The Intimate Interiors of Ruth Morgan Arietta

Dec 7, 2021 | 22 comments

The Intimate Interiors of Ruth Morgan Arietta

 Interview by Sanderson Morgan, SICA-USA Board Member

 

This is to introduce Ruth to SICA-USA readers and viewers. She resides with her husband, Rick Arietta (also an artist), in San Anselmo, California. Ruth is a member of Subud California at Marin. 

 

Morgan: The more I look at your images the more I discover. Your scenes of domestic ease and a relaxed routine contain humor, painterly effects and compositions that are filled with detail from side to side and top to bottom.

Do these paintings show you, your husband, and pets in your home?

 

 Arietta: When I work on a painting, everything in it usually shows aspects of myself.  The characters aren’t meant to show specific people.  As for the pets, I don’t have them because with the little time I have left in the day to paint, I couldn’t give them the attention they deserve.  The animals I portray are usually the pets of family and friends.

 

Still, we have everything we need, 2020

Acrylic on Canvas

11” x 14”

 

Morgan: In “Still, we have everything we need” we see into a bathroom that is also a library, an attentive dog and a partial view of a man centered in the next room reading a newspaper. Then there is a woman checking her teeth in the mirror! The intimacy warms my heart but it is so funny! I see this everydayness in most of your works but it is the humorous visual decisions that are most communicative! 

 Is there an intentional plan as you begin a painting or does the visual humor come of its own? 

 

Arietta:  I love this painting. The library in the bathroom shows a library I would LIKE to have there, though our house IS full of books.  It’s true that I have for a long time tried to make an image of someone scrutinizing themselves in a mirror, and in this painting I sort of got it right.  I like the idea of my paintings conveying the human-ness, the funny intimate moments, the things I imagine we all do.  I think that when a person works on a painting and lets go of themself and lets something bigger than themself come through, they enter a trance-like state and things happen in the painting that are beyond themself the painter. There is intent, and things sometimes unintended come through.  It is a truly spiritual experience.  My art has saved me more times in my life than I can say.

 

 Simple Gifts, 2021

Acrylic on Canvas

11” x 14”

 

Morgan:  In “Simple Gifts” we are looking into a very comfortable room with an array of patterned textiles here and there, a variety of carpets, scones and coffee. The sitters are reading, there is another library and some amazing wallpaper.

 This seems like Sunday morning bliss. The white dog and the black and white cat, a subtle comedy team, are perhaps wondering why we, the viewer, are looking at all this? They make me a little self conscious.

 How was this wonderful image developed?

 Arietta:  I have been influenced a lot by the paintings of Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vulliard.  Bonnard often makes table tops with fantastic things on them in a wonky and delightful perspective, and people at ease around a table.  I’ve always wanted to convey people at a wonderfully stocked table full of food dishes, flower bouquets, plates, and coffee cups, or even just the table by itself.

   Part of my painting process is at first laying down the contents and perspective of the room or rooms.  Sometimes I have to put the painting aside for a while and look at it later. I will find sometimes that the proportions need to be altered, the contents of the room revised.  Maybe there is a kitchen interior view that makes the painting too busy and needs to be replaced by a window, as in “Simple Gifts”. 

 I do a lot of scraping since I’ m working with acrylic on canvas. One color will balance another and when it’s changed, other colors and patterns need to be correspondingly altered.  A lot of the textiles in my paintings are textiles I’ve actually made.  Sometimes these textiles have color combinations I would not normally dare use in a painting, but since they work on the textile I sometimes use it in the painting, and it works.  

The wallpaper in this painting must have come from ‘out of the blue’.  I love it, and the inner expressions of the animals.  They just happened.

 

Down Time,  2021

Acrylic on canvas

11” x 14”

 

 Morgan: I am seeing, in “Downtime”, a painting with many of the familiar features of your works such as the patterning, billowing curtains and the reading man in the next room, but there is something different here.

 In the previous paintings we see the extensive use of outlining in red which is an interesting visual device you use. In “Down Time”  the lining is in blues and greens -quietly cooling things down. Could you talk about why and how you use this lining? 

 

Arietta:  When I start a painting, I often sketch with a brush the images in red.  A lot of the time the images and outline are scratched out in the process but I do like the visual effect of the red outline.  Sometimes, however, a red outline, billowing curtains, or a partial person in the next room are devices that I know to work. I’m trying not to do the same thing. I had quite a time with the kimono the lady is wearing, and the colors, but it works well with the whole.

 It’s funny how when I finish a painting it becomes an entity in and of itself. I’m detached from it and I can say “I like this painting”  as if someone else did it.

 

Morgan: So there is a lot of going on as you make these complex pictures. 

 Oh yes, Bonnard with his bathtubs and table tops, he loved those oval shapes! Both he and Vulliard really used furnishings, walls and windows along with people inhabiting the space to make some fascinating compositions. Now you are carrying that forward! You have really ‘seen’ what they are doing and adding new dimensions to the endeavor.

 I’m looking at “Little Piece of Paradise” now.   Again we see the dog and cat team staring at the viewer and a pattern filled composition with blues as a prominent color.   Again we are seeing a very complete picture of happiness and being contentedly human.  I think the thoroughness in these paintings is a meditation on a human situation, a human who is in good condition and being right where they ought to be in the great master plan of existence.

  By now, after making this series, what are you seeing emerging from the paintings that you could not have imagined as you moved into them?

 

        

Little Piece of Paradise, 2021

Acrylic on canvas 

10” x 8”

 

Arietta:   That’s a hard question.  With the painting of acrylic on canvas, and with the medium allowing me to scrape, layer, and change, I am always surprised by the patterns and painterly effects. The images I end up with always surprise me.  I also see repetitions that make me want to move onto totally different paintings,  even though I am not finished with this series and want to do some more of  them. 

I am reminded of something a wonderful teacher of mine said in 1974.  He explained that to him, one of the important things learned when going to art school was to forget what you learn when painting.  I think what he meant was that sometimes, because of practice and technique, paintings become stifled and technically perfect.  They lose their risk; their joy.  The painter needs to be like the fool on the tarot card stepping blindly over a cliff.  This is also a spiritual process.

 I have over and over painted a series of paintings that progressively became technically perfect and lifeless.  I have needed to forget and start over by painting perfectly dreadful paintings.  The one thing I don’t lose in painting is the self confidence that comes from doing something over and over till I get it right…sort of.  I would say that in the process of painting I change as much as the painting does.

 

Morgan: This has been a wonderful description of your artistic process, thank you for sharing so many things about it. It is also clear to me that you bring these images from your most intimate self and I feel that is what makes them so pleasant and familiar to the viewer, we feel at home.  

Featured Image

 

Home Sweet Home, 2021

Acrylic on canvas

14” x 11”

 

 

 

Tags:

22 Comments

  1. These are so GREAT! Such a wonderful surprise to see Ruth Morgan Arietta’s work! Love it that she is a fellow Subud member.Many thanks for posting.

    Reply
  2. Thanks, Sanderson for introducing us to this great genre painter. There’s so much comfort in the pieces, especially the breezes blowing through the chaos of patterns and lines. The intimacy makes them come alive for me, as expressions of American values and humanity that I grew up with and honor still. The impasto application of pigment (encaustic feeling) and ragged lines are very Gauguin like, of course much lighter and cooler in tone than his. I love the use of chromatic contrast to achieve shadows and depth without the use of dulling gray. The wide range of reflected color in the white surfaces gives us more than we would normally see in the actual setting, reminding us of the richness of interior environments captured by a skilled eye and hand. Arietta’s skewed perspective, reminiscent of Matisse’s The Red Studio, and Van Gogh’s bedroom paintings . . . so wrong and so right. I would like to see these in person, maybe touch them a little because I suspect they are flattened out by the digital reproduction. May we get to see some exteriors as well? I can imagine what Arietta can do with flowers, trees, rocks and water. LP

    Reply
    • I’m happy that you enjoyed these wonderful works. Yeah, the reproduction of these works presents challenges, that they are small and so textured makes for tricky lighting.

      Yes, a painting with no shadows! How liberating in some ways but making for a very charged surface image, it’s all right on top! A wonder to look at.

      She also does sculpture and I’ll see about getting an interview on them as well. Just the sweetest work.

      Reply
    • Thank you, Lawrence. I very much enjoyed your comments and reactions to these paintings, so skillfully put. And yes, the process of the painting involved multi-leveled blobs and scratches, which was a wonderful process. I love the textures, and it was more easily photographed before it was verithaned, Yes, I agree with your comment about the values and humanity that we grew up with being reflected in this painting. I think that’s why so many people relate to these paintings. For me, as for many,these values are like an inner skin.

      Reply
  3. Sanderson, I love this article and I love Ruth’s paintings and the lively description of her process. She really does remind me of Bonnard, but more whimsical! Thank you.

    Reply
    • You are welcome. It was a delight to do. And more to come I hope.

      Reply
  4. I really like these uplifting paintings – yes, ordinary life can be very satisfying. I love that Ruth says she likes her paintings.To me that indicates that there is something else at work to some extent. She has that pleasure in looking at the finished painting and wondering how it got here. Lovely. If SICA is not helping Ruth become better known, it should. After all, wasn’t that one of the missions Bapak gave to SICA.

    Reply
    • I am delighted that you enjoyed this interview and that she and I were able to get to a conversation that brought forth so many great details about the painting’s creation. I too liked her comment on wondering how the painting got there after seeing it done!

      We are indeed working on Ruth’s stature in the art world.

      Reply
  5. I very much enjoyed the conversation between Sanderson and the artist. Paintings are enchanting!

    Reply
  6. Thanks! I enjoyed the paintings and the words.

    Reply
  7. Ruth Morgan Arietta’s website:
    ruthmorgananimalitos.com

    Reply
  8. thanks for introducing us to this artist, I love her paintings and want to see more of them. I agree with Laurence Pevec’s competent analysis!

    Reply
  9. Yes, thank you Ruth, Sanderson and Lawrence for a wonderful introduction to this work. Very exciting. It would be lovely if Ruth would have an exhibit at the next congress.

    Reply
  10. Ruth Morgan Arietta, these paintings are delightful and exquisite. A bit of reference to Edouard Vuillard, one of my favorites. I love the texture of the paint on yours – and the colors and the light and the way you make personality and atmosphere come right through to the viewer. Really, really lovely. Thank you Sanderson for bringing Ruth’s paintings to our attention!

    Reply
  11. Hi Ruth and Sanderson! Thank you for this Saturday morning reverie! Ruth’s paintings are delightful. They capture the way of life that is remarked by living with the things that appeal to one visually, intellectually and emotionally. You might equally say she captured the bohemian lifestyle, except it’s also my Southern grandmother’s, and mine to some degree. It could be the interior of a home in the Appalachians or a cottage in Sonoma, or anywhere people live with books and flowers, people who share love. She captures familiars, the little things we keep that encode memories. The animals provide warmth and a sense of being settled. No Architectural Digest here; no 2021 flat grey sculptural space with only a lap top, blackout curtains, and a purebred. Ruth paints home as it has been for hundreds of years, with its warmth, predictability and chaos.
    I can’t speak to technique beyond saying her insertion of the reading man is the Gauguin sometimes floating woman, but he is grounded, and warm, like a cup of cocoa or the cat sitting on her lap. I love these intimate and colorful paintings that document a way of life with things and pets, so full of settled life, that may not survive technology.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Lucia, for your carefully thought out comments, The paintings Do reflect life life with its warmth, predictability and chaos. I like to believe, I do believe, that this love and need of home will survive technology…because it is our basic human need. Thank you again for your comments. So often I feel like I’m operating in a vacuum and it’s nice to see that other people have the same thoughts.

      Reply
  12. This is a great thread for folks like me that get excited by painting, sculpture; the plastic arts. Please . . . more. . . please?

    Reply
    • I feel the same way. I get excited making art and talking about it. Sanderson is wonderful with this and I hope we can get together again with more stuff and commentary. Thank you Lawrence and Sanderson and everybody who comments about art!

      Reply
  13. Hi Ruth,
    Can I ask you a question? I have noticed that your paintings are small and I would like to know if you could do (or have thought of doing) the same thing on a much larger canvass? A number of very excellent Subud artists paint small pictures and I wonder if their lack of public recognition is to do with scale. It’s just a feeling I get.

    Reply
    • I have thought of painting large. In fact when I was painting with gouache on paper from about 1979 to 2015 the size was roughly 24’X 36″. The paintings I’ve been working on since then were smaller and I moved to acrylic on canvas which I love. I sell a lot of these paintings. They are easy to mail . They also take a longer time to make. I will make larger ones eventually.

      Reply
  14. Thanks for your reply. I hope one day we will have a Subud gallery to represent our great artists and you among them.

    Reply
  15. I am just now catching up to this interview.in 2022! It’s so good to see Ruth’s works displayed and discussed/ I treasure a painting of hers; portrait of a woman behind the counter of a doughnut shop. Like her interiors I can “go there” and feel not only the calm and beauty of the painting but the complete pleasure of it all..color, composition..subject.Her painting are little adventures into realities we enjoy.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subud Symbol

SICA-USA, the Subud International Cultural Association is the Cultural wing of SUBUD USA.

Sign up for the SICA-USA Mailing List

  
  

Join the SICA-USA Group on Facebook