A Conversation With Artist Anita Ragusa
There’s a fascinating art exhibit coming to Kingston New York on September 29th that you won’t want to miss. The exhibit, titled Exquisite Corpse, was Inspired by a game from the ’20s when it was adopted as a technique by artists of the Surrealist movement to generate collaborative compositions.
The upcoming exhibit follows the journey of seven artists/collaborators with one rooted seed – queer culture: past, present, and future. Each artist will present their journey as members of the queer community and the visual representation of their collaborative experience leveraging the rules of this game.
Inside+Out is pleased to share our conversation with artist Anita Ragusa, one of the seven artists participating in Exquisite Corpse. Meet artist, Anita Ragusa…
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Where are you originally from, and how does that affect your work?
I’m originally from Sarajevo, Bosnia, a city I miss very much. Nostalgia, imagery, and patterns pulled from my childhood memories tend to find their way into my work. My mother worked at the Sarajevo National Theater, so I was exposed to really creative people from an early age. My father is also a very gifted painter and well-versed in several instruments, and I have fond memories of him playing the piano in our living room.
Who are your biggest artistic influences?
I love the works of Karen Kilimnik, Hernan Bas, Dexter Dalwood, and Richard Mayhew. I love the way they use color and brushstrokes to render their images. I find something new in their works each time I look at them. I recently discovered the beautiful paintings of Richard Mayhew and am so enamored with his color palette and imaginary worlds.
Tell us about your work as an artist?
I am drawn to images that evoke a sense of nostalgia and wonder, and I am interested in the idea of creating paintings that can be easily transported, perhaps because of my own personal experience of having to leave my home country. My work is also influenced by my childhood memories and the dramatic events that I experienced in my past, which leads me to use my art to create a sense of beauty and hope and has made me sensitive to the beauty and fragility of life.
What was your reaction when you were invited to participate in Exquisite Corpse?
I was thrilled to be invited to participate in Exquisite Corpse. I love the idea of collaborating with other artists, and I was especially excited to work with some of my closest friends. I also thought it would be a great challenge to create work in a different style than my own. I tend to have several series of paintings going at once, so this was a nice way to take a break and try something new.
Tell us about your experience collaborating with the participating artists – were you intimidated, excited and/or inspired to add to someone else’s work?
I was intrigued by the idea of working on a project like this, where I didn’t know what the other artists were going to do, and I didn’t know how my work would fit in with theirs. This added a sense of mystery and excitement to the whole body of work.
Describe your creative process for this project, and did this change or evolve with each session?
I decided to focus on being open and reactive to each piece rather than trying to stick to one theme throughout the experience. I think for me this gave me a chance to see the different types of work I was capable of creating when not given any restrictions or parameters.
What was your goal in participating in Exquisite Corpse, and do you feel you’ve accomplished it?
My main goal was to allow myself to be free to explore whatever direction each piece took me towards. This sometimes meant using mediums I hadn’t worked with in years, and that part was both fun and terrifying! I definitely feel like I went through many emotions and mediums while working on this project.
What impact do you hope this exhibit has on the audience?
I think the show will be quite unique because of the different stories we each will tell as artists, especially without knowing what the other person has presented in response to our individual contribution. Some of the pieces are so elaborate and powerful. I hope the exhibition sparks curiosity and creativity, and I can see people returning to the show to take a second or a third look because of the uniqueness of these works.
Do you believe art can affect societal issues?
Artists are some of the most enduring storytellers and captivators of both historical and current issues. Each of us tells a story in our own way, sometimes to raise awareness of important issues, to challenge people’s beliefs, or to inspire people to take action. I appreciate when artists use subtle and clever ways to convey their messages; this can make the messages more powerful and lasting.
What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
I feel like I have so many projects going on at once, but I just finished a series of small floral still lifes. They were quite challenging, as flowers bloom and age quickly, so I had to paint much faster than I’m used to. I’m looking forward to continuing an older painting series of elaborate interiors, which are inspired by real estate listing photographs of some of the most extravagant and wild apartments I’ve ever seen. With everything going on in the world right now, it’s mind-blowing how some people live. I’ve also started a series of abstract pattern-based paintings, which are very new for me but a really interesting way to explore color and brush strokes. I’m quite excited to see how they all turn out.
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Follow Exquisite Corpse @exquisitecorpse2023
Anita Ragusa is a contemporary artist who lives and works in New York City and the Catskills. Her work explores themes of romance, mystery, eccentric desires, and beauty and is influenced by the Romantic era, the Decadent movement, as well as literature, poetry, and exotic botany. Anita received her BFA from The Cooper Union School of Art, NY, specializing in Painting and Photography. She had a solo exhibition at AIR Gallery, NY, and her group exhibitions include Queens International 2006, The Queens Museum of Art, NY (2006), and Pretty Young Thing: PYT, NY (2010). She has participated in the first-ever Project Diversity Queens 2007, held at Art About Us, NY, Visual AIDS: Postcards From The Edge Benefit, at James Cohan Gallery, NY and is one of six recipients of the AIR Gallery Fellowships. Professionally, she works in the art field and has held positions at major galleries, including Gagosian, David Zwirner and Pace. Her work is held in multiple private collections and can currently be seen at the Saint Kate Arts Hotel, WI, as part of their permanent exhibition.
September 29th – October 29th
At the Everett & Treadwell Building, 33 Canfield Kingston NY
On the Ground Level and Second Floor
The Opening Reception is September 29th at 6PM
SEE YOU THERE!