Artist Bob Ripley explores human interaction with nature at upcoming exhibit

by Karen Jean Smith

Human interaction with nature is a subject that Bob Ripley finds fascinating, and his current exhibit at Baltimore Woods Nature Center reflects this interest. From Jan. 5 through Feb. 24, “Bob Ripley: Nature and Human Nature” will be on display in the art gallery of the John A. Weeks Interpretive Center at 4007 Bishop Hill Road, Marcellus.

The public is invited to attend the reception Saturday, Jan. 13, from 2:30 to 4 p.m. In addition, the show will be available for viewing Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There are no admission or parking fees, and all artwork – original paintings and giclee prints – will be for sale.

Ripley has always been intrigued by wildlife and natural forms. As a boy, he painted on white cardboard shirt boxes using paintings from Outdoor Life and Field & Stream magazines as a reference. Today, he finds his subject matter himself, taking photographs and making field notes to help guide him when he renders paintings in his studio at home.

Long ago, he made the transition to transparent watercolor techniques on high-quality papers. Those who are acquainted with the work of Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth will readily understand why Ripley cites these artists as inspirational.

One might say that you can take the boy away from nature (Ripley was an art director at advertising agencies in central New York for more than 30 years) but you can’t take the nature out of the boy. These days he spends many hours fly fishing, canoeing, cross-country skiing and hiking, and the Adirondacks are among his favorite places to experience and paint.

While the outdoors and wildlife, especially fresh water and its inhabitants, have always been favorite subjects, it is easy to see how he would find human interaction with nature to be fascinating, as well. Fishing, boating and camping scenes have an important place in this collection of work.

Ripley’s hobbies, which he has more time to pursue now that he is retired, contribute greatly to his knowledge of his subject matter. These experiences, along with his attention to detail, make his work compelling: we can imagine ourselves in close observation of, or even within, the scene. The artist states that rendering his subjects in such detail “allows me to experience its essence and to get ‘into its skin.’ From every painting I make, I come away with a better understanding of each creature or person and their place in the natural world.”

Ripley’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in galleries throughout central New York. Within the last six years, he has received the Realism in Nature Award, the Viewer’s Choice Award, and the Trails and Streams Award and Medallion at the Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors, VIEW Arts Center, Old Forge, as well as the Judges’ Choice Award and Artistic Merit Award from the CNY Watercolor Society Juried Exhibition, Utica College.

Ripley was born in upstate New York. He is an honors graduate of the School of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University, where he majored in advertising design. Bob and his wife Cheryl reside in the Finger Lakes countryside near Skaneateles, where they share space with the local flora and fauna.

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