The Ragsdale Lair: Organizing an Artist
As one of the most well-known and capable painters Indianapolis has to offer, Kyle Ragsdale is a busy man. Not only does he create work for his own shows, he is exceptionally interested in the theater, for which he creates set designs and makes posters. However, all this activity doesn’t leave much time for organization, which is why he has appointed me to organize his studio at the Harrison Center. If you’ve ever visited the studio, on a First Friday or otherwise, you’ve seen the intriguing, chaotic lair in which Ragsdale does the majority of his work. Bit by bit, section by section, I’m going through clearing out trash, filing away papers, cleaning paint brushes, and boxing up supplies while simultaneously trying to retain the magic and mystery that exists there. Every corner, case, and crevice yields up new treasures that hint at where the inspiration behind the surrounding paintings comes from.
The studio is a bit like a grand canyon; the layers of items represent different time periods. On top are images Ragsdale is currently working from, tubes of paint he is still using, books he is reading, and new canvases waiting to be unboxed. Going a little deeper you uncover whole paintings and drawings from recent years that still have memories of events and eras attached to them. My favorite, though, has been the innermost sanctum of the room where the oldest works and wonders are found. One drawing rack in particular contains pieces that are barely recognizable as kin to the ones that hide them. This is where the evolution of the work is so easily traceable; and this is what makes the job so fascinating. The comparison of old and new, the correlation between years, the paralleling of styles. Maybe this concept has no practical application other than amusement or reminiscence. And maybe not everyone wants to keep everything they create. But it does encourage one, artist or not, to keep a few mementos to uncover at a future date.