b. Sagamihara, Japan 1956
"Obsessed with paint by number canvases as a youth, I questioned why there were so many colors in one painting, why were those colors chosen to be juxtaposed to one another, and why did I have to stay in the lines? These were the seeds that cultivated experimentation and connection between painterly nuance and rebellion against limiting boundaries in my own practice years later."
Renée Rey is a painter in southwest Florida, by way of upstate New York, New Hampshire and New York City. Multi-cultural heritage, birthplace in Japan, coming of age in the tumultuous late 1960’s and early 1970's, trans disciplinary academic studies, and world travels, have translated into social justice and political narratives in her fusion of surrealist and expressionist artwork.
Currently, Rey investigates themes of cultural identity, diversity and equality, and how they link to science, politics, religion, history and memories. As an explorer, she searches for unexpected associations and commonalities in an increasingly complex world. Rey becomes invested in the natural balance of connection between people and cultural influences, organic and inorganic the global environment, and the future and the past. The result is artwork that aims to plant new seeds of thought, grow awareness, and cultivate colorful questions and conversations about the human condition.
In her studio practice, the Artist interprets traditional landscapes and cityscapes into otherworldly surroundings that at first glance create a dream-like utopian calm but could signal an impending apocalyptic storm. Energized by this dichotomy, she works intuitively, slinging, swiping and streaming oil and acrylic allowing for the beauty of color mixed with unbridled accident. Freedom of expression through the media challenges her to marry levels of thought-provoking ideas with layers of expressive vibrant, gestural mark making, and luscious strokes of thin and thick paint as she works on the raw unencumbered spaces of
canvas, paper and wood.
By building an iconography of spiritually charged clouds, people, animals, architecture, language and elements of the periodic table, parallels are made. Words in various languages have floated lyrically in her visual story telling over the years. In this body of work, she utilizes verses and words with environmental themes from the Bible and Qur’an, written in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. Sharing these thematic threads, her artwork has expanded to include mixed media collage and digital photography.
Rey was born in Sagamihara, Japan to a French-born artistic mother and an American-born optometrist father. Her generational history and multi-cultural background includes Christian Armenian refugee relatives and Jewish diaspora ancestry, which explains the immersion in diverse cultures, religions and ideologies. As a youth in upstate New York during the tumultuous 1960-70’s, changing social and political views shaped her.
Multiple visits to the Clark Art Institute collection with her parents when she was young made a life long impression. There she witnessed Alfred Stevens' paintings of late nineteenth century women engaging in nature and this later influenced her figurative, environmental, and larger scale work.
Classes in drawing, painting, 3-dimensional design, and art history at the University at Albany were seminal as professors encouraged her artistic career. Studying interior design at Parsons School of Design in the early 1980's and years of experience as a professional interior designer provided insight into translating concept into a material reality, balancing geometric and organic forms, and understanding the subtlety of spatial relationships. Disparate academic degrees and global travel to Europe, Israel and Morocco have further informed her work and contributed to its trans disciplinary nature.
In the early 1990's, she was influenced by the New York School, British and Surrealist artists of the early twentieth century, introduced to her by David Fox, a British contemporary artist with whom she studied painting and drawing. Witnessing the work in person of Lucien Freud at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on opening day in December 1993 was where she realized the power and freedom of pushing paint in a new direction to explore political, social and cultural issues that evoked the honesty and fragility of the human condition and embraced a rebelliousness of beauty in the raw and edgy.
In the aftermath of divorce, she won a full fellowship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study for an MBA degree. Focused on technological innovation and entrepreneurship, she added new product and business design to her creative toolbox. Simultaneously, she took advantage of the film, computer arts and experimental sound design classes offered at the school. Eye opening, cutting edge forms of visual and audio expression induced a paradigm and perspective shift and had a visual and sensory influence on her work.
In 2016, a Colorado artist residency proved to be transformative. As a painter, this month-long pivotal experience that focused on environmental sustainability, informed her practice and direction significantly. The subject matter of her work became grounded in the ecosystem, images became more complex and the canvases grew much larger in scale.
Art curators and gallery professionals nationally have taken notice. In March 2017, she was awarded Best in Show in Art Encounters National Competition 2017, a national juried exhibit, Frederick O. Watson Gallery, von Liebig Art Center, Naples, FL, by Jurors Jade Dellinger, Director, Bob Rauschenberg Gallery, Fort Myers, FL, Alejo Benedetti, Curatorial Assistant, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR, and Mallory O’Connor, Professor of Art History, Emerita, Santa Fe College, Gainesville, FL. Her paintings have been selected for exhibit at the Farmington Museum, New Mexico by Dr. Julie Sasse, Chief Curator, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Curator of Latin American Art at the Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ for a national juried exhibit and Florida Contemporary 2015 Exhibition, Baker Museum, Artis-Naples, Naples, FL, and by Gisela Carbonell, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of Special Collections, at the Artis-Naples, Baker Museum, Naples, FL. Rey's paintings have been in exhibitions curated by Erin Wright, Curator at Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, Zoe Larkins, Associate Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO, and Susan Welsh, Executive Director, Macon Museum of Arts and Sciences, Macon, GA.