We can't believe it, but our curator, the young Kyle Ragsdale turns 50 on First Friday! To celebrate, he has gathered a collection of his work from all the way back to elementary school in Farmington, New Mexico, to undergrad years at Baylor University, graduate school at Southern Methodist University, to paintings from this past year that were featured in HGTV's Good Bones. We asked him to tell us a little bit more about his background and the upcoming show:
What was your earliest memory of making art? My mom had heard that if you give a child plain paper rather than coloring books they will turn out to be more creative and so I always had plain paper around. My earliest memory though is of squishing a copper fish into homemade Play-Doh. I also loved that project where you would melt crayons between sheets of wax paper. I think this speaks to my love of textures and thickness in paint as well as my love of working in clay. I started taking art lessons in fourth grade—watercolor and acrylic. My teachers were into kind of old, western barns with fence posts and so I painted things like that. In undergrad, I started paining figures and have kept that going through most of my artistic career.
Did you start out as an art major in college? In high school I was more into musical theater, speech and debate and less into art so I went to Baylor as a speech communications major. I changed majors my first semester after walking into the art building to get a paper signed. Baylor was a very academic school with a lot of emphasis on drawing—figure drawing, working from life, still life . . . so a lot of the basics of making art. It was not a conceptual, idea-driven school, but focused more on the craft of art making. In undergrad, I learned intaglio printmaking and there are many intaglio prints in this show from undergrad and graduate school.
Did you imagine that you would create art full time? Curate? I never imagined as a child that I could be an artist full-time. I didn't really know any people that did that as a job. But my parents were super supportive as I began to study art and encouraged me to be an art major. They would take me to museums. We had a membership at the Dallas Museum of Art and the first time I saw Elisabeth Murray paintings that were as big as a house, that encouraged me to think bigger, imagine more. I worked for two years in a gallery in Fort Worth, Texas and that's when I began curating shows and organizing art and galleries.
Any general thoughts about what it has been like to make your living in this way? On turning 50? A few months ago I started thinking about the fact that First Friday would fall on my 50th birthday and it was a little bit weird. I think I've come to peace with it more and I'm excited and thankful for the opportunities I've had in Indianapolis. We decided to do this show to illustrate how many things have changed in my artistic career and how many things stayed the same throughout. It is interesting to look back and see the beginnings of ideas and how they transformed overtime.
Future plans? Right now I am working on the Indiana Repertory Theater paintings for next season and applying for the Arts Council of Indianapolis's Creative Renewal Fellowship. I'm also hoping to get to Florida or somewhere warm this winter.
The show opens Friday, January 6 in the Speck Gallery and hangs through January 27.