Artist Ron Hicks show Saturday at Vail International Gallery
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” On Valentine’s Day, Vail International Gallery will be flush with paintings of couples. The oils by Denver artist Ron Hicks are like an ink blot ” open to interpretation by the viewer.
Take “Breathing the Breath” as an example. The painting shows a couple locked in a tender moment, with the man kissing the woman’s hand as the pair sits across from one another at a table. Zoom in on the man’s face. What you read into his expression could reveal a lot about your point of view.
“Some might say, ‘Oh, he’s in love,” Hicks said. “Or someone else might come up to that painting and say, ‘He seems a little sad. They are breaking things off.'”
Couples are a recent fascination for Hicks, and one that makes his Valentine’s Day exhibit at Vail International Gallery particularly relevant. Psychological portraits of single subjects and streetscapes round out the collection.
Hicks, 43, works with live models to capture realistic poses. Fantasy creeps into his work in the form of historic settings and garb. He swipes the canvas with loose strokes to add an impressionistic feel that’s faintly reminiscent of Edgar Degas.
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“He’s got the colors and the feeling and sometimes the composition of an old master, yet he works into that a very modern approach to his brush strokes,” Vail International Gallery co-owner Patrick Cassidy said.
Growing up in Ohio, Hicks received a scholarship to attend Saturday classes at the Columbus College of Art and Design. He was a teenager then, and the classes introduced him to drawing live models.
“For me, it was kind of weird because it was a different experience,” Hicks said. “To walk into a studio and there’s a live model, you’re like, ‘Oh, wow. What am I going to do with this?’ We did a lot of drawing from life, which I think has been good for me, because that’s how I fell in love with people.”
Models are still a critical part of Hicks’ process. A model who posed in Hicks’ Denver studio recently inspired the painting “Can Can Girl,” which shows an 1890s-style dancer bathed in a spotlight.
“I have this sort of fascination with light coming from below and dissipating as it goes up,” Hicks said. “I just knew I wanted to do something that had flavor to it. I had a model come in. I said, ‘Can you start moving?’ while she was in this kind of lighting, and she just reminded me of some of those old can-can dancers, so that’s where it started. I could just imagine some people in front of this enjoying the show and them not being in the light.”
As a child, Hicks and his mother entered “draw that character” contests in the back of magazines.
“I’ve always painted and drawn since I was 4,” Hicks said. “I think it was largely due to my mother, who was an artist of sorts.”
After graduating from the Columbus College of Art and Design, Hicks continued his studies at the Colorado Institute of Art, where he received a degree in advertising design in the late 1980s. He worked as a freelance illustrator and manager of a satellite dish company before turning full time to fine art.
“Sometimes I like to romanticize life and not always in a happy way, if that makes any sense,” he said. “I think that there’s ups and downs. It’s a pattern of living so I kind of paint it all.”
High Life Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2938 or email@example.com.
What: Painter Ron Hicks opening
When: Opening is Saturday from 4 to 7 p.m.; exhibit continues through Feb. 28
Where: Vail International Gallery, Vail
Cost: Paintings range from $6,800 to $54,000
More information: Call 970-476-2525