‘Gardens’ grow at Civic514
“My art is intended to inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined,” says Ronald K. De Long in his artist’s statement.
De Long’s newest series of oils on canvas, “Les Jardins des Paradis” (“Paradise Gardens”), is on view through Jan. 2, Civic 514 Gallery, 514 N. 19th St., Allentown.
De Long decided to create “gardens that didn’t exist in reality.
“I didn’t want to recreate real gardens because I can’t do anything better than the ‘Big Guy Upstairs,’” says De Long, a Bethlehem native.
De Long decided to experiment in creating gardens from his own dream world and “my own particular vision of a garden that I might like to go into. That’s why I call it my ‘Paradise Gardens’ because I look at it as a sanctuary place.”
De Long’s fantasy flora and fauna provide a psychological and philosophical refuge for him and he hopes to bring others with him to enjoy the journey. Since teaching art is his passion, De Long wants the works to inspire his students at Penn State Lehigh Valley, Center Valley, where he’s on the fine arts faculty.
“Paradise Garden No 1” (oil on canvas) provides a colorfully pleasant environment with a hummingbird in flight that is joined by a butterfly and other birds among the lush vegetation.
De Long used compressed air to make the sky appear to rain down color. He also built up the layers of paint using unconventional brushes.
De Long also explored stenciling, stamping and collage in creating these works. Working patterns into the paintings is important to him because, he says, “Everything going on around the world has a pattern to it … ”
He prefers to work in oils as he is not sure how long acrylic paint would last over time. De Long also enjoys the aroma of oil paint, saying, “It’s almost like an aphrodisiac.”
The series “is an extension of what I was doing for my former partner, too,” who suffered from health issues a long time before he died. According to his wishes, some of his ashes were placed in a garden on their property, as well as on his parents’ graves in Ohio. Some of his ashes were incorporated into a ceramic piece. De Long was moved to note that a butterfly appeared to attend the memorial service, saying, “That’s why I incorporate butterflies into some of these works.”
De Long made a contribution to create the Ronald K. De Long Gallery at Penn State Lehigh Valley, Center Valley, where he also established the Charles R. McAnall III Scholarship.
The second painting in the series, “Paradise Garden No. 2” (oil on canvas) is a tribute to his former partner. DeLong added a chrysanthemum, his own birth flower, to represent himself in the painting’s vibrant, dream-like landscape, inhabited by birds.
The series of paintings grew out of the only sculpture in the exhibit, “Paradise Garden No. 9,” an alien-looking small bronze blossom, green with oxidation, planted in a vintage coffee can. The piece is displayed inside a large antique glass dome on a wooden base.
The series was also inspired by “Paradise,” a song performed in a Coldplay concert video De Long watched on a flight home from Portugal. And so, each of his framed “sanctuaries” is intended to provide a place to take the viewer away from today’s harsh realities to a place of visual “paradise.”
Theatre514 Gallery is open 30 minutes before film screenings. Information: civictheatre.com; 610-432-8943