When you first meet Richard Rush, he seems like a mellow enough guy. A middle-aged Midwesterner by birth, Richard has a deep, soft-spoken voice, a broad forehead, and an easy smile.
But there’s something arresting about his steely eyes—an energy pulses through them as intense as a bolt of lightning.
You don’t have to be around Richard Rush for very long to realize that deep down inside of him, in that place where dreams and possibilities blend together like storm clouds, there is something that desperately needs to escape."
Rush uses graphite to draw on a canvas before paint is applied.
Painting is my passion,” Richard explained from the studio at his home on West Croy Street in Hailey. “Painting is something that I have to do, that I’ll always keep doing. It’s just something that has to come out.”
Richard, now 45, was born and raised in Chicago, but left the Windy City for the Big Apple before he was old enough to legally drink. He spent the next 15 years in New York, finding a release for his artistic voice by studying acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan by day and painting in his tiny Brooklyn apartment by night.
While pursuing these two passions, Richard found a third when he fell in love with a girl from Idaho. Jenn Jacoby spent many muggy New York City nights telling stories to Richard about where she grew up—some faraway, idyllic place in the mountains where the Big Wood River flowed.
“I would hear her stories and see the pictures and it would just blow me away. It called to me,” Richard said while gazing out the window at the mountain-ridged Hailey skyline. “I love looking out and just seeing sky and land.”
The couple eventually left the noise of the big city behind and answered the quiet call of the Northern Rockies. That was over a decade ago now, and Richard’s art (and the muse that dances behind his eyes) has found its true home in the Wood River Valley. “This place—and the place that I’m at in my life right now—makes it all work,” he said, as a smile crept across his stubbly chin.
Left Rush smooths out the graphite on a canvas. Right Rush applies paint over the wax surface of an encaustic painting.
Richard describes his work as “abstract representationalism,” a phrase that sums up his style as well as any words can. His medium is mixed media, and occasionally he experiments with encaustics. “What interests me is what we don’t know,” he explained.
Richard’s paintings, often done on canvases as large as his old Brooklyn apartment, have an energetic and dreamy quality to them that pulls the viewer in. His is that rare work that touches emotions and instantly connects with its audience. Once you’ve seen Richard Rush’s work, it’s easy to recognize it again.
“That’s what it’s all about. You see something and you just…you love it, it speaks to you. That’s what I’m going for. I love it when people have that kind of reaction,” Richard said, as we stood amidst a half-dozen pieces hanging in various states of completion.
“I’m going for my own reaction. I paint what I want to see, and if it evokes a universal feeling in me, I feel like it should in others, too,” Richard said. He added with a grin, “And I try to think about whether it’s something I would want to look at every day.”
Richard says he is also inspired by other artists. And not just the types of artists you find in big-time museums like MOMA (New York’s Museum of Modern Art), but also from art done by local moms and merchants, neighbors and newcomers. “I’m inspired by all kinds of artists. It’s fascinating to see what people have done,” he says.
I have to do, that I’ll always keep doing. It’s just something
that has to come out.”
To that end, Richard helped co-found the Valley’s extremely popular annual artist showcase, ARTHOUSE, back in 2007. For one weekend each autumn, Richard and Jenn empty their house completely and then invite other artists to fill it up by displaying their own work.
Richard has also continued to practice his other art, finding an outlet for his acting voice by performing regularly with the highly-acclaimed Company of Fools. He finds that a common thread runs between the two art forms.
Left Rush works with an encaustic (pigment and beeswax) painting. Right “Chinatown” on display at ARTHOUSE.
“It’s that whole ‘you don’t know what’s going to happen’ thing. So you just have to let go and dive in and see where you’re at. You don’t want to be doing it if you’re not enjoying it,” he explains.
Painting, however, will always be Richard’s first passion, his life’s work, if you will—although he won’t. Richard doesn’t like to refer to his painting as work.
“It doesn’t feel like work,” Richard said. “All I’m responsible for is for showing up and trying to focus. And I love that part.”
And apparently, the muse that burns within Richard loves that part, too.
Rush is currently showing at Gilman Contemporary Gallery in Ketchum. Vist www.gilmancontemporary.com