by Joanna Nixon
Kyle Ragsdale is one of the more prolific visual artists in Indianapolis and if you haven't seen his work at the Harrison Center you've probably seen it at a local coffee shop or your favorite independent restaurant. I met Kyle in about 2005, which seems like eons ago, and one of my first ever art purchases was one of Kyle's works. I was fortunate to connect with Kyle right at that time when he was experimenting with painting large works on plywood which was a perfect match for my personal interest in mixed media and while the work I own is a different medium than most of his recent work you can certainly see the similarities in style.
While Kyle is well known in the Indianapolis visual art scene, I wanted Kyle to share more about his path to becoming an artist and his inspiration. Meet Kyle Ragsdale...
Sky Blue Window: What's your background and how did you get started as an artist?
Kyle Ragsdale: I grew up in New Mexico and moved to Texas in high school. My mom had heard that if you give a child blank paper rather than coloring books it would make your child more creative. Well, the rest is history. I started taking art lessons in third grade and just kept going, receiving a BFA from Baylor and an MFA from Southern Methodist University, both in painting. I moved to Indy in 1993 and have been painting the whole time. I have also worked as a decorative painter, set designer, interior decorator and curator, but mostly I paint.
SBW: How would you describe your work?
KR: I paint romantic, mysterious paintings of costumed figures in ambiguous situations. In the last year, my work has gone in two wildly different directions. For my show at the Harrison Center last November, Tableaux, I gathered friends in costumes, organized and directed photo shoots of them and then painted from these photographs. I began with a bright, bold grisaille that I then painted into. The other body of work that I am making has taken some exciting turns in the last couple of months. In this new body of work there are women in pairs that hover above the earth like the pixie angels in Sleeping Beauty. They watch and help from above. The ribbons that hang from their wild couture gowns may be the only element that enters into our world. Often, they explain how goodness comes to us or offer an escape from present danger.
SBW: When you are looking at a blank canvas, what inspires you?
KR: I'm inspired by high couture, historic movies, modern dance, light and life, relational sociology. I'm interested in rococo and 19th century romantic painting, things that are not at all popular in contemporary art circles. I am not inspired by banality. I am an intuitive painter so I start working and find image as I work. I respond to what I see and work to make the suggestions more realized, but still vague enough to tap into the viewer's imagination.
SBW: If someone visits your studio at the Harrison Center what can they expect? What would you want them to know?
KR: My studio at the Harrison was just reorganized by a very brave soul. It was the choir practice room of an old church with high ceilings and beautiful amber stained glass windows. There are a lot of paintbrushes and a huge table laden with stuff. There are many paintings ranging from $100 to $2000.
SBW: What if someone likes a piece but is interested in a different color palette or size of work, what then?
KR: I love to do commissions and can make work based on the size and colors that work within a budget and is something they will love. I enjoy that my work lives with people and has its own life in their homes or offices.
SBW: What advice do you have for individuals who are just getting started in collecting art?
KR: I think Indianapolis is a great town for people starting their art collections. There are many artists working in a range of styles and prices. In many cities, art is so expensive and unapproachable that normal people cannot afford art of their own. There are great opportunities to see local art on first Fridays by visiting shows and galleries.
How you can connect with Kyle and where you can see his current work:
Visit Kyle's studio: Harrison Center at 16th and Delaware in Indianapolis. He is open most first Fridays.
May 2013: Café Patachou downtown
June 2013: City Gallery at the Harrison Center
November 2013: Harrison Gallery