Other People's Children

A highlight of the Harrison Center's year comes each November with Kyle Ragsdale's annual solo show in the Harrison Gallery and Gallery Annex. We sat down with Kyle recently to talk about his new body of work. Here's what we learned:

Ragsdale tells us that the influence of his professors, both in undergraduate and graduate school are especially evident in his recent paintings. He goes on to explain that when he was learning to paint, he was taught by people who had come up during the era of abstract/expressionism. But they were teaching in schools that focused on representational art, and so their strongest influence came from Bay Area Figurative Movement artists like Richard Dieberkorn, Elmer Bischoff, and David Park. In this movement, the paint qualities were as important as the image that was created. Another influence of Ragsdale's was one of his graduate school instructors,  John Alexander. He says, "Alexander's paintings are thick and rough, and yet they have an atmosphere about them. So, my goals in painting this show were to paint thicker and rougher and yet get that sense of atmosphere and place."

Influence can also come from Harrison Center studio artists, who often collaborate and provide each other with feedback. Fellow artist Carolyn Springer says she sees that the time Ragsdale spent over the past year painting en plein air with Justin Vining and Benny Sanders had a huge impact on his new work. Ragsdale agrees, adding that there were lessons learned in painting space, light, and atmosphere with attention to economy in the brushstrokes.

On a more personal note, and in explanation of the show's title, Other People's Children, Ragsdale shares that he has lived on the same block in Fountain Square for over fifteen years in a tight-knit community with families with children. He has watched the neighborhood kids grow up, but they are not his children. Turning 50 this year, he says that he has spent more time reflecting on the fact that since he doesn't have children of his own, there are things in life that he won't experience – phases of life that he sees friends and neighbors going through that he never will. While there can be a sadness to this, there is also joy of living in community and being a part of caring for your neighbor's children – taking them to plays and parks and watching as they find their interests and they mature. "It's not parenting but it is something."

Many of the paintings in this show were made from photographs Ragsdale took with his iPhone. Because the subjects in these paintings are children he has been photographing their whole lives, there is a very natural quality to them, an ease that comes from living life together. That, combined with the element of figures in landscape, particularly Indiana parks (Garfield Park, Eagle Creek) in the fall, captures a beauty and a mood that is uniquely part of growing up in this place.

Other People's Children opens Friday, November 3 with an artist reception from 6 to 9pm. The work hangs through November 24.