Brian Rutenberg - Fulbright Student to Ireland, 1997

November 28, 2012
Brian Rutenberg
My work is often referred to as landscapes, which is only partially true. My youth along the coast of South Carolina dug me a very rich well of visual imagery. I have no interest in reproducing the appearance of things. There are horizon lines in my paintings, there are hazes of atmosphere, and there are vertical tree like forms that sort of demarcate space, but they are not about landscape. I have always believed that an eye not told what to see, sees more. Love is a huge component of my work. Love is what I also see a great deal in Irish painting and also Irish poetry. Kenneth Clark said that ideas become facts through love. So I think that is a great blaze that can connect cultures, is that notion of love. I am an artist, a painter, I am based in New York City and have been for 23 years. I chose to go to Ireland on my Fulbright Scholarship in 1997-1998. I was based in Dublin. I had been attracted to Irish landscape painting and also Irish poetry for a number of years. I had reached the point in my career where I needed a more expansive exposure to another culture, that I was interested in, that was closely tied to landscape. In very practical terms, the weather changes every 15 minutes because it rains, and therefore the light changes and therefore the color. So, for a painter, it was like a buffet of tones. Ireland is not just green, but it is also pink, and shale, and gray, and brown and a whole host of other colors. I was very attuned to color and to its place in that visual experience.
For me it made perfect sense to choose Ireland. I was able to arrange lectures around the country. I lectured in big halls, I lectured in art history studios and painter studios. We would mix colors together and exchange ideas. That is really where my Fulbright experience took flight. It is interesting how much has changed in the years since I was a Fulbright Scholar and because the world is so interconnected now ones consciousness is I think more global now because of technology. Fulbright is a way to really get back to the human element of that. To actually seek out, to go to a place, to immerse yourself in that experience, in that culture and to exchange ideas and communicate yourself with people of a different culture. I think you definitely see my Fulbright experience in my paintings. There is no way I could edit that out. I kind of define my careers as pre-Fulbright and post Fulbright. Things changed enormously when I got back. There was much more breadth in terms of hunger in my paintings, of a desire to learn and to expand and compact all of that into a visual statement.
Robert Fishko (Forum Gallery, NY)
I was introduced to Brian’s work by a collector who invited myself and my wife to his apartment. We saw a number of works in his collection and one of them was a large and beautiful painting of Brian’s. We were entranced by it. When we saw more of Brian’s work we
saw that he had begun with much more representational work and moved slowly but surely into a kind of pictorial language that portrays the depth, color and emotional feeling of the subject. That is what we respond to. We were very interested in showing the work from the first time we saw it.
Brian Rutenberg
It has been 19 years since I spent a year in Ireland on my Fulbright and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it. I am constantly around people of all backgrounds and I can relate to absolutely anyone and hopefully have some empathy for other people and try and instill that in my children. It is an honor to have been a Fulbright.