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About the Artist

marty ricks - Biography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I grew up in Southeastern Idaho, surrounded by rivers, mountains, and artists.  

My father, Don Ricks, and all three of my brothers, were--at one time or

another--professional artists.  I was the only one who had resisted the urge to paint,

until just after September 11th, 2001. The New York attacks nearly swamped the

business which I had built.  In response, I decided to become an artist. 

 

My Dad was the son of a turkey farmer in Idaho and always 

wanted to become an artist.  After attending college in Idaho and Utah 

he became a sign painter.  It wasn’t until his late thirties that he chanced

to meet Russian artist, Sergei Bongart, at an art demonstration in Idaho Falls. 

At age 16, Sergei was the youngest student to be accepted into the prestigious

Kiev Art Academy.  Dad’s dream of becoming an artist was about to begin in

earnest.  He and Sergei became partners, and established a summer art

workshop program in Southeastern Idaho.  Dad loved Idaho because his

pioneer ancestors settled it.  Sergei loved Idaho because it reminded him

of his beloved Kiev.  Sergei named his summer home in Idaho Kievshina,

meaning, area around Kiev.  My siblings and I grew up amidst this

strange and wonderful creative environment. 

 

The love of art was always present with me.  I began a career early (at

age 17) as a picture frame maker.  My company created frames for

artists of renown from all over the country.  Later, my desire to create

drove me to bigger endeavors, culminating in opening a show room

at 3rd and 57th street, in New York City.  We were making mirror

frames and furniture for the design trade, and were experiencing

enough success that we felt we were ready for an office in New York. 

Our firm had also completed several major architectural projects

including domes for religious buildings as far away as Brazil.

 

After 9/11, I re-evaluated my life, and resolved to make some changes;

most significantly, to become a painter.  I have been actively pursing

an art career ever since.

 

My brother, Douglas Ricks, was in many ways my guide in the world of

art.  My father passed away in 1996, and Doug followed him in 2003.

Doug had a great artistic sensitivity and a very extensive knowledge of

art and artists.  He introduced me to the work of many artists who

would later inspire me to paint. The work of Russell Chatham haunted

my thoughts even before I knew why.  Chatham had created his own

"paint language" which many of my artist friends found resonating

inside themselves.  It was like having music playing so deeply inside

that you didn't even know that it was there.  His work gave voice to my
own artistic urges and they began to simmer.  They are still simmering. 

And much like a great sauce, it is all about reduction and concentration. 

 

George Inness's work has had a great influence on me as well.  The

Russian impressionist style has filtered into my work.  

 

In 2010 I had the opportunity to travel to Kiev to install mirror frames

that my company, Krieger-Ricks Framemakers, produced in the new

Mormon temple.  I decided to spend six weeks exploring my family’s

artistic roots, going to art museums in Kiev and St. Petersburg. 

I went to Sergei’s old academy and introduced his artwork to the

professors there.  They were very warm and accommodating.  I discovered

for myself what it was that caused Sergei to see his beloved Kievshina in Idaho. 

Most likely, it was the rivers, the wheat, and perhaps the cold. Definitely the lilacs!

 

What I expected to find on my trip, was interesting landscape subjects for

my paintings.  I was looking for what had inspired Sergei as a boy.  One of

the Kiev Academy art professors, Ivan Pylypenko, quided me to many beautiful

places.  The first day he took me to the Kiev Central Botanical Gardens.  The lilacs

were in full bloom and you’ve not seen lilacs until you see them in Kiev.  I was

stunned and overwhelmed!  I stood there thinking of my dad and my

brother Doug, and I wept like a little girl.  Also, I was contemplating the fact

that Sergei never returned home before he died.  He was fearful that if he visited

home he would never be allowed to leave.  So in the tradition of the Russians

I expressed my joy; with tears. 

 

What impacted me more than the landscape were people both of

Ukraine and St. Petersburg.  This left me with somewhat of an artistic

quandary because I am a landscape painter and was not qualified to

paint what my heart was asking for.  I spent time almost every day

with my guide and interpreter Vladyslav Melnychenko. I told Vlad that 

growing up in Idaho, I felt like Tom Sawyer prowling the river bottoms. 

“Tom Sawyer?" he said, “'that’s what they called me!” Vlad had spent

his adolescent summer months camped on the river Islands, riding

rafts and chasing monstrous catfish.  Vlad makes his living as a driver

with his own van. He was a former Soviet Navy man, riding the great

Dnipro River in Russian navy boats.  When the Soviet Union fell, Vlad

literally had to escape his boat to make his way home. I captain my

own river boat, a sweet little McKenzie drifter. Life’s tides had brought

two river bottom boys together! 

 

Life to me feels very much like a river, wherein strong currents and lazy

meanderings carry us along.  We have no idea what lies around the next bend. 

So we fear the unknown and we crave the illumination of light.  Life is also

like a painting, in that it is all about the contrasts of colors and values. I love

to  create a sense of light in my work, but the feeling of light emanates from

the shadow areas.  

 

I’ll sum it up with a profound verse from Russell Chatham’s collection of short

stories entitled, Dark Waters.  When I read this twenty-five years ago, I think

all that I saw was beautiful prose about where the big fish most likely were hiding. 

Now, the meaning has been seasoned with a few good hard kicks to the teeth.  

Thank God for loss, disappointment, re-evaluation, and the discovery which lies

waiting just beyond the well-lit path. 

 

Martin Edwin Ricks

2011

 

In the midnight Arctic seas,

stained tropical rivers at dawn,

the Gulf Stream at noon,

where thin shafts of light

chisel down into blue-black;

a small creek in evening shade

beneath willows and sycamores;

in northern rivers

in deep viridian hollows.

It is always the dark water

which promises the most.

 


 

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