November 2013: Christopher B. Wagner & Paul Rutz

Paul X. Rutz is a painter that took a military/balletic route toward becoming a full-time figurative painter. He graduated from the Naval Academy, earned a MA, then served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kennedy. While in the Naval Reserve he danced ballet with a few small companies, using painting to examine the events and people he encountered. After working as a reporter/photographer for the Pentagon’s press service, he went back to school to study imagery in American culture, completing a Ph.D. dissertation on art and the Iraq war. To quote Paul “I want to do my part to induce a state of unstable wonder about the unstable ways we see each other. There is no single point of view in these paintings. I’ve measured everything at precisely life size yet tried to allow fluid paths of attention to rule here. In that way these paintings are documentary without photography. I’ve pressed onto my working surface the stuff of my life.My work invites viewers to renegotiate the rules by which we make pictures of each other. No picture is an exact repetition of our encounters, but as we act on our compulsions to get close, we should also practice making pictures in ways that question the idea that photos can remember our memorable events for us.”

Christopher B. Wagner utilizes traditional carving skills in his creation of contemporary sculpture resulting in a unique vision, which seems both familiar and new. His art revolves around the human figure, often stylized, but always holding onto the essence of the human form. The liberties he takes with the figure are always in the pursuit of emphasizing the spiritual longings of humans. Even the gestures, though borrowed from many religious traditions, speak on a guttural level. Drawing out a sense of longing and contemplation in his viewers is imperative to the art he create. This connection is not only found in my subject matter, but in the very material that he uses. All his work is carved in wood, specifically reclaimed lumber. “The history that this material brings before my hands is much greater than anything I could hope to achieve on my own. I find in the studio that carving my figures is much less about me forcing my vision on the material as it is a dialogue with the wood itself. Elements of the woods own history, such as, nail holes, checking, and insect burrowing go into forming what I am sculpting. Rarely, do the sculptures I carve come out as the initial sketch planned, but instead I feel that wood has a spark of the divine in it, which works alongside my vision.”