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Harcum Art Gallery to Present Exhibit by Realist Painter Christopher Ryan

Artist Influenced by Extended Stay in Italy

March 6, 2012

"Leo and Luna"

Art professor Christopher Ryan recalls his fascination with the flat planes of mosaic and inlaid stone floors prevalent throughout Florence, Italy. These images dating back to ancient and medieval times have had a profound impact upon his artistic inspiration.

Wilmington College’s Harcum Art Gallery will present an exhibit of Ryan’s realist paintings March 15 through April 20. An opening reception will be held in his honor March 15 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Gallery hours are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by special appointment coordinated by gallery curator Hal Shunk, professor of art.

Ryan, associate professor of art at Hiram College, addressed the affect of living for years in Florence and being a lifelong student of art history.

“Ideas have had a profound impact on my artwork,” he said. “Looking beyond the well-known ‘greatest hits’ of Italian art, I’ve been more interested in virtually forgotten imagery found off the beaten path.”

Ryan sees the flat planar surfaces featuring the mosaics as both a ‘stage’ for human activities and as a metaphor for “that which is trod upon, disregarded or, at worst, desecrated.”

He said these decorative floors often recount centuries-old tales through their own visual language of figural designs, patterns and inscriptions.

“These images serve as a catalyst for my own mental associations, memories and personal narratives,” he said, noting that, in his works, the imagery from ancient floors is juxtaposed with objects and debris from private, contemporary life — “the detritus of enigmatic events transpired or the residue of everyday life lived.

(LEFT) "Masks and Candies"

“This combination of forms both old and new, public and private, and sacred and profane establishes new and unexpected relationships and dialogues,” he added.

He said that, through his “rehabilitation and reanimation” of lost imagery, he is able to find a context in the past while reflecting on his own perceptions of the contemporary world.

Ryan teaches all levels of painting, drawing and design, and chairs Hiram’s Art Department. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from John Carroll University and his Master of Arts degree in modern European history from the University of Virginia.

Also, he studied at Studio Art Centers International (SACI) in Florence and earned his Master of Fine Arts in a joint program with SACI and Bowling Green State University. He has periodically returned to Italy to lead a study-abroad course in Tuscany.