessarily represent objects in the physical environment, like the sun, trees, or people.
Famed abstract artist Arshile Gorkey said the art of abstraction “allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes.”
DeSpain’s abstract interpretative paintings perfectly encapsulate that definition, as she follows in the footsteps of Wassily Kandinsky, Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon.
Each of her abstract paintings takes the observer into a depth-of-field subjective journey, as her art stirs within the conscious and subconscious mind an experience unique to the viewer alone.
Colorful, whimsical, moving and flowing, her works breathe as if they are alive, arousing emotions and stirring memories long thought forgotten.
For DeSpain, stepping into the world of abstract art was a Godsend, as her deteriorating eyesight reached a point where she could no longer create art in the arena of traditional, painting or sculpture, as she had done before.
She had thought she would have to give up her passion and her world had darkened, that is, until she met gallery owner James Ratliff, who reset her artistic path to the realm of abstract art.
Ratliff had heard of DeSpain’s dilemma and after meeting her he suggested she try a new approach to her art.
“I knew she was feeling down,” he said. “I suggested to her that she try acrylic abstract painting, which allows the artist to create art by pouring paint onto a canvas. I explained to her the pouring process. She said she would try it. It clicked.”
He went to her home and saw the small abstract paintings she had experimented with before. He realized her potential. He suggested she work on much bigger canvases, like 38-by-46 inches, and that set her creative wheels in motion.
“I gave her a little challenge and she met it,” he said. “And I am hard to impress.”
For DeSpain, Ratliff’s encouragement and advice rekindled her passion for art and gave her new hope.
“He is my mentor,” she said. “He taught me so much. I am so grateful. Some paint to live. I live to paint. I was brought back to life, thanks to him.
She was so motivated by Ratliff, that art once more became an essential part of her daily experience.
“I got up one night at 1:30 in the morning after waking from a dream,” she said. “I went to my studio and started pouring and before I knew it the sun was coming up.”
She said that in creating her abstract compositions, she uses the natural forces and the natural flow and grace of Mother Nature, employing the natural processes of wind, flow, gravity, and erosion, to create abstracts of the Sedona geography she lives in.
She said the result is the viewer is drawn into the canvas, which is a living landscape reminiscent of viewing a canyon from on high or flying over waves.
She said she allows the paint to move naturally across the canvas and uses wind and flow as her paintbrush.
“One of my favorite pastimes is watching the paint dry on my canvass,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye.
Through the centuries, some of the world’s most beloved artists were stricken by adversity, like Vincent van Gogh, Emily Dickinson and Beethoven, yet moved on to create the great works we admire today.
For DeSpain, overcoming her diminished eyesight and finding a new medium to express herself breathed new passion and purpose into her life.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” DeSpain said. “Thank you, James Ratliff, for teaching me how.”
James Ratliff has had years of experience selling the art of many now famous artists such as Calder, O’Keefe, Gorman, Zuniga, Tamayo and Scholder, to name a few. He will not settle for inferior or mass-produced works. He is always about looking out for the art lover as well as the artist.
James Ratliff Gallery is located at 671 S.R. 179, Suite A - 1 & 2, Sedona.