Ron Throop “Henry Miller Went To Paris in 1932” 2016. Acrylic on canvas, 18′ x 14″
I first noticed the works of painter Ron Throop on the Facebook page for Stuckism: The Ant-Anti Art Movement. There’s always lots of fascinating works getting posted there, but his stood out to me for several reasons.
Stuckism is truly an international phenomenon, but here was another United States artist, from Oswego, New York, puzzling his way through the dynamics of the independent art scene. He was very productive, constantly putting up images of new paintings. When I see someone so dedicated it sparks my interest; it resonates with my own compulsive approach. I always say painting is my healthiest obsession, so to see someone else with that drive gives a sense of camaraderie.
Even more intriguing were the painting themselves, spontaneous, boldly colored, freely rendered, and full of stream of consciousness musings and humorous asides. As Ron and I began to communicate I was not surprised to discover he was also a fan of author and painter Henry Miller. They tap into the same kind of liveliness, cheerfulness and velocity in their work.
Ron Throop “Is the Squirrel My Spirit Animal, or Am I Just Hyper-paranoid?” 2015
Acrylic on canvas, 14″ x 11″
I invited Ron to take part in Spineless: The Invertebrate Art Show, an exhibit I curated in Phoenix, Arizona. He sent a couple of pieces that made a big impact. During the opening, I witnessed one visitor experience a revelation. This shy young girl could not stop speaking about how blown away she was by the show, the energy in the pieces, how the colors just popped. When we asked her to pose next to her favorite work she chose one of Ron’s.
Inspired by Throop
I would not be surprised if a new artist was created right there on the spot. Her eyes had been opened to the possibilities of painting.
Recently I learned of an exciting new development in Ron Throop’s career. Using the global connections of Stuckism and the power of contemporary communications technology, he started a project with a group of Russian Stuckist painters. He is tracking their interactions in his new blog, Round Trip Stuckism.
Ron Throop “Which China Snowflake Is Wrong?” 2015. Acrylic on canvas, 24″ x 18″
Ron Throop took some time to answer a few questions about art, life and collaboration. He also shared some wonderful images from his Russian painting partners.
How did you initially get involved in the visual arts? Who were some of your inspirations?
Ron Throop: As a younger man and aspiring writer, I often dabbled with paint at the suggestion of Henry Miller. He would suffer writing, its joys and frustrations, to a cracking point, and then he would gather his watercolors, paper, and brushes, and go on a painting jag for however long it took to feel like writing again.
So I did this too, as practice. Over time I realized that painting is so much more joyous than writing. It allows for tremendous variation, can be spiritual, silly, expressive like fireworks—and still play the music loud. The viewer decides her own feeling (or not) without needing the imagination hand held and maneuvered by the writer.
Miller also introduced me to the picture poems of Kenneth Patchen. I copied his style to flow text in my paintings. I still do.
I raised my girls, tutored them myself, up until their teen years, when they enrolled in school. I cooked in restaurants to make ends meet. My children came first, always, so my lust for expression (which is terribly strong), always sat on the back burner until it boiled over. In my 30’s I began to nurture it into a regular regimen. Found a feel so to speak, and haven’t looked back.
How did you discover the Stuckist movement?
RT: My good friend who is the most enthusiastic educator of visual art I know sent me a video one day of a Stuckist show in London, which led me to the Stuckist manifesto.
What makes an artist a Stuckist?
RT: I don’t know if I am one entirely. I would tell someone who paints regularly to read the manifesto. Does he/she agree with most of its precepts? I do. I paint recognizable figures mostly, but am open for change. I think my limitations keep me where I am, which is good for now. Still, I believe the word “whim” should be printed above any creative door.
I like this from the manifesto:
“The Stuckist paints pictures because painting pictures is what matters.”
“The ego-artist’s constant striving for public recognition results in a constant fear of failure. The Stuckist risks failure wilfully and mindfully by daring to transmute his/her ideas through the realms of painting. Whereas the ego-artist’s fear of failure inevitably brings about an underlying self-loathing, the failures that the Stuckist encounters engage him/her in a deepening process which leads to the understanding of the futility of all striving. The Stuckist doesn’t strive — which is to avoid who and where you are — the Stuckist engages with the moment.”
And my favorite:
The Stuckist is not mesmerised by the glittering prizes, but is wholeheartedly engaged in the process of painting. Success to the Stuckist is to get out of bed in the morning and paint.
And I do. Until I drop dead.
Ron Throop “Like de Kooning, I Set Out To Make Something Very Ugly With Lots of Paint. Unlike de Kooning, It Took Me Only a Few Hours” 2015. Acrylic on birch board, 24″ x 24″
Tell us about some of the art events you’ve created locally.
RT: This upcoming project is the first group organizational effort I will sign my name to. I open up my house twice a year to show my own work. I have had some luck getting admitted in galleries, both group and solo shows, but truly I prefer the home show over all the rest. A bar would be okay. I like cheerful noise. I like being a happy host. Galleries are just rooms. The social psychologists have been telling us all along that it is others who authenticate achievement—rarely oneself, the achiever. I like to think I am crazy enough to love what I do, and what I have become as a man cut up into many roles. If some gallery wishes to invest in me, wonderful! I also like money, no matter how never easy come, always easy go it is for my family.
You’ve launched an international collaboration with a group of Russian Stuckist painters. How did this come about?
RT: This is about reverence first and foremost. I met Alexey Stepanov through the Stuckist Facebook page. I messaged him to ask if he would be willing to sell me one of his beautiful paintings. He suggested we trade instead. Voila! A painter-to-painter relationship was born. (See Ron’s post on the topic: When a Stuckist Trades, Does a Tree Fall in the Woods?)
Alexey Stepanov “FPS Russia in St. Petersburg and Leningrad. Execution of Sentences. Wednesday / Cloudy evening ” 2016
From that day on I became very interested in his work, and discovered through social media (mainly Facebook and VK) that Alexey did not do all his work in a frown-bubble like I did. He hosted figurative painting sessions in his studio, and went out plein-airing Moscow architecture, people and nature. The Russian Stuckists had shows, friendly auctions, painting parties, what have you. I “friended” several of Alexey’s friends (painters too) on social media, and continued to cheer on their works and exhibitions from my lonely writing desk of woe.
Then they had a show in the woods, and posted pictures of paintings hanging on trees. I was smitten! Kindred spirits at last! Over the past few years I too had taken my paintings to the woods and hung them on trees. This was the culture I had longed for all my life! Non-existent in my town and country. In the U.S., avarice seems unavoidable in the arts. Avarice, and even a creeping arrogance. And among artists! A gargantuan oxymoron. (Ron’s post: Homage to Painters Alive Who Understand What I’m Getting At)
So, I kept finding myself wanting to travel to Moscow to paint with Alexey and friends. I came up with the idea to ask The Russian Stuckists if I could sit in on some of their sessions through Skype.
I applied for a New York State Decentralization Grant as an individual artist, and got it. A modest award of $2,500. Giving myself an imaginary minimum wage, by project’s end, I estimate I will have “spent” in lost wages, over $40,000, maybe more. All artists understand this labor of love, at least in some point in their lives.
I informed Alexey and friends the day after I received the award. By week’s end I was nervously participating in my first international live painting session.
Lena Ulanova “Girlfriends” 2016
How are you working together? What are your goals for this project?
RT: I would like to paint with The Russian Stuckists via Skype possibly 10 times by August. Meanwhile as painters we keep painting, individually, in groups—any way we can, while I keep to my promotion. In no time we will amass 50+ precious works to exhibit. I will have their chosen pieces shipped to the United States, and hang our work for public show. There will be movies, photos, written accounts, a showbook, artist talk and education on Stuckism. I will do extensive outreach to fill up the place. I will also apply their work to established galleries (whether the galleries like it or not). I wish to promote Stuckism of course, but I am mostly intrigued by the work of these painters. Still, if it wasn’t for Stuckism, I never would have met Alexey and friends, and I would continue to rot in that frown bubble I spoke of.
Alena Levina”Cassandra” 2016 Oil on cardboard, 25 x 30 cm
Andrew Makarov “All the Colors In the Field. The Ministry of Defense”
Peter Generlov “Bridge” 2015
What is happening in your own art now?
RT: After the first Skype session, I realized how much I need to improve. I persuaded a master to let me audit his figurative drawing course at the local college. This is a huge leap for me. I have always been a confident and joyous painter. Last week, after attempting to paint a model on demand, I got smacked upside the head with a blast of overwhelming confusion. Already this grant has proven its potential. It made an old dog seek a new trick. (Ron’s post on the collaboration in Round Trip Stuckism: Nero Lyred While Rome Burned But Was He Any Good And Did He Know?)
Why does art matter in the 21st century?
RT: Not everyone is born to be a dentist or a plumber. Rather than a blank slate, I think that all of us moderns are born misfits seeking communion. Unfortunately in our time, the dentists and plumbers can always find a pal to drink with. Not so with painters. Yet we abide, desperately at times. I guess the more art that gets made, the more communion artists will share with one another. Working with and admiring the work of the Russian Stuckists has already improved my life significantly. I feel I can arrive in Moscow wearing my Walt Whitman hat, push my hands down into my pockets, and head over to Alexey’s flat to gesture draw and share a round.
Painters need to know painters. Social media is a good introduction, but something more must jump from that, or else all acquaintance turns stale.
Stuckism is the most modern, human painting movement on earth right now. Nothing else comes close.
Ron Throop “The Mysteries of Norway” 2015 Acrylic on canvas board, 20 x 16”