Monday, April 13, 2009

Cindy Rizza Named Artist of Distinction in Inaugural Exhibition of Still Point Art Gallery

The colors are realistic. The scenes are familiar, though perhaps most familiar to one's memory...if you remember blowing soap bubbles and playing in small inflatable swimming pools. They could be scenes from anyone's childhood, anyone's fantasy childhood, anyone's escape from a sad childhood.

It is easy to be swept away by Cindy Rizza's paintings in this exhibition. It is easy to feel that you are part of the image, also blowing bubbles and playing in the pool. In her paintings Cindy captures just the right moment, the exact right moment to hold still...the exact right moment to feel that you could be part of the painting.

Cindy Rizza, Fuel

Here is what Cindy says about her work...
In my recent works, I've been painting children isolated in suburban environments to symbolize vulnerability in our fast-paced, modern lifestyle. The young characters I paint are surrounded by comforts, yet they seem vulnerable in their environments, as if they have realized what their world would be without them. Bubbles, toys, picnics and sweets lay unprotected by a darkness that emits from behind the fun. My aim in these works is to capture that still moment when my characters begin to realize the presence of the darker forces at bay looming in the shadows, that their comfortable world is threatened by what they do not understand.

The children I paint are based from past photographs of friends, family members and strangers. Even though I prefer painting from life, I believe that using photography as my primary reference for these works helps me develop my narrative and capture the moment I aim to portray. My process consists of sorting through stacks of found family snapshots, from myself and strangers, to look for a lone subject to base my work from. Since one second of a story is captured in a snapshot, I'm able to generate my own narrative and produce the feeling I want to communicate from that visual data, even if it differs from the actual event in the photograph. Through paint I am able to add or subtract subject matter from the primary source, and be free with painterly matters of composition and color. Although I may personally know some of the characters I choose to paint, the identity of the children themselves are of no importance. They are meant to summon universal, collective symbols of youth, that are vulnerable to the world around them as they learn about their immediate environment.

By painting children in the still moment of discovery, I hope to symbolize a truth that our own environments are fragile and unstable, which is a feeling I think viewers of all ages can identify with in a world full of recession, war, poverty and disease. Throughout history, artists have reacted to changes in their environments. With my work I hope to continue that creative reaction by responding to changes that I see occur in my time, place and self.
Reflecting on Cindy's use of photographs, I asked her when she started using photographs in this way and what made her transition to this process? Cindy replied,
Cindy Rizza: Well, it is quite a long story. First for practical reasons, I began using photography in my process after I began wanting to capture a specific moment that I was unable to paint by setting up a still life in front of me. I received my BFA from the New Hampshire Institute of Art where the painting curriculum is very traditional in terms of working directly from life to develop technical skill with paint. There is an undeniable intimate connection between what the painter sees directly with their own eyes and how they interpret that in paint. But as I moved towards my senior year I had a strong desire to communicate something to my viewer that wasn’t just on surface value, similar to how a poet uses metaphor. So I turned to using photographs for the visual data because the subject matter that I wanted to paint could not be set up in still life form, but I also wanted it to help me develop my use of metaphor by making my own visual associations from what I saw in the snapshots. Sometimes being labeled as a representational painter makes me cringe, because I think my work is also very abstract. I hope that my work can be revisited again and again and something new can be taken from it each time, very much like a poem.

Christine Cote: This process must invoke a unique connection to each of your pieces. Can you say more about that?

CR: I’ve always felt connected to my work because I can also see the process and struggles that go into each painting. But recently the connection has been unique because after I began using photographs, I found myself more comfortable with taking risks with paint, because I did not feel so bound to painting exactly what I saw. I believe this further developed that intimate connection between what I saw and what I painted. I also feel like my work summons a universal memory, and I think my use of photography helps that.

CC: Do your family members or friends know you are using certain photographs of them in particular paintings? What do they think about your artistic process?

CR: Some of them do, yes. I think my family members wonder if I’ve had a troubled childhood, which is not true at all! I’ve had to explain that I’m not making a commentary about my childhood specifically, even if myself or family members are in the painting. I began with using family snapshots since that was what I had available, then moved onto snapshots from people I do not recognize. I’ve found that the total strangers in the photograph actually excite me more. If I know the people and events from the original source, I sometimes have a hard time taking the photo out of context into painting form since I am associated with the place or person, and less liable to make changes to composition. By having a stranger in the photograph, there is a more comfortable distance because I have no particular attachment. But after the work is finished, the painting is just as personal to me as if I painted someone I knew, because I’ve developed a new relationship with the image.

CC: Cindy, thank you for talking about your artistic process and thank you for your contribution to the Still Point I exhibition.
Return to Still Point Art Gallery

Christine Brooks Cote
Still Point Art Gallery
April 13, 2009


  1. I feel very fortunate to own one of Cindy's paintings. I am delighted to see that this young Artist has been named Artist of Distinction. She is definitely that.

  2. I too have one of Cindys paintings. The one I own is from the series mentioned. It is a cherished addition to my collection. Even though I dont know who the child is in the painting, I was drawn to the power it had to evoke my memory. The bubble in my piece suggests that the "good witch from the east" may emerge at any moment, however there is a subtle (yet noticeable) air of turbulance which allows the piece to present a little further - as a curious, intriguing narrative which taunts and tugs at me while its jovial-criptic meaning plays hide-and-seek..yet the "meaning" remains just a fraction beyond recognizable conscienceness. It still keeps me guessing and wonering. Great job Cindy. Plus, as a collector, it was a great deal and investment! Cindy will go far.
    Tim Donovan