n the arts
by janina birtolo
said that the arts are what make a civilization civil – and
with good reason. Whether musical, theatrical or visual, the
arts enrich our lives. They entertain us, make us think, get
our toes tapping and delight our senses.
month, n the arts
highlights the best our area has to offer. It is the place
to discover what is happening – and what is not to be
Ruth Dwyer has found haunting beauty and magnificent
colors in the barest of landscapes
the beauty of
of a barren landscape with just the merest suggestion of
human presence might overwhelm most people with oppressive
thoughts of loneliness. But artist Ruth Dwyer is drawn to
these desolate vistas – for she sees the beauty that resides
there. Her paintings sing with the colors and light and
liveliness that fill the land and sky in places where the
view is unimpeded. And far from being lonely, her paintings
speak of the warmth and comfort of solitude.
may be a hint that humans are present, but the landscape is
what matters,'' Dwyer explains. ''They’re very colorful.
Color is all around us. It changes the light of what you see
and makes you happy.''
she’s painted landscapes for some time, Dwyer's love affair
with remote places started in earnest a few summers ago when
she traveled to the Arctic to visit a friend who teaches in
a small Inuit village.
school is in a very remote location,'' she reports. ''You
can only reach it by dog team or by air. There are no roads.
But there are curtains of light that swing and dance,
leaving reflections on the tundra.''
visit changed my life,'' she continues. ''To look in every
direction and never see a tree – it’s astoundingly
beautiful. The light from the sky plays very differently
there. It’s very dramatic.''
experience set Dwyer on a more abstract course in her
painting. The goal became to capture the intense light and
the vivid colors on canvas in simplified terms, that are
open to personal interpretation. And the light and color do
seem to dance in her works, shape-shifting and mesmerizing
the viewer. You realize you could get lost in a landscape
like hers – and you are content to do so.
the fluid and shimmering effect can be attributed to Dwyer’s
masterful use of oil paints – a skill that she acquired
recently after years of painting in acrylic.
working in oils,” she says. “The fluidity of the medium is
extraordinary, and you are not limited by time. With oils, I
have the luxury of blending, adding, changing. It’s like
painting with silk.''
begins by taking photos of the landscapes that intrigue her.
As she did in the Arctic and two years ago in the mountains
of the Czech Republic. When she doesn’t have the opportunity
to travel to a specific place, she searches for photos
on-line – the method she employed to paint landscapes from
Iceland and Greenland. Or she may simply call forth images
from the memory of flying over the American Midwest or some
other vista of flat, beckoning land.
she will sketch a scene before approaching the canvas,
simplifying, always simplifying. By the time she picks up
her brushes, she has an idea of what colors she wants to use
and perhaps even where they will go. But the process is
always a flexible one.
metamorphosis occurs,” she says. “Things change by
themselves. They take on a life of their own.''
nonplussed by the question of how she started her pathway
into art. ''That’s like asking me when did I start to have
brown eyes,'' she says. ''You either have the creative urge
inside, or you don't.'' She did take time off from painting
to earn a masters degree in art history and a PhD. in film
studies and also to raise a family. But as soon as her son
went off to school, she found her way back to her canvases
and landscapes – a path that her husband, Daniel, has fully
encouraged and supported.
tends to work primarily in square or slightly off-square
formats, and her works have recently been growing larger –
up to 4 feet by 4 feet. But she also continues to paint in
smaller sizes, including 1 foot by 1 foot squares. ''Those
tend to be quite intimate,'' she says.
intimacy is one of the seeming paradoxes of her work – bleak
and barren, yet full of color and welcoming; vast yet
personal. ''I hope people feel a serenity when they look at
my work,'' Dwyer says. ''That they’re aware of the air and
the landscape and the light. I love it when people interpret
my paintings in their own way and see what they want to
they see is the beauty that resides at the ends of the
Dwyer exhibits her work locally at the Sweet Art Gallery on
Trade Center Way. She also exhibits in Manhattan,
Connecticut and Canada. To see more of her work, visit her
call her at 239 498-1524 to schedule an appointment.
Commissions are welcomed, and a portion of all sales are
donated to Free the Children (
to help that organization build schools.