Artist shares his 'meditations on trees' abstracts

By Savannah Phillips, student writer

“Art is empathy, and it will save the world.” These were the words of Brian Rutenberg as he addressed Wingate students during a Sept. 14 Lyceum event in the Hinson Art Museum. Surrounded by his boldly colored abstract landscape pieces, he gave insights into the mind of a painter and shared aspects of his journey as an artist.

“Among his many accolades, he is a Fulbright Scholar, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow, and an Irish Museum of Modern Art visiting artist program participant,” said Charlene Bregier, the University’s visual arts coordinator. “He has had over two hundred and fifty exhibitions throughout North America.” 

A native of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Rutenberg attended the College of Charleston and the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where he now has a studio.

Although he did not stay in the South Carolina Lowcountry, it certainly stayed with him. In fact, it became his greatest source of inspiration.

A young lady stands in front of a Brian Rutenberg painting.

“My approach remains the same since I was 10 years old... I simply painted what I knew,” he says. 

Rutenberg describes his work as “meditations on trees” and has said that every painting he makes begins and ends with the same image: “a tree trunk and its shadow, that immovable marking of location.” 

The artist said that when he takes walks in the woods, he carries a big stick so as to experience the images around him through touch before painting them. He runs the stick along the bumpy wood of a tree trunk or along its smoother branches. The vibrations travel from the stick to his arm and into his bones. He waves the stick in the air to brush along the leaves so he can hear the rustling. 

Rutenberg feels what he paints, and paints what he feels. Texture is emphasized throughout his work.

After his lecture on Tuesday, students took their time experiencing his paintings.

Freshman communication major Michael O’Neill said he enjoyed listening to Rutenberg talk about his artwork and how he started his career. "He is one of the most prolific artists I have met,” O'Neill said.

Rutenberg’s work will remain on exhibit at the Hinson Art Museum until Oct. 15. The museum is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is located at 220 N. Camden Road in Wingate. Admission is free.

Sept. 17, 2021

  • Art
  • lyceum